The way we receive sports video content is on verge of change

00:30 Tuesday May 28, 2013


On the same day last week ESPN announced a reduction in its workforce, Microsoft and the NFL announced an agreement offering a new way to view NFL games.

Fans who own an Xbox, a Microsoft product, will be able to watch games, use a split screen to access statistics, their fantasy football teams, highlights and Skype with others during games.

They also will be able to send data to mobile devices and tablets with second-screen SmartGlass technology.

Yeah, I know. I don’t understand all that either.
But I do understand this: Welcome to the revolution.

In the 1984 movie “Ghostbusters,” Dr. Egon Spengler makes the pronouncement, “Print is dead.”
Even though print has suffered in recent years, rumors of our demise have been greatly exaggerated.
In 2013, network and cable television are in more danger than many realize.

Such streaming services as Netflix, Hulu, Hulu Plus, VUDU and Amazon Prime are threatening the monopoly networks have on entertainment programming.

And now Microsoft has made an incursion into a major sports franchise.

For years, cable networks have taken over sports programming. ESPN has become so dominant, it faces token competition from major networks on most events.

ESPN recently far outbid CBS to gain the rights to the U.S. Open tennis tournament, which suffered a 25-year low in viewership in 2012. ESPN can rationalize the expense because it has an insatiable need for programming across its multiple networks and platforms.

Unfortunately, the network does not have the same insatiable desire to maintain its workforce.

The wisest thing cable networks have done is enter into long-term agreements for broadcast rights.
ESPN has a 12-year deal for the telecast of the college football championship game, which will begin in January 2015. CBS has had a long-term love affair, as well as a long-term, lucrative financial arrangement, with the NCAA on its men’s Division I basketball tournament.

That is about to change.

The semifinals will be on TBS next year. TBS will have the Final Four and championship game every other year, alternating with CBS, from 2016 to 2024.

By then, chances are good Microsoft will not be the only outside force interested in sports programming.
If Microsoft is in, will Google, with its formidable advertising machine already in place, and Apple with its iPhones, iPads, iPods, tablets and $145 billion in cash reserves, be far behind?

Imagine if Google, Apple or Microsoft obtained the broadcast rights to the Olympics and the World Cup.
NBC attempted live Internet streaming of the 2012 Summer Olympic events for viewers who did not like waiting until midnight to see the 100-meter dash or women’s hurdles on tape delay.

There were all manner of problems.

Does anyone think Google, Apple or even Microsoft would have or tolerate similar difficulties?

Of course not. “Smart” TVs are flooding the marketplace and filling family rooms everywhere.
These are not just televisions. They also are wireless devices, capable of streaming Internet content and giving Google, Microsoft and Apple one more way to bring sports programming to viewers.
It might take some time for Google, Microsoft, Apple and, who knows, Amazon, Yahoo and Facebook, to figure out how to become dominant players on the sports scene. But all have the resources to become competitive.
The cable outfits will be well-advised to take note. The major networks might be giving up on the majority of sports programming, but Microsoft, Google and Apple are just getting started.



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