In a recent press conference, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell shocked the world once again. But this time, rather than with a lackluster response to another scandal, it was by letting it slip that the NFL was hoping to stream an NFL game live over the Internet next season. One game might not seem like much, but it could serve as a trial run for the NFL as it mulls offering a larger streaming package.
This is big news because sports have long been, more or less, a cable exclusive, thanks largely to ESPN. The sports-centric channel is the most expensive component of a basic cable package, costing more than the next five most expensive channels combined, largely thanks to its rights to air games from the major sports leagues. It’s kept hundreds of thousands of people paying sky high cable bills because for years that’s been the only way to get their sports fix. Now that’s changing.
Since late last year, network after network has announced some sort of plan to offer their content direct to consumers, outside of cable subscriptions, but ESPN has been notorious for holding out, vastly preferring the current business model and the massive per-subscriber fee they get from it. But despite the Disney-owned network’s resistance, sports are sure enough starting to break out of the cable package. Dish Network’s Sling TV, costing just $20 a month, includes ESPN, essentially making it available to cord-cutters. The NBA’s most recent agreement with ESPN specifically allows the network to stream games via the Internet as well, a provision that would not have been included if there weren’t plans to do so. Now the NFL is inching closer to embracing OTT as well. With the NFL, NBA, and ESPN all available without cable, even the most diehard sports fan will be able to cut the cord with ease.