Sports fans are increasingly having to research what options are available to watch their favorite games as streaming media giants like Apple
Sinclair Broadcasting subsidiary Diamond Sports Group (DSG) recently launched an online streaming service for its regional sports networks (RSNs) called Bally Sports Plus (BSP). Before fans could enjoy a full season of games on the 19 networks launched, rumors began to swirl that DSG might file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
There are a number of scenarios if that happens, one of which is that MLB could broadcast the games in local markets, charging cable and satellite operators a fee, ultimately stripping DSG of the rights entirely.
As if the Bally Sports channels didn’t have enough problems, on October 17 news broke that the Los Angeles Clippers (owned by Microsoft
DSG already knew this, although it was not previously revealed. The Clippers recently renewed their contract with Bally Sports SoCal, so that contract had to be revised from the previous version to give the Clippers the rights to launch their own streaming platform.
Priced at $199/season (with a 50% off promotion that only runs until October 20th), “ClipperVision” will obviously be aimed at die hard Clippers fans. Still, there’s no doubt that some fans will migrate from Bally Sports SoCal to Clippervision.
In addition to access to 74 games, one selling feature is “CourtVision,” which uses AI and machine learning to overlay graphics over live game footage. There will also be live commentary from former Clipper players and Steve Ballmer. Korean and Spanish language feeds are also available.
Another set of sports rights that will almost certainly be released for streaming is the NFL Sunday Night Ticket game package. DIRECTV pays $1.5 billion a year for the package and loses money on the games and has given up bidding on the renewal. The package is aimed at soccer super fans, giving them access to all regular season Sunday games of out-of-market leagues. Apple is believed to be the leading bidder with Amazon and Disney in the mix.
Negotiations have been going on for months and should have ended by now. However, reports surfaced a few days ago that the obstacle isn’t price (the NFL is asking $2-3 billion per season), but Apple is asking the NFL to take a number of restrictive clauses into the contract.
Eddie Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of services, who oversees Apple’s media and sports partnerships and AppleTV+, told CNBC that they are looking to offer the games in local markets and even around the world. This is probably not possible given the current rights agreements with other game distributors.
The only way to make such a deal is to negotiate with each country, as their deal is to renew and gradually allow airing in some international markets. Locally, they would also face rights challenges. All of this tells us that the landscape (and the price you pay) for games in the near future could be very different than it is now.