The Lonely Relevance of Sports

People attending a sporting event.

What is left of “appointment viewing”?

Awards shows?

Relevant but infrequent.

TV Series?

Other than being more commonly released weekly over all at once on streamers, “appointment viewing” is no longer relevant.

News?

Exists, but so much is now consumed on alternative channels like YouTube, TikTok, and the web that it’s not appointment viewing so much as expected content on what’s left of linear TV…

What’s left?

SPORTS!

Sports is the biggest, baddest, last remaining appointment viewing content on TV. It’s the only thing on a screen that people will actively avoid looking at so as not to spoil it as they’re walking by a restaurant or bar.

Sports make up the vast majority of viewed telecasts in 2023, the NFL dominating with 23 of the top 25 watched telecasts. Some other programs pop in and out, but the consistent trend is clear: NFL, NCAA, NBA all hold viewers’ attention like no other, and the streaming services are clamoring to take over the sports rights industry.

The Convergence of Sports and Streaming

Watching sports used to be simple:

Want to watch a marquis NFL matchup? Tune in Sunday on Fox or CBS.

NBA fan? ABC, ESPN, TNT

MLB? Fox, ESPN, and your local sports provider

Now, it’s a maze of days, rights, and absolutely massive rights battles.

The NFL is the big cross channel league, with Thursday games broadcast on Amazon, Sunday early Europe games on Yahoo, the occasional Wednesday or Saturday game on some platform or another. Maybe the biggest streaming coup was Google’s purchase of the sole rights to distribute NFL Sunday Ticket on YouTubeTV, no doubt bringing millions of subscribers to the linear replacement.

The NBA is now going big after streaming, with a purported deal to have national streaming rights on Amazon.

Samsung just announced a big offering of live sports on their FAST platform at their NewFronts conference.

AppleTV+ broadcasts MLS.

Everyone is waiting to see when Netflix makes a live sports move, especially considering the success of Drive to Survive increasing F1 popularity, and that is on top of F1 having its own full access streaming app.

The lines between sports, traditional TV, and streaming haven’t just blurred, they’ve completely disappeared. The sports viewing audience is one of the few predictable things left in our media landscape, and every platform that has money and wants viewers is salivating at the opportunity to access the broad, rabid audience sports offers.

What might the future hold?

Whatever happens ahead, there is no putting the genie back in the lamp when it comes to streaming.

If we look at the writing on the wall, we’re seeing giants like Amazon, Apple, Samsung, Google, Netflix, and Walmart going hard after streaming.

Amazon is already well entrenched with Prime established as a top tier streaming service and NFL, WNBA, and potentially NBA games available on the platform. They’ve missed on many of their high brow content efforts, but sports is a sure (but insanely expensive) bet, so they’re likely focusing their efforts and deep pockets on user acquisition and retention through sports.

AppleTV+ is niche enough that MLS is a perfect fit, but they’ll likely push for more to get more people to justify holding onto the service.

Google is collecting cord cutters like discarded pennies in a fountain by having the leading linear replacement and the very popular Sunday Ticket + RedZone.

Samsung, as mentioned, is making a play for local to get more and more eyeballs on SamsungTV+ which means more ads, which means more money for Samsung Ads.

The most interesting?

At 2 months old, the news of Walmart buying Vizio seems like ancient history, but their ownership of the second largest TV manufacturer and the screens it gives them a unique position to make a sizable splash. Soon, you could be watching MLB games on your Walmart TV.

With sports being the only sure thing tying people to Linear TV, and sports moving more and more to streaming, the exodus from traditional TV will only continue faster and faster. This puts streaming platforms in even more competition, fragments the viewing for audiences more, and creates unique opportunities for advertisers to capitalize on high viewership content in more creative and diverse ways.

The continual evolution of streaming is a fascinating thing to watch, and with more of these big sports to streaming announcements coming out, we haven’t even reached the peak of streaming madness.

Watching what happens is sure be “appointment viewing!”

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