Do Regional Sports Networks Need A Bigger Team For Streaming?

Regional Sports TV Networks (RSNs) are traveling a bumpy road.

Mostly non-sports TV viewers that still buy traditional legacy TV packages see themselves as subsidizing the costs for all sports content that cable, satellite and telco operators carry. That includes even pricer RSNs. That comes to around $20 or more their overall $70 to $100 pay TV package.

Now consumers have other choices -- premium streaming platforms -- threatening the former. Consumers are not completely cutting back on extra legacy pay TV offerings. Some call it cord-shaving. Of course, there is a far worse issue: cord-cutting.

What’s the real dynamic here? Only around 30% of traditional pay TV subscribers watch sports, according to a survey earlier tis year of more than 2,1000 U.S consumers by The Trade Desk, a demand-side platform. 

Some new virtual pay TV streaming distributors -- Hulu, Dish Networks’ Sling, YouTube TV and others -- won't carry it.



So where does that leave new big owners of RSNs -- Sinclair Broadcast Group, for one -- in the long term? The only real choice: Go the premium subscription service route, the if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them scenario.

But not so fast. The bigger issue is price. Versus other streamers for entertainment content, consumers of regional sports TV content will need to forked up much more -- perhaps $26 to $30 a month. By comparison, HBO Max, for example, is at the top level -- $16 a month -- for an entertainment streamer.

So this would be a big, up-priced deal for consumers to consider.

Sinclair’s 19 RSNs -- as well as two other service -- YES Network and Marquee Sports Network, which it has interest in -- have a footprint of 70 million homes that can access those networks. Its targeting the other 30 million or so TV homes not in its universe. Mind you, these aren’t subscribers, just potential reach of new customers.

That, as well as a possible $25 monthly price tag for a RSN addition, is a big ask.

What else can it do?

“Consolidating the industry is a commercial inevitability both on the broadcast side and then on the RSN side,” said Chris Ripley, president/CEO of Sinclair at an recent S&P/Kagan conference. “Being about half the industry... we will play a major role in that.”

That, and bringing down the price, is something that would be more attractive to consumers. RSNs need teammates. All kinds.

2 comments about "Do Regional Sports Networks Need A Bigger Team For Streaming?".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, June 21, 2021 at 10:11 a.m.

    Wayne, the reach of TV sports is way bigger than  30% of the population---especially if we're talking about a year where all of the pro sports teams as well as golf, tennis, etc. are represented. The study you referrenced merely reported that only 30% of its respondents gave sports as their reason for not cancelling  their cable service. Which remains a key factor---along with news---in keeping cable and, to a lesser extent, satellite distribution.

    As you noted its going to be increasingly difficult for RSNs to maintain their hold on sports viewers---not because there are so few of them but mainly as "linear TV" content via the TV networks---including sports---expands into the streaming space. You are probably right that the RSNs may have to follow suit but that is not necessarily going to work in all cases.

  2. brian ring from ring digital llc, June 21, 2021 at 2:48 p.m.

    I've done various "quick take" (lower than I might like) sample polls on this topic and I think 1/3 is about the right number. Here's an example. Not perfect sample, but, yes, census adjusted 


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