Sports Leagues and Live Streaming Games

I just read a very interesting article from Adweek about leagues and live streaming. As more and more people are getting content from devices other than their TVs (computers, cellphones, etc), live streaming provides an interesting opportunity and challenge for leagues. Many questions have come up about live streaming such as, how to decide what to/not to stream, how to monetize this, does live streaming steal viewers from TV, etc, etc.

We’re still very early in the game with live streaming so I just wanted to provide a few highlights from Adweek’s article and see what you think about this topic. This is all very interesting to me.

What Leagues Are Doing.

  • NFL – Live streaming Sunday Night Football Extra on NBC.com and NFL.com
  • MLS – live streams games on MLSlive.tv – subscription model and no games from tv partners are shown. MLS hopes to make this service free/ad-supported next season
  • NHL – streams out-of-market games (honors local broadcast agreements) via subscription service
  • NBA – plans to stream live-games in local markets on team sites in 2008-09 season, but this will infringe on local TV partners’ broadcast rights. Pricing model is TBD
  • MLB – became first league to stream a whole season of games in 2003 via MLB.tv (subscription required).

Other Live Streaming Examples

  • CBSSports.com and NCAA Basketball Tournament. Entire tournament streamed free this year, and ad revenue was $23 million this year, up from $4 million in 2006. Advertising is sold separately from the TV broadcast.
  • ESPN 360 – streamed 3,000 events in the past year (for a variety of sports), with 60% of that content exclusively shown on the site.

Major Questions

  • Does live streaming increase or decrease number of TV viewers?
  • Should leagues hold onto these rights or include them in packages to networks?

What do you think about live streaming games and these questions?

  • http://www.thebusinessofsports.com Russell S.

    Is the NHL streaming a new feature for the upcoming season? They did not have this last year.

    To me, the biggest risk is devaluing their local/national media deals. The level of risk will vary by league. Where the NFL is so dependent on their national media deal and wouldn’t want to risk any loss, the benefit to the NHL would probably outweigh any hit to their current national deal with Versus.

  • Jason

    Russell,

    According to the Adweek article, the NHL began live streaming last year. I don’t follow the NHL much so I’m not sure if that’s accurate or not.

    Good points about the risk factors.

  • http://www.thebusinessofsports.com Russell S.

    Interesting – it either means the article was off (I know they had other live streaming content, but not the actual games) or the NHL did a bad job promoting the service! Even now, if you google the service name that AdWeek mentioned (“Game Center Live”), there’s hardly any mention of it.

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  • http://sportstuffblog.blogspot.com Sportstuffblog

    Do any of these sites archive games so that you can stream later on? I’d love to find a site that does that. Are the live streams free and do you need a membership?

  • http://passthekoolaid.wordpress.com Lauren Beyer

    PGATOUR.com offers live online coverage of the PGA TOUR during select tournaments throughout the year, including the World Golf Championships, PLAYERS Championship and FedExCup Playoffs. The Live@ coverage usually is provided on one or two holes throughout each four rounds, showing every player coming through. Additionally, all four majors streamed some sort of live video coverage in 2008 on their individual websites.

    Also, don’t forget that NBC coverage of the 2008 Olympics offered a three-screen experience for viewers. Both live and on-demand coverage was offered online and on mobile to complement the TV broadcasts.

  • Jason

    Good points, Lauren. I didn’t include the PGA TOUR or Olympics bc they weren’t included in the adweek article I summarized. But definitely shouldn’t have forgotten about them.