Streaming Wars For Live Sports, Entertainment, and Gambling

Another point in time when the NFL let ESPN and Patriots Fanboy Bill Simmons know who is king of the North American Sports Marketplace. Can't prove it but from my memory for the next couple of years ESPN/MNF got trash games and trash QB match-ups for Simmons and his unrelenting attacks on Roger Goodell.


Ah when ESPN pretended to have those "journalistic standards" and still too many, especially over a certain age still not on sports blogs, still believed it!

Bottom line we all know why really he was suspended as no argument was ever made about his points on the NFL's handling of Ray Rice. Consider all the similar incidents since of course. Of course it also never pays to be arrogant with your employer, which he indeed was as well but I figure there were underlying matters cooking aplenty for Simmons before it came to that.

In 2014, he was about 5 years too early or he'd have his own podcast without the need for the ESPN overlord.

Look at this statement that less than a decade ago seems so dated as to how this matter was handled, and of course there was this pretence even back then as if nothing about the matter would ever spill over into social media as it was handled so tightly in corporate or private fashion.

The communications department started fielding numerous calls from reporters seeking a reaction. ESPN would not offer an official comment. The small group of execs spent much of the next two days talking via e-mail and phone about how to deal with the situation. They were unanimous in thinking that Simmons' comments about the NFL commissioner were over the top. They believe that it is one thing to call on him to resign; it is another thing to profanely call him a liar.

Ah the world all the more we have left behind already come what may. Nowadays such a matter would be handled a whole lot more quickly without such a spotlight initially irrespective of the inevitable social media chatter, but back then, ah, "e-mails and phone calls" like it was still 2000 with the likes of Skipper et al of the management trash reigning over ESPN for far too long as well.

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Here I will post this clip from August 2013 during the opening night at FS1, which by 2015 managed to exceed, I do believe, an even lower standard than that stated by many pessimists.

You in Canada will immediately recognize these two guys. We in the US forgot about them quite quickly. If only they had arrived in 2005, but hey.

Somebody at Fox got the brilliant idea, and the room full of golf-clapping and nodding executives probably loved it because it was lower budget including especially that guy with the spreadsheet on his laptop screen during the entire meeting, that more dudes talking a lot on the screen was going to be the television future over live sports, highlights, or even much-craved replays of instant classics even though people had DVRs.

And they also believed just that with ALL their hearts and minds that the audience would grow on cable TV to pay for that talking head content because "It worked for news, right!?" and then pay MORE each year! Ah those cable dreams and once again whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.

It's remarkable when you view this clip just how much has changed in sports media and media in general in a decade and more than in any prior decade in media history.

Podcasts were around at the time but were considered oddball and fringe material for the most part - no I am not judging you if that was you in 2013 because you were probably listening to something good more often than not unless perhaps it was another sci-fi production.

The current wave of streaming music services had just begun to become mainstream.

But almost everybody still had internet mostly via cable as those under 40 or so like me had already cut the television cord before 2010 and back then signed up with Pirate Cable Services, LLC, now out of business, which one still could manage with older TVs before HDTV.

I was perhaps a foolish optimist at the time thinking that FS1 would be at least a healthy counterweight to ESPN that the lame NBCSN, with its dreadful start after the 2012 rebranding and generally awful content until they finally landed their big break for the Premier League in 2014, just was not. I would have paid for it too!

Nope instead FS1 tried to out-ESPN ESPN by fluctuating between brotastic and jocular. And dudes talking more and more on my screen! Sitting behind desks too! Arguing! Pick a side and tell your friends and be angry with them too! Or lounge chairs because that's more cool?! What a bunch of tools. Oh well.

In retrospect the demise of cable took too long as it seems only the pandemic did in that industry when otherwise the industry should have been in a position to capitalize on a captive audience at home, but instead like most legacy media (i.e. broadcast, cable, websites around since at least 2010 including former newspapers, et cetera) they just alienated everybody instead of courting us with better deals that they had the capability and means to offer. Now no mercy for them until perhaps these legacy firms are acquired and overhauled. Ever.

Even if you could go back to this and even worse at hand now, and I don't blame you if you are still getting a great cable deal as does exist in a few places as I know from my prior residence in eastern Pennsylvania but outside the Xfinity territory here in Philadelphia (Comcast's home town even before the acquisition of NBC Universal), why would you?


From Daniel Kaplan:

Bankruptcy, media giants walking away from team contracts, leagues scrambling to throw liferafts. The much-hyped armageddon, doomsday has arrived this week for the regional sports network universe.

But is the upheaval really as bad as it seems, and what does it mean for fans? Short answers: No; and fans should ultimately have more viewing choices, but unfortunately, likely higher costs.

There are still many unknowns — Diamond appears likely to seek to keep some but not all of the teams carried by its 19 RSNs — but two tenets appear clear: the games will be on in some capacity, and viewers over time will need to pay more to watch as clubs begin the painful shift away from channels carried under the traditional cable bundle. The sports fan has for decades been subsidized by the cable bundle, paying a fraction of what the games would cost as a stand-alone. It’s why leagues and teams fought sports tiers for so long, and why selling streams raises prices.

“Let’s say you have $4 a month” that a cable consumer pays for an RSN, explained sports consultant Marc Ganis, every subscriber pays it. “If only 20 percent buy (a new standalone option), just to get the same amount of subscription, you’ve got to pay a multiple of five for those who want it. That’s just mathematics.”

That said, separating from cable, even partially, can lead to more options, access, and different ways to watch as the streaming migration continues. Still, that will carry a cost for consumers.

“The RSN needs to be reinvented,” said sports media consultant Lee Berke. “And that means offering up their content on a range of screens at revamped pricing. You’re going to have games available on free broadcast TV games, available on streaming, you’re going to revamp your economics. Right now, your economics are based upon essentially exclusivity or near exclusivity for these games, on the traditional cable pay TV bundle.”

Bob Thompson, the former president of Fox Sports Networks and co-founder of the Big Ten Network, does not believe the sky is falling and predicts Warner Brothers will not leave by the end of the month as it indicated. For one, he said the TV trucks and crew necessary to carry the games on the RSNs are already booked.

“This whole idea that, ‘Oh, we’re going to pull them, we’re going to turn them off on the 31st (of March),’ I just, there’s a lot of things that will happen before that,” he said.

“There will continue to be regional feeds and regional linear telecasts,” Thompson added of the coming RSN world. “Most of those will be on the existing RSNs. Some will be on some form of reconstituted or hybrid RSN. Some will be streamed. ”

MLB has said it has a Plan B if Diamond and Warner Brothers walk away from the RSN contracts, as the league is building its own regional media division. However, Rob Manfred, MLB commissioner, also has said if Diamond abandons even one media deal, they all go, which protends a bankruptcy court battle with Diamond.

“We’ve been really clear that if Diamond doesn’t pay under every single one of the broadcast agreements, that creates a termination right, and our clubs will proceed to terminate those contracts,” Manfred said.

That may be a tough position in bankruptcy court, however. The bankruptcy judge gets to decide what contracts a debtor like Diamond can “discharge” and will have the final say.

MLB would like to wipe the slate clean and create a system where there is a mix of linear and streaming options, both in-market and out-of-market. But even if the league gets the 14 MLB teams in Diamond — a very unlikely if — other teams have existing, well-established RSNs they either own or have equity in, including the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Seattle Mariners, Chicago Cubs and Baltimore Orioles. The Red Sox already have a streaming option through NESN, with the Yankees expected to have one soon. It’s hard to see these teams abandoning their RSNs to join a nationalized MLB media initiative.

If Diamond can get out from under the debt load, its thinking is the RSN business is not irretrievably broken. Thompson points out that if RSNs were a 30-percent-margin business before cord-cutting, it would still be a 20-percent margin industry today.

Indeed, the current environment is not a reflection of the value of sports in the media. Baseball games on RSNs routinely are top-rated programs on the days they air. The issue is as more viewers abandon the cable bundle, the economics of fans paying cable operators, followed by cable operators paying RSNs, to the RSNs paying the teams, is breaking down.


From Daniel Kaplan:

Diamond Sports, parent of Bally Sports Regional Networks, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Tuesday, but said in a statement its 19 regional sports channels would continue to operate unimpeded. Here’s what you need to know:

Diamond’s own parent, Sinclair, staggered under more than $8 billion of debt from its 2019 acquisition of the RSN, an unpropitiously timed deal that came just as cord-cutting took hold.

Fears have swept leagues, particularly MLB, that its 14 teams carried by Bally would be abandoned by Diamond. That does not appear to be happening.

The prepackaged bankruptcy, which is still being negotiated with creditors, is expected to reduce Diamond’s debt by $8 billion and sever the company from Sinclair Broadcasting.

Diamond Sports Group “will continue broadcasting games and connecting fans across the country with the sports and teams they love,” David Preschlack, CEO of Diamond, said in a statement. “With the support of our creditors, we expect to execute a prompt and efficient reorganization and to emerge from the restructuring process as a stronger company.”

Many had expected Diamond to dump certain RSNs that were not as economical, and for now that does not appear to be the case. However, Diamond’s Arizona affiliate, Diamond Sports Net Arizona, filed its own Chapter 11. It’s unclear what that means for the Arizona Diamondbacks, which was the one team not paid on time last week. Schyuler Carroll, a bankruptcy attorney, said all the RSNs should individually file but had likely not completed their paperwork.

According to the Diamond Chapter 11, AZPB, the Diamondbacks parent, is the sports media company’s fourth largest creditor at $30.8 million. No other team is listed. College sports media company Raycom Sports Network is listed as owed $8.5 million.

According to the Diamond Chapter 11 filing, there is a four-person “conflicts committee” helping to run the company during the Chapter 11: Preschlack, former NFL chief operating officer Maryann Turcke, former Fox Sports executive Randy Freer and former Vulcan Sports executive Robert Whitsitt.

Diamond Sports and AZPB’s petitions each lists assets and liabilities of between $1 billion and $10 billion. The cases are filed in the southern district of Texas bankruptcy court.

Major League Baseball issued a statement Tuesday night saying there is “every expectation that (Diamond) will continue televising all games they are committed to during the bankruptcy process” and that the league is “ready to produce and distribute games to fans in their local markets in the event that Diamond or any other regional sports network is unable to do so as required by their agreement with our Clubs.”


Here's a bit of a follow-up on the prior post. It appears Genius Sports has been able to use also this successful experience with the Portland Trail Blazers, after a successful experience in the G-League in 2022, so as to secure a deal with the entire NBA to work together to develop a next generation platform called "Dragon."

I will post also the link to the article in Sportico, but it has a paywall.


These are some great articles from The Athletic. This part is not necessarily true as represented on a broad basis by The Athletic, for the situation can vary by media market much as experienced by customers of Comcast XFinity here in Philadelphia including me. Given their expertise, I find this easy oversight that would have required little research to be alarming as well. Shame on them.

There have even been multiple lawsuits over the years as concern the situation of RSN's owned by TV providers including for violation of anti-trust laws.

For example, when you are cable customer as was I here in Philadelphia who cannot opt out from the "Regional Sports Fee" on your package, I concur.

RSNs have been under the microscope of antitrust litigators and government regulators for some time. About a decade ago, a group of consumers sued the NHL, MLB, Comcast, DirecTV, multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) and RSNs for alleged Sherman Act violations. Laumann v. NHL and its companion case, Garber v. MLB , centered on sports broadcasting contracts that were depicted as unlawfully eliminating competition in the distribution of MLB and NHL games.

I remember the extra charge on my local cable bill was about $20 after tax. There are several streaming services I can sign up for to follow any given sport for far less than that amount per month. And I also can discontinue my subscription at any time or save even more with a season pass.

To add some insult to injury, in 2020 after many games were cancelled, do you know what XFinity refunded to all customers only several months later after charging that fee on each bill? About ONE month worth of the Regional Sports Fee! What a joke and trash company as they tried to get us to pay for that Peacock steaming hot piece of crap app too!

Screw you Comcast and screw you Peacock too!

And when you think this bankruptcy situation won't be messy enough, there's this reality due to the precedent of the prior rulings against the RSNs:

Diamond’s expected reorganization could take months, or longer, to play out. A bankruptcy judge would focus on how creditors are paid and what else they might gain, including equity in a reorganized company. Bankruptcy law and its overarching priority—making sure creditors are paid—will be the guiding force.

The result, however, would be subject to potential antitrust scrutiny brought by private parties or government regulators, who would seek to protect Diamond’s customer base. If a network, media company or league obtains such a high degree of market power over RSNS that it is viewed as detrimental to consumers, antitrust claims become more likely. In other words, bankruptcy law and antitrust law have different priorities, and how compatibly those priorities would intersect with Diamond’s reorganization remains to be seen.

Bottom Line - The leagues, including that perennial dolt of an NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, can quit the charade that this is no big deal, for the RSN cash cow is ending.

This matter will hang over them for years in courts as otherwise they have to scramble NOW for a better solution than RSNs in most markets. Also we can imagine the ripple effect of this bankruptcy on other RSN's as well as of the results of the litigation at hand.


Failures 2023: The Year of "Well, It's No Big Deal"?

I'm already picking up on a new trend this year, and following recent times of alarmism whether or not justifiable, I can see this trend as an overreaction to the recent years of alarm.

As with the initial statements by the parties most impacted financially by the failure of the RSN's to the tune of millions of high-margin profit dollars, and a few days ago over the weekend all the "everything is okay, please disperse, there is nothing to see here, 'it's only one bank'!" rhetoric that usually results in counterproductive consequences rather than effective calming, I think as we see any given number of other media establishment traditions fail this year in the transition to streaming and back to broadcast, we will be hearing an awful lot more of "well it's no big deal in the big picture blah blah blah."


I totally agree with you on this - but from the league perspective they don't have a lot of other cards to play than going into the "it's no big deal mode" of crisis management. They don't have any other cards to play.

I agree with you that the RSN collapse is going to be huge. I know the Lakers and Yankees didn't get hit during this, my thinking is if this is not such a big deal why is it that two of the biggest brands in North American Sports fuel their success on the money from cable TV. And it was this differential in cable income between Yankees/Lakers and the other teams in the MLB/NBA that allowed them to be so financially successful. Those at the top aren't going to feel the hurt but those teams in small markets that were trying to keep up with the Lakers/Yankees are going to really feel the pinch on this one.


you guys really should subscribe to the Athletic. best sports journalism out there right now and they discuss this stuff. and their NFL and NHL coverage is excellent. i see @okie has posted their latest article on RSN fail.


the Athletic is literally the only sports journalism i read now, other than 3DN and linked articles. i get all my highlights and sports news via twitter feed.


I love how the MLB, NHL and NBA are saying nothing to see here, this won't have any impact on our business model. I am on board with @Paolo_X on this one. For the last few decades the sports teams have had 9 out of 10 of their paying customers that had a gun to their head. If you want cable you need to pay for this subscription service that you will never use. How are these sports leagues going to replace that revenue stream? They were getting money from every person with cable in that geographic area, to have the same revenue they are going to have to jack up the prices for their product by 3 or 4 times what they were charging before. And at that price point how many customers are still going to stay with needing to see their team play? The only reason this worked is because Cable TV was able to trap and extort every customer who wanted cable TV.


According to this tally, more in the US in February 2023 were watching TV via streaming than via cable or broadcast.

Personally, the top two services listed for the streaming percentage are my top two in that order.

It's also noteworthy that Peacock made the list despite less than half the subscribers of Paramount+, and Fox's Tubi has overtaken Paramount Global's Pluto TV though it's still rather early in the game for them. More on perhaps why is for later.


Major League Baseball has sold the streaming rights to all 120 Minor League Baseball teams to Bally. Bally will stream the games for free on the Bally Live app. Previously, about 40,000 subscribers paid $29.99 to watch games on the MLB At Bat app.

While the Bally app allows betting on Major League Baseball, wagering on Minor League games is prohibited.


The Broadcast Sports Spring Litmus Configuration, USA

A small few or perhaps only one might recognize the reference. It works like 94% of 79% of the time, so try it too.

Anyway, @laxtreme56 provided us again with a great link to some outstanding ratings data for sports on TV from last week via his post and this link

Have there ever been that many sports on TV in a week in March, well beyond the usual suspects like March Madness, the NBA, and the NHL, at the same time than last week? I figure maybe so, but the last such occasion perhaps was in 2019 if at all?

And so last week provided us an excellent, possibly unprecedented, and definitely first benchmark post-NFL season and post-core-pandemic of what sports people will watch during an incredibly crowded sports calendar in a week in March.

There's yet another observation that we have made repeatedly in this thread.

After the NFL Playoffs and the Super Bowl, last week was the first peak measurement without pandemic interference with the growth back to broadcast viewing after in 2022, for the first time ever in the US, more people were streaming to watch content than watching on cable after also cutting ALL the cords most especially in 2021.

We are seeing an initial vision of the live sports and entertainment future for the late winter and early spring, post-cable and satellite TV, with such ratings data from a peak activity period.


Going from top to bottom before in general, look at the spread between broadcast viewing and cable channel viewing of the same content for any given sport.

  • March Madness Basketball, All Tournaments

Look how March Madness ruled the roost! But look more closely also how the games on CBS for the Men's Tournament and on ABC for the Women's Tournament did far better than the same on cable channels.
12 of the top 15 were on CBS with 3M plus watching
9 of the top 10 were on CBS with 4M plus watching

  • Motorsport

Notice how Fox NASCAR Cup Series had over 3M with all else on cable channels not even close

  • Baseball

Baseball on TV? In March? Whuh!?

Yes, the World Baseball Classic over 2M on Fox and close to it on even lowly FS1!

Even four of the rest of the games midweek on FS1 drew over 700K.

This event certainly is more popular than I ever knew.

  • Golf

Two days of coverage of a PGA tournament on NBC drew 1.5M and 2.5M respectively. Ratings via the Golf Channel were considerably lower.

  • Other

WWE Friday Night Smackdown on Fox drew 2.25M, which is hardly unusual.

But PBA Bowling on Sunday on Fox drew 767K!? Whuh!?

NBC had rugby on Saturday, and then it was all downhill for the Other cable content.

  • NBA Basketball

Not bad for ESPN at over 1M for four games mid-week before March Madness, but what if on ABC?

Notice far fewer give a rip about NBA-TV. I don't think that's going to work, but the league has it as a fail-safe as do all the leagues with their direct media presence any more. Directly owned media by three of the major sports leagues is probably a better idea now in transition time as the Regional Sports Networks blow up all the more.

  • Soccer

The best draws remain Liga MX, Champions League, and Premier League at a minimum of 400K viewers.

The Liga MX unofficial triple header on Saturday night, with the first two aired on Univision then the third game on Telemundo with a little bit of overlap given the 10:33PM ET start time, drew over 1.1M per game for the second two games!

UEFA Champions League drew over 1M on Univision, which was simulcast on Paramount+ for the English-language stream.

I was one of those watching in Spanish, for the broadcast feed is still better than the streaming feed.

  • NHL

The Saturday night game on ABC drew over 900K and the Tuesday night game on ESPN drew 589K - impressive numbers there before the drop-off for games on TNT.

That's Saturday night on ABC during the NCAA game on CBS mind you!

The last item listed was a replay of a game at 4AM ET on ESPN and really should be ignored.

  • XFL

320K on FX on last Saturday night at 7PM ET can be called a victory of sorts.

The other three games each starting after 9PM ET look like failures to me, but consider that two of the three were West Coast games that would be played late on the East Coast if night games anyway.

Maybe there just was no other way other than taking the lumps and setting a low for a bounce next week?

  • Year-to-Year

Comparisons to 2022 in the same week via the figures in the second table present some other interesting observations, for the mass audience clearly migrated from some content given the additional options in 2023.


This is not a bad idea and a bandage of sorts for a new bleeding revenue wound, for the associated teams in the Bally Sports markets and all others can expose minor league ball to hundreds of thousands more for sake of the advertising revenue otherwise not at hand.

In the meantime, MLB still has to figure out what to do with all those otherwise lost revenue streams of the MLB teams from the Regional Sports Networks in those states, which are depicted in the map.

MLB TV is not going to cut it either akin to the channels owned directly by the NBA and NHL, but unlike baseball, the other two have all summer to figure this out for next season.


YouTube Running Longer Ads on Free Content and At A Crossroads

It will be interesting to see what YouTube does next for its free content with ads that you can skip most of the time - until now!

So much more of the content is professional, and so much all the even more is any given number of wannabe vloggers, videos that are actually ads and teases for other content, and misinformation or disinformation for any given hidden agenda.

Anybody else remember those awful local cable access channels and all their filler content? We have that on steroids now.

I've noticed in just the last few weeks not only do they throw a double ad at you when viewing content, but they also throw a second round at you in a very short time if not yet another later though you can usually skip that one after about 5 seconds.

Now YouTube TV has been a service akin to cable with access to those channels for some time now, but I just don't get it. Why would I pay what I would pay YouTube for cable TV, minus all those silly fees of course, to have access to ...cable TV?

And certainly do I still get those annoying ads on other content, which increasingly is in poor taste or poor production? Why would I pay for that? Wouldn't that be like paying for cable TV again with the informercials en masse?

So what is next? YouTube's own proprietary channels?

Some of the boom in new content as advanced during the pandemic certainly has worn off including due to the glut of channels and also, in my opinion, more disinformation, misinformation, and clickbait than ever.

Many of the vloggers start out well, but they fade quickly.

And it's not 2012 any more people, so sitting in front of a laptop talking or sharing your take after playing a video or song is just not going to cut it now that we are not at home as much with many empty shelves and stores closed and the like.

I think YouTube and parent Google are at a crossroads of sorts akin to Facebook and Twitter recently. Though YouTube is far from struggling financially, they better figure it out for a strategic future direction for content this year, or I think they will be headed to those bad places in 2024.


With those numbers you end up with $1.2 million usd coming into the coffers. Pretty sure you are correct that you can make more giving away the product and making money on advertising.


@Paolo_X - I agree with you

MLB, NBA and NHL are telling the unwashed masses that everything is fine, which I understand because what other option do they have? Tell everyone that this model is fouled up and beyond fixing? They have no other way to go than to say everything is great and scramble to find a solution., which I don't think they will do.

I really think that these major league sports are in for a recalibration in regards to rights fees now that the cable TV Cash flow is going away. I wonder how long it will be before the league negotiates all the rights fees for the whole league. I ask because if they don't the chasm between haves and have nots will only get bigger and wider.


@Stickweld21 too

So is this the prototype for all the live sports that are not the major leagues, WWE Smackdown, various live entertainment, and certain occasional global live special events?

Of course those massive ratings events are already generally available on broadcast and streaming simulcast, which has the standard for such massive events that are not necessarily live sports since at least late 2020.