Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Dec. 24, 2020 — A streaming war, streaming dumbly?

Quick quiz: if you want to watch soccer games from the English Premier League, where do you turn? Well, a year ago, you could easily find matches on NBC, the NBC Sports Network, USA, and CNBC as well as an upgrade service called NBC Gold.

This year, the number of available outlets has been compressed, with the vast majority of content now being placed on the very buggy and troublesome Peacock Premium streaming service. For NBC Sports Network, there’s no more “Match of the Day” or “Manchester Mondays” highlights; everything is now on Peacock.

A number of sports properties have now been hidden almost exclusively behind video-streaming paywalls instead of being put on cable. I think a lot of it started a couple of years ago when Bleacher Report Live started hosting streams of UEFA Champions League and Europa League games, as well as pro indoor lacrosse and various other sports, including FIH field hockey events involving the United States.

BR Live, however, is now just a shadow of its former self, with just 10 different sports leagues being promoted.

ESPN Plus, Hulu, CBS All Access, and various other platforms have had more success in recent months, but the panoply of other streaming services like DaZN, Sling, and Fubo have led to much confusion and the seeming inability to find live matches even in a universe where hundreds of blank channels exist on many cable services.

Flip through your cable box sometime and count up the number of blank channels. That’s potential broadcast streaming that is not being used; it kind of reminds you of those pictures of empty or near-empty shopping malls which were gleaming commercial palaces years ago, but are now shadows of their former selves.

It’s now being reported that the NBC Sports Network, having broadcast everything from the Tour de France to the Stanley Cup Playoffs to the Premier League to NASCAR to Indycar, may be shutting down altogher by this time next year.

Now, we’ve seen some repurposing of sports channels in the past. There were the changes within Fox Sports, repurposing SPEED into Fox Sports 1 and Mav TV into Fox Sports 2, only to see FS2 remain largely unused for original content with the departure of the UFC to ESPN.

But with more and more people adopting streaming, how many more networks will go off the air? How many sports will go behind paywalls? And ultimately, will there be some sports destined to forever be kept from the public except for a select few viewers?

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