For a good portion of the TV viewing world, sports are a barrier to cord cutting. And I don’t blame them. All the major sports are just now dipping their toes into the market. Let’s take a look at what’s out there and what’s holding back folks from cord cutting.
A number of sports franchises have dipped their toes into the online viewing world.
- MLB.tv: subscribe monthly or for the season to see live or on demand baseball in HD
- NBA League Pass: subscribe for the season to see live (but not blacked out) or on demand basketball games. Reviews of the quality aren’t all positive, so be careful.
- NHL Game Center: subscribe monthly to see up to 40 live games a week.
- WWE Network: subscribe monthly to see the latest slams and bams
- International Curling Network: Ok, I made that one up. But you were interested…
And the list goes on.
The Elephant In The Room: The NFL
Despite a lot of players in the cord cutting field, something is missing from the live sports lineup. That would be the single most popular TV sport in the US: football. I find it difficult to wrap my brain around how staggeringly popular NFL football is in the US. Like, blowing everyone else away popular. The average football game has as many viewers as the NBA finals games.
Graph from The Atlantic showing LOTS of NFL viewers. Crazy lots.
And, the NFL knows it and drives hugely expensive long term contracts. The present nine year deal rakes in about $7 billion (with a B) a year and expires in 2022. If ever there was a golden goose, this would be it, and the NFL seems very hesitant to endanger their very large contracts.
Watch The NFL
Football ties viewers to their expensive ESPN cable subscriptions which drive a lot of revenue. Being an incumbent and having little financial incentive to innovate, I expect the NFL to lag the other, more nimble, sports into the streaming video age. They are experimenting with their Direct TV deal, but it’s dabbling more than a serious investment. When we see the NFL move, however, that’s the sign of the apocalypse for the cable TV industry
But I Wanna Watch Football Now
But take heart, dear football fan, because there are options available to you. A goodly number of shows are broadcast over the air on FOX, NBC, and CBS. A solid over-the-air DVR setup and a local sports bar will bridge you through the rough times ahead.
Looking to get your sports fix. A few other hearty cord cutters have taken their swag at a solution:
Last Thursday, Nvidia has offered up their entry into the increasingly crowded by announcing their Nvidia Shield set top box. Starting at about $200, the Shield supports streaming video including 4k video,
My quick take: it’s riding the fence between consoles and streamer boxes. It’s not going to be an XBox or a Playstation and it’s a more pricey than a Roku, Apple TV, or Amazon Fire. The Android games and 4k video are differentiating, but I don’t think it will drive adoption.
Tech Times had a good round-up of Shield reviews for further reading and IGN had a lot of in-depth details.
Update: this Motly Fool article makes the best argument I’ve seen for the existence of the Nvidia Shield.
Back in January, Roku refreshed the streaming stick. This looks to be a running change of internals that doesn’t register to the end consumer. It flagged on the FCC certification website. According to the filing, the flash size was changed. More enjoyably, Roku kindly provided internal photos of the Roku 3500R streaming stick as part of the filings. Thanks Roku!
The 1st photo shows the bottom side of the main board next to the housing pieces.
The 2nd photo shows the top side of the board and notes antenna locations.
The 3rd photo was the winner shot, so to speak. It two major chips are identifiable that look to be :
The rumored BCM2835 processor is not observable in the photos.
Items from the news and rumor circuit:
It’s been almost four and a half years since my last post. In that time, a lot has happened in the streaming video ecosystem and the resources for someone to cut the cable cord is better than ever. Just this month, news reports highlighted that Comcast is crossing the point where internet subscriptions are passing cable subscriptions, following a trend that had started five years ago.
Comcast has released its quarterly earnings report [PDF] and once again the pay-TV customer numbers have slipped while the company’s broadband growth continues.
Of course, not everyone agrees (yet), but things are very different over five years ago.
It hit a home for me recently when I was talking with a friend and they were bemoaning their cable bill. When I started discussing all the options out there with him, it blew his mind. He was ready to kick Time Warner to the curb. This tells me that we’re at the crossing point and there’s money to be saved and an industry to change, which is why I’ve started writing again.
In a previous post, I had looked at the merits of buying annual and lifetime PlayOn memberships. My wife and I continue to love the service, but we never purchased the annual. Well, now’s the time to do it. The PlayOn folks are running a discount that’s about 50% off. Annual memberships are now $19.99 (instead of $40) and lifetime memberships are $49.99 instead of $80. You can get to the sale prices from the PlayOn webpage. The sale runs until Jan 1, 2012.
I’m a PlayOn lover – it got around the annoying aspects of Hulu and allows me to get a Daily Show fix – and want to pass on a great chance for readers to get it on the cheap.