Screentime

The business of viewing: streaming’s blitz hits cable where it hurts

Friday, February 9, 2024 by Snacks
Warmin’ up the knees… and the nachos (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Warmin’ up the knees… and the nachos (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

The playing field… Big Tech has successfully truck-sticked its way into live sports, signing multibillion-dollar deals to score America’s most popular — and most lucrative — content. Last year, streamers spent $6B to give subscribers live sports. The pricey gamble’s started paying off: Google’s YouTube TV said its first season as the home of NFL Sunday Ticket drove 1.3M subscribers, and Apple TV+’s MLS deal netted 110K sign-ups in a single day — Lionel Messi’s first match in the league. NBCUniversal’s Peacock said its exclusive NFL playoff game was the most-streamed live event in US history. As they shoot for profitability, streamers are coming for the one thing that kept folks from cutting the cable cord all along: live sports.

The players… Raising the stakes on streaming’s live-sports race: a new collab just announced by Disney, Fox, and Warner Bros. Discovery that’ll bundle 14 sports channels into one ad-backed streaming package. Now, NBCUniversal, Amazon, Paramount, and Apple may have to draw up a play to avoid getting left behind. Sports-streaming tie-ups, including Netflix’s recent $5B deal with the WWE, could be the alley-oop that shatters cable’s backboard. Over the past decade, 30M US households have ditched cable. Disney’s ESPN pulls in $2B/year in ad revenue, but now the cable staple is moving full stream ahead.

Keeping score…

  • Broadcast rights for the five major US sports leagues cost $15.4B last year — twice as much as a decade ago.