Make no mistake, live sports viewing is still a vital ingredient of any TV viewing package. Live sports events are still a must see that traditional TV providers know is a vital provision. A change is starting, though, in that some sports and media companies are taking a step into a different type of coverage; into the digital world.
In the digital world, providers are looking to attract the interest of the younger generation. This is the generation of viewers who are looking to access content on a variety of different devices. They are moving away from solely traditional TV viewing and providers are aiming to move with them, whilst still maintaining their role in the provision of TV packages.
Watching sports on different devices
There is no doubt about it, millennials are more and more becoming known for cutting the cord and viewing content on a variety of devices, including tablets and smartphones. MLB has recognized this fact with the introduction of a streaming video app. The app is completely separate from any TV bundle and is available for around £85 for single team content and $110 for league wide content. All the viewer needs is a reliable broadband connection and they can watch through Roku on the TV or on their smartphone.
This venture has proven so successful that the MLB digital unit, MLB Advanced Media, is already developing over the top (OTT) products and has taken over responsibility for streaming and app development in the NHL. Other clients of MLB Advanced Media include WWE and the PGA tour.
Competition for ESPN
The continued expansion of MLB Advanced Media could prove to be competition for ESPN. The giants of sports broadcasting do not have any plans to launch their own separate streaming service, although their content is available across devices. ESPN does not seem threatened by the potential competition and is concentrating its digital efforts on providing content it does not include in its traditional TV packages. This effort included its coverage of World Cup Cricket, for which it gained 100,000 subscriptions, each priced at $100. ESPN aims to continue offering digital streaming of sports not covered in its TV offering; how soon it will be tempted to follow MLB and provide a completely separate digital service remains to be seen.
Competition is growing in the world of sports coverage, from online giants such as Yahoo and Google. This may well put up purchase prices for ESPN but it does not seem unduly worried at this point as it has already closed several lucrative deals, such as the NBA deal. Times are definitely changing though, and ESPN may well soon be tempted further into the world of digital sports coverage, to enable it to compete on a level playing field with the opposition.