By some unfortunate timing -- or weak business sense -- regional sports networks are coming into the streaming world not only late in the game, but at a high price point for consumers.
What gives? More established entertainment-focused streaming platforms -- Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max -- are charging around $10 to $15 a month.
But regional sports network streamers are in the $20 to $25 range. This may not seem like a big deal when considering that many RSNs may have been packaged in broader entertainment, news/information bundles. Not so long ago, the RSNs could be priced -- as a separate charge -- for around $15 a month.
The New York-based Yes Network just announced the launch of its own premium streaming service for $24.99/month, with a promotional offer at $19.99.
This comes on the heels of Diamond Sports Group -- the largest RSN group with 21 operations, which started up its streaming operations at $19.99 -- recently filing for bankruptcy protection.
Not to be outdone, MSG Networks also announced the launch of its streaming services recently. The company is home to the NBA's New York Knicks and NHL's New York Rangers, Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils. This comes in at a top-drawer $29.99 a month.
Now we all know that sports viewing and fans can have their own viewer dynamic -- separate from the overall TV entertainment ecosystem.. But one surmises this is not the only content consumption for those consumers.
In addition, the RSNs come into a streaming market that is poised for much slower growth -- if any.
Considering that a recession may come later this year, according to many analysts, is it still a good idea to start these businesses now? And at a hefty price?
Some would say there is little alternative for stagnant regional sports networks continuing to see overall cord cutting of 7% to 9% by subscribers per year on traditional pay TV network distributors.
At what may be a massive $25 to $30 price tag, one wonders if in fact they can make the transition to streaming with the goal of stabilizing legacy-pay TV subscriber loss -- all while more dire financial straits are looming (Hello, Diamond Sports).
And there are other forces at work here. Sports right fees for many franchises keep rising exponentially. The next big package to stare down nervous TV networks' platforms is The NBA, which analysts guess may not just double but perhaps triple in price.
Maybe some operations need to just pass the ball -- or hope for some asset to score.