As more people drop their cable subscriptions in favor of streaming services, it has grown evident that the way audiences consume sports has changed drastically. Live sports has kept the cable industry intact; after all, sports is one of the few forms of entertainment that can’t be binged and require appointment viewing.
Still, live sports alone hasn’t kept people from cancelling their cable subscriptions. According to Bloomberg, “Every minute, another six people cut the cord.” Instead of paying for cable, people have chosen to sign up for a variety of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu or Amazon. The inclusion of channels like ESPN or Fox Sports in cable packages used to be enough retain diehard sports fans, but that does not seem to be the case anymore. ESPN, once viewed as an indestructible behemoth, lost two million subscribers in 2018, according to The Hill.
I experienced this shift for the first time this year. As a superfan of college football and pretty much every other sport (with the exception of baseball, apologies to Sam Arslanian), I assumed I would always need cable to watch games from the SEC to the Pac-12. But for the first time in my life, I didn’t have cable in my room, and so I turned to a variety of streams, both legal and otherwise.
To be honest, it’s nice not having to pay for cable. But being a sports fan and not having cable makes for an exhausting venture.
Streams are often unreliable, and the situation is made even worse by the notorious USC Wi-Fi. I’ve had games cut out right before game-tying field goals or vital free throws, as was the case during a Final Four game a couple weeks ago. Also, with people using a variety of streaming services, it’s become impossible to tell who is really watching the game live. I experienced this first-hand during Game 5 of the World Series, when a former friend barged in and spoiled the game’s last out. The possibility of “spoiling” sporting events was unheard of in the cable-era, but now it’s a real issue to be wary of, apparently.
Adding to the annoyance, setting up streams seems for sporting events seems to take days, especially for high-profile events. By the time I established a stable connection to watch this year’s College Football Playoff National Championship, Clemson had already amassed a sizable lead, extinguishing any drama. It would have been wiser to try and get a table at Buffalo Wild Wings.
In the streaming era, there’s also the common nuisance of having to switch between too many different streaming services. In the past, going from an NBA game on TNT to a college football contest on SEC Network required a few clicks of a remote. In this daunting new age, that becomes a 10-minute task, just to switch apps and sign into the new one. It’s now far more convenient to stick with one streaming service for an extended period of time, rather than channel-surfing to catch all of the day’s biggest sporting events.
The advent of new technologies was supposed to make our lives simpler, but now there’s an overload of avenues to sports consumption. There needs to be a more centralized way for sports fans to watch sports outside of the overpriced, traditional cable model.
A few companies are trying to transition live sports broadcasts into the new age. ESPN launched its ESPN+ streaming service a year ago, with a price tag of $4.99 a month. It’s an attractive price, and the company possesses a deep library of content, but the app’s dearth of actual live sports is a detracting point.
Hulu might actually have the best shot at attracting sports fans. For $44.99 a month, users of Hulu TV gain access to sports channels like ESPN, CBS and regional Fox Sports networks all in one stop. It’s not cheap, but compared to paying $85-100 for cable, it’s a solid deal.
Still, Hulu TV does not solve the root of the problem for sports fans; they still have to pay for unwanted channels such as Freeform or Oxygen (these channels were picked at random, and I apologize to any fans of the NBA and Pretty Little Liars). There needs to be a service that supplies all the major sports channels in one spot for a flat fee to end all this app-switching and bundling madness.
With or without cable subscriptions, sports fans will always find ways to consume live events. Often, this is through illegal streams on Reddit, where people can find links to the exact game they want to watch. Unless broadcasting companies want to continue losing out to this alternative, it’d be wise for them to figure out how to adapt to the streaming age, while retaining the convenience cable offers.
Every year for my column, I do a mock of what I think will happen in the first ten picks of the NFL Draft. Last year, I correctly picked three of the first ten picks, so naturally the goal is to double that total this time around. Let’s get started.
No. 1 Arizona Cardinals: Kyler Murray, QB Oklahoma
No. 2 San Francisco 49ers: Nick Bosa, DE Ohio State
No. 3 New York Jets: Josh Allen, DE Kentucky
No. 4 Oakland Raiders: Quinnen Williams, DT Alabama
No. 5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Ed Oliver, DT Houston
No. 6 New York Giants: Dwayne Haskins, QB Ohio State
No. 7 Jacksonville Jaguars: Jawann Taylor, T Florida
No. 8 Detroit Lions: Rashan Gary, DE Michigan
No. 9 Buffalo Bills: Andre Dillard, T Washington State
No. 10 Denver Broncos: Drew Lock, QB Missouri