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Sports industry is being upended as more broadcast games move to streaming

Sports fans are increasingly have to search for what options are available for viewing their favorite games, as streaming media giants like AppleAAPL +0.9% and AmazonAMZN have been bidding against the major cable and broadcast network owners for sports rights. Amazon on 10/18 announced it added another NFL game to its package starting next year which will debut the day after Thanksgiving, the biggest shopping day of the year, Black Friday. It took over the Thursday night Football package this year.

Sinclair Broadcasting subsidiary Diamond Sports Group (DSG) recently launched an online streaming service for its regional sports networks (RSNs) called Bally Sports Plus (BSP). Before fans were able to enjoy a full season of games on the 19 networks that launched, rumors began to fly that DSG could be filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

There are a number of scenarios if this happened, one of which is MLB could broadcast the games in local markets, charging cable and satellite operators a fee, eventually taking the rights away from DSG altogether.

As if the Bally Sports channels don’t have enough problems, news came out on October 17 that the Los Angeles Clippers (owned by MicrosoftMSFT +0.4% co-founder Steve Ballmer) has become the first professional sports team to develop their own direct-to-consumer (DTC) platform.

DSG already knew this although it had not been previously disclosed. The Clippers recently renewed their contract with Bally Sports SoCal so that contract would have had to have been revised from the previous version to give the Clippers the rights to launch their own streaming platform.

Priced at $199/season (with a 50% off promo running only through October 20), “ClipperVision” will obviously be targeted at die hard Clippers fans. Still, there is no question that some fans will migrate from Bally Sports SoCal to Clippervision.

In addition to access to 74 games, one selling feature is “CourtVision,” which uses AI and machine learning to overlay graphics over the live game footage. There will also be live commentary from former Clipper players and Steve Balmer. Korean and Spanish-language feeds are also available.

Another set of sports rights which is almost certain to go streaming is the NFL Sunday Night Ticket package of games. DIRECTV has been paying $1.5 billion/year for the package and is losing money on the games and has opted out of bidding on the renewal. The package is targeted to super fans of Football, giving them access to all of the leagues out-of-market Sunday regular-season games. Apple is believed to be the leading bidder with Amazon and Disney in the mix.

The negotiations have been going on for months and should have been wrapped up by now. However, reports surfaced a few days ago that the sticking point wasn’t the price (NFL wants $2-$3 billion for season), rather, Apple is asking the NFL to take out a number of restrictive provision in the contract.

Eddy Cue, Apple’s SVP of services which oversees Apple’s media and sports partnerships and AppleTV+, told CNBC that they are looking for the ability to offer the games in local markets and even around the world. This is probably not doable given current rights contracts with other broadcasters of the games.

The only way to get such a deal in place would be to negotiate with each country as their deal came up for renewal and gradually allow broadcasting in some international markets. Locally they would face challenges with rights as well. All of this tells us the landscape for (and the price you pay) for games in the near future could be very different than they are today. Forbes

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