And Now Professional Sports Teams Are Cutting The Cable Cord, Too

from the united-with-the-public dept

In all of our coverage about cord-cutting, we have mostly focused on how the public is in large swaths ditching cable for over the air and internet alternatives. Aside from that, we've also commented on stories where the networks are looking for new ways to measure viewership of their content given all the cord-cutting that has already occurred. The common theme, however, is that cord-cutting is not some fad and is a full on thing among the public.

And also, it turns out, among some relevant companies as well. I've made the point for a long time that professional sports are the last thread to which cable is clinging. Once the larger leagues out there realize that they can just stream games on their own "networks", cable is over. But perhaps it won't necessarily go at the league level. At least in the case of Major League Soccer, one team has decided to cut the cord themselves and go full streaming.

Soccer fans wanting to watch D.C. United this season will not find matches on WJLA 24/7 News, where they were shown for three years. The games won’t appear on NBC Sports Washington — the team’s platform for much of its first 20 seasons — or Mid-Atlantic Sports Network.

In fact, except for select nationally televised matches, viewers will not find Wayne Rooney and United on any standard cable or satellite channels.

That’s because, like millions of Americans, United is cutting the cord and enlisting a pay streaming service for video needs. The MLS franchise said it has signed a multiyear contract with subscription-based FloSports to carry 21 of 34 regular season matches. The remainder will appear on the league’s national TV platforms (Fox Sports, ESPN or UniMas).

So before everyone not into soccer gets into the comments to make the point that soccer isn't the most-watched sport in the United States, yes that's true. On the other hand, the DC United is not some mom and pop sports franchise. As far as soccer goes, DC United has a decent following, as evidenced by their TV contracts. For the team to, on its own, make the decision to go all streaming means it thinks its fanbase will be able to follow the team online just fine without needing a TV screen to do so. This determination is almost certainly correct, given the broader trend in cord-cutting.

“The decision was very much based on what our options were and what was going to be best for our fans to really connect with the team,” said Sam Porter, United’s senior vice president for business and legal affairs. “What FloSports is going to offer is more in-depth coverage and story lines around the team on a year-round basis.

“When you look at all the cord-cutting that is going on, it’s really not as radical as it would have been a couple of years ago.”

The cable companies out there can play pretend that this analysis isn't soon going to fit the views of the more major sports leagues out there if they want, but there is an inevitability here that is palpable. Many have predicted the swift demise of cable television for years and they have been wrong. But sports teams cutting the cord? That's a dark cloud on cable's horizon.

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Filed Under: cord cutting, sports, streaming
Companies: dc united

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  1. icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 10 Jan 2019 @ 5:32pm

    CATV history and streaming

    Community Antenna (nee Access) Television (CATV) was the impetus for allowing cable companies monopolies ("exclusive franchises") to put infrastructure into providing people access to such local broadcasts that they couldn't receive with a normal over the air (OTA) antenna. In time they added content that wasn't delivered by OTA but was only receivable by having big ugly dishes (BUDs).

    Now skip forward about 30 years and cable TV providers and telcos are focused hard on locking down any possible competition. They want to have all the content, and not allow anyone else to access the content.

    That's led to loss of signal for many "channels" (an outdated paradigm) when negotiations ("extortion") had failed to provide the cable TV company the outcome they wanted. NO wall = NO government. Oops, wrong extorsion.

    Here we are now talking about "illegal streaming". That's really simple, right? It's when I take content I don't have a right to stream (no such thing in 17USC) and I stream it (no such thing in 17USC). Some would call this "making available" and equate it to offering the content on e.g. bittorrent. Some would call it offering a "pirate" feed. Either way, still not in 17USC.

    What's more concerning is we're undergoing a cultural shift between
    - it's ok to stream stuff. Hello, YouTube!
    - it's ok to stream some stuff but no dancing baby because music.
    - it's ok to have recorded stuff but don't stream stuff.
    and the slipper slope's next part:
    - it's ok only to stream stuff YOU'VE created, and don't try and fair-use anything because we'll sue your ...
    and if you think the slope ends there it's
    - Congress (ifnwhen they reopen) will pass a law saying it's unlawful to stream anything you haven't created yourself using nobody else's material.

    There are two ways to approach a slippery slope:
    1. Say "Pshaw, there's no slipper slope! Look, Central America never turned communist!"
    2. Fight it at the outset and don't let them get step 1 in before you realize they're gunning for step 10.


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