Sports and streaming

Sports behind streaming paywalls is becoming increasingly a thing. What are your thoughts?

Thursday night football on Prime was for me easy to ignore.
But then NBC put a NFL wildcard playoff game exclusively on Peacock (discussed some in NFL thread)
Now NBC has put 85% of the Daytona 24 on Peacock, only showing the start and finish on broadcast.

In both cases, NBC made the decision to force Peacock as they have networks and airtime.

I personally hope they fail, badly. I mean for obscure sports sure put on streaming only…which even that is crazy because freaking cornhole is on broadcast.

I haven’t had cable for 8 years probably so getting sports has always been difficult. I already have Prime, Peacock and Paramount so I for one appreciate being able to watch live sports again without having to find less legal avenues. Really my only complaint is that local games get blacked out. I’m not going to pay $80/month to get fubo so I can watch Kraken and Mariner games on Root.

Yeah, considering you have to have pay cable – and fewer and fewer Americans have that – to watch ESPN carried NFL games, well…I think the seals are already broken.

I don’t mind, because it doesn’t affect me.

But I do wonder how many American football fans have discovered the ease with which FireSticks or ChromeCasts or Roku boxes can be repurposed for free streaming, and if that’s going to be an unintended consequence of this.

This really comes across as “go ahead and mess with the content, but not the content I want to watch!”

If they’re taking games off of cable networks then sure, go nuts - we’re trading one paywall for another. If they’re taking games off OTA channels that’s more annoying. Though it would be ideal if each league had a single streaming platform they partnered with or offered their content without blackouts on their respective league passes. I’m not going to sign up for a bunch of different providers and deal with the various apps to follow a team/league.

Every additional barrier they put up to watch games they’re going to lose some fans. Or those people who are determined to watch will find out just how simple it is to grab a link to a free stream. So on top of the free streamers I wonder if we’ll see declining fandom in the future due to lack of access. Of course this would be long enough down the road that anyone involved in making these decisions today will either have cashed out or… uh, cashed out, I guess. Not their problem!

I invite these people to revisit the days of Dollar Bill Wurtz and the Chicago Blackhawks. The games were not available on local broadcast most days as the owner didn’t want the games on tv if the stadium wasn’t full. So nobody watched them, or really cared, once Savaard and Chellios were gone. For nearly 15 years they were a dead entity with almost no fanbase to speak of. It wasn’t until games started getting broadcast again (paired with the rise of two young homegrown stars in Kane and Toews) on Dollar Bill’s death that Blackhawks became relevant in Chicago

I do think that it could lead to the NFL going the way of Boxing when Boxing moved to PPV. It was pretty much the biggest sport in the world prior to that.

I’m not sure it will (the NFL is a frigging beast - see below), but it could…

My main spectator sports:


Tennis - Networks for finals, ESPN, ESPN2, USA, HBO for early rounds
NHL - St Louis Blues games were on … I can’t even remember the name of the local sports networks anymore, I think it was called Prime Midwest or something.
World Cup Soccer - ESPN
World Cup Cricket - Pay Per View on Satellite only

So yeah, I’d say things have only been getting easier to watch for me over time, involving giving out less money. I’ve been watching NFL since 2007, and it’s been by far the cheapest sport for me to watch, but then I don’t splurge on NFL ticket and such things.

Peacock is really cheap compared to paying for cable for ESPN last season (MNF, luckily, was all on ABC this season for almost every game). I did miss quite a few Thursday Night Football games because I only got Prime Video on and off, but most of the lineups there didn’t make me miss it. Even if I decided to get it, it’s waaaaay cheaper than getting cable.

PPV in no way, shape or form created the decline in boxing’s popularity. It may have prolonged it, in fact.

What caused boxing’s decline is a multitude of factors, none of which are Pay Per View.

I don’t see sports being behind a streaming paywall as any worse in principle than it being behind a satellite/cable paywall. But for baseball specifically, it’s annoying because I used to be able to get all the Cubs games with my sub and now I have to pay for AppleTV+ to get some of them. For, say, soccer, you haven’t been able to get it all in one place for ages anyway (and it’s not like Oxford are on TV much anyway) so streaming hasn’t changed anything.

Tennis is pretty fragmented.

The ATP has a streaming service called TennisTV. It’s about $10 per month and streams all the matches at all the ATP events, but no grand slams, no Davis Cup, and no women’s tennis. Subscriptions are annual.

Until recently the Tennis Channel streaming service was exclusively women’s (WTA) events, but last year they started carrying ATP events too, but not grand slams, except Roland Garros last year. Subscriptions are annual, so you can’t just turn it on and off to get Roland Garros.

ESPN+ streaming service carries almost all matches from three of the slams (USO, AO, Wimbledon) but not Roland Garros and also almost no other tennis. Fortunately it’s $10 per month with monthly subscriptions, so you can turn it on and off for those three slams if you like. Unfortunately if you want the semis or the finals, you generally need something that provides the cable ESPN feed, either a cable service or something like Sling TV.

The Daytona 24 is a 24-hour IMSA race. NBC has not ever given over 24 hours of their OTA broadcast to covering IMSA endurance races like this one. They’re broadcasting an hour of it on Saturday, and the last two hours with the finish line on Sunday. In years past, they’ve put parts of the race on their website or NBC Sports App, requiring sign-in and verification of local cable provider. They’ve also given over 8-10 hours across two days to the pay-cable only USA Network.

The more well-known NASCAR Daytona 500 is all on FOX.

Actually they used to cover nearly all but the wee hours. For many years I remember you’d get most of the afternoon-evening (with some 1-2hr gaps), then you’d get 10-12midnight or so before they would break and come back to give you say 7am to final flag. You’d have to jump between multiple channels, but it was there. Last couple of years the gaps got a bit bigger, but they offered Peacock for the full 24. Sebring was similar, you’d get most of it but with a few missing chunks.

I remember because I’ve recorded it and watched it all later (I tend to watch in 30min to hour bits)

So yes, this year is a big change. And another prob for me is to my knowledge Peacock doesn’t allow recording like I can do with OTA (or Youtube TV)

I agree there are other factors, but I’ll put paywalling out the next generation of fight fans as a huge factor, as did this guy:

First, boxing’s move to PPV has hurt its popularity. Though it has allowed for large amounts of money to flow into the sport, the number of people watching continues to decrease.

It’s Kind of like movies making more money but selling fewer tickets. People don’t want to follow boxing closely if it isn’t available to the masses. One of the reasons football is so successful is the majority of games played on basic cable.

And my reference point is, of course, Ali and the 60’s/70’s as peak boxing - even tho the 80’s-early 90’s were solid, it was still very top heavy.

I can’t naysay a boxing historian like “NJM”, anonymous Bleacher Report blogger. ;)


That kinda feels like false nostalgia to me.

Ali’s biggest title fights/defenses were all shown via closed circuit TV. People would have to buy tickets to watch the fight at movie houses and similar theaters/auditoriums…and they’d get to see a really blurry, artifacty screen of standard-definition TV blown up to fit the screen size of the screen.

And still, as is noted, boxing flourished.

And that includes 1960s fights – Ali/Liston II, Ali/Floyd Patterson, etc. And it also includes the major gate fights he had in the 1970s – Frazier, Foreman, Norton, etc. All of those biggies (and almost biggies) were CCTV live.

Wide World of Sports would be allowed to show replays and highlights of matches. ABC would sometimes show replayed fights (partially) on prime time the next week. A couple of Ali’s lesser-contender fights – Ron Lyle, Leon Spinks first fight to take the title, etc. – did get shown on prime time TV live.

And boxing hit even larger popularity in the middle to late 1980s with the rise of Mike Tyson, too. And all of his title bouts were PPV.

CCTV program from the first Patterson/Ali fight from 1965:

Isn’t the complaint about sporting events moving to streaming about the same as many years ago when sports began leaving free TV for cable?

Odd. I remember watching Gerry Cooney as a great white hope on TV get crushed growing up.

My thought on Tyson is that he was pretty much the last great boxing champion (and wow was it a quick collapse after Douglas KO’d him). But I also felt the sport past its prime by then.

My friend went this route with Fubo and is enjoying the sports options so far. I’ve considered it pretty hard, especially as we were on ATT/DirectTV streaming during the whole fiasco with them not coming to terms with Tegna, which kept anything on NBC offline to us during the negotiation. It suuuuuuucked.

Personally we splurged for the NFL package on YouTube this year and though we enjoyed it, will choose the lowest tier (anywhere) that gets us just The Red Zone next year. By far that’s 99.5% of what we watched.

Yes and no at the same time. For some sports, yep, it is about the same thing. For others, no, certain parts of them were always, “publicly accessible,” on over-the-air broadcast. And I put that in quotes because that only meant if you lived close enough to a station that broadcast whatever the sport/game was. Cable added options for sports, especially so with ESPN and the like.

More recently a lot of that OTA stuff has moved to different streaming platforms. It’s splintered. Most streaming isn’t free. So when we get to big events that were normally covered OTA like playoffs in various sports, the Olympics, etc, now things have splintered and some is free, some is not. This was the first NFL playoff game I can remember with a game that required to pay, though I’m sure someone will remind me there may have been another. But imagine where this leads. If the NFL (or any sports league) splinters things like this to multiple -exclusive- streaming partners, then it puts the fan on the hook for paying for multiple streaming services.

At this point it is worth noting that even the Miami @Kansas City game that aired on Peacock was broadcast OTA on NBC affiliates for free to those in the Designated Market Zones of the two teams, in keeping with NFL rules (and those rules are unlikely to ever be changed, as I’m led to believe.) That was also applicable to any games that were ESPN-only as well – those games air on the local ABC affiliates within the DMZ of the two teams playing.

Cooney’s title fight with Larry Holmes was closed circuit and pay-per-view ONLY live. A week after the fight it was shown on HBO in full. Weeks after that, the replay was shown on ABC.

Kind of but not quite what was expected with the whole Bally Sports/DSG rights issues.