One of the last bastions of content sacred to cable providers is that live sports programming and their deals with regional sports networks have been, until recently, rock solid.
However, streamers like ESPN+, Amazon Prime, and Hulu continue to try to shift content for certain games to streaming only.
This can get confusing for viewers who must now spend time figuring out where their games are airing.
There’s no doubt that this trend is growing quickly, particularly as younger viewers are no longer subscribing to big cable contracts.
This phenomenon is global as the ICC Cricket World Cup has shown.
Recently, when India played South Africa, Disney+ Hotstar set a new streaming record with 44 million real-time viewers, breaking the previous record set just weeks earlier by another game in the tournament.
In the US, many games are aired on regional sports networks that have, for decades, locked down game views to a particular region with blackouts.
One of the largest such regional sports network groups, Diamond Sports Group, filed for bankruptcy in 2023, putting the fate of its portfolio in question.
Diamond Sports Group is owned by media conglomerate Sinclair Group, which owns 193 local broadcast stations in 100 markets in the US.
Diamond Sports was formed when Sinclair purchased Fox Sports Networks from The Walt Disney Company which needed to divest the stations as part of an antitrust lawsuit.
Diamond Sports’ bankruptcy put the broadcast fate of 16 NBA teams, 14 MLB teams, and 12 NHL teams at risk.
If the broadcasters follow the money to a more streaming-centered agreement for some or all of these teams, the cable companies’ grasp on live content may begin to slip even further.