Is Live Sports Saving Television?


About 26% of customers who call US cable TV companies request “internet only” service, according to a survey of those calls by mobile advertising technology company Marchex. Of those customers, at least 60% actually end up getting internet-only service, Marchex says.

That from this article yesterday at Business Insider.

The article goes on to say that cord cutting, that is those who are cancelling their cable subscriptions is going up at an exponential rate.

Those of you who have been following me for any amount of time now that I am a night owl who likes to watch TV. I have about 5-6 shows at a given time that I watch on a regular basis. I don’t watch a single one of them live. I either stream them or watch on a PVR. Truth be told I stream 99% of them. Why, you ask then am I even paying for a PVR or cable for that matter. The truth is, sports.

The only thing we watch in our house live is sports. If there was a way to stream live sports in HD without buffering etc, my cable bill would be gone.

While there are ways to get games on mobile devices and other work arounds, I have yet to see anything that comes close to live game fidelity. The minute that is readily available, what we consider cable tv will be in dire trouble.

I was fascinated to see all the comments on the Rogers article yesterday. It’s clearly a topic that is of great interest and I will continue to pursue it moving forward.

There was a time when someone told me that the physical newspaper would become irrelevant and the paper would appear on a computer screen. At the time we all thought it was a crazy thought. The fact that cable tv, which I remember getting as a kid with a brown rogers cable box and corded remote could disappear as we know it is equally as stunning a development.

It says here that until live sports is readily available online cable will survive.

As I drove to work this am both Toronto sports radio stations were reporting that there was a report that Mike Babcock was on the verge of signing an extension to stay in Detroit. “Get used to Randy” one host quipped. This is the report that they were referring to.

A few hours later, this appeared in the USA Today “Mike Babcock: Extension report is ‘fantasy world'”


The Detroit News writer “Wojo” tweeted out his story on the subject following the Windsor Star report. Then the News followed up the fantasy world story too. Note the news article mentions Dreger as the main source of the story, I didn’t hear it that way (The story I heard on the radio was that the Windsor Star broke the story). However, irrespective of where it broke, the story was everywhere. Now, should he sign an extension everyone can say, “I told ya so”. If he leaves, well…it will be months away and I guess no one will remember….

It seems to me, the rush to get the story first remains paramount as opposed to getting it right. I don’t mean to throw John Shannon under the bus for the Luongo to Toronto is a done deal story from years back but it’s eerily similar. Over the summer I heard someone on the air recalling the horrible gut feeling he once got while walking through Yorkdale after he tweeted a story and there was a moment where another source told him he was wrong. I am pretty sure it was Elliotte Friedman telling the story. I will be keeping tabs on this one too.


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December 12, 2014 12:12 am

Love that shot of the Jerrold converter you included with this post!

December 12, 2014 2:19 am

The only sport i watch regularly, premier league futbol, i watch on the nbcsn app. And i havent watched regular tv in a long time. I spend more time playing games on my tv than watching actual tv.

December 12, 2014 9:17 am

Last year I cancelled Rogers cable. The bill was $120/month. I had no other Rogers services for discounts. I went a year without TV which worked fairly well. For Jays and Leafs games I tried the various free Internet video feeds of games but was annoyed with the constant popups trying to install malware and how poor the video quality was. I’m aware that there are $$$ services but that defeated the point of killing the cost of cable. I gave up on the online video and listened on radio which worked fairly well too. I actually got a fair amount of things done while listening to the games on radio, freed up from sitting on the couch.

Beanfield, my fibre ISP, rolled out their TV service and I decided to get it at $40/month. The set-top box is incredibly buggy (you thought Rogers was bad?) but I’m getting TV service for free right now so I can’t complain too much. The only two sports related channels I don’t get are SN1 and SN360. I think I miss one Leaf game. Oh well.

One thing I’m curious about is how many people PVR games to watch later, whether minutes to hours later or days later? When I was with Rogers I did that frequently so I wasn’t a slave to the TV schedule. You just had to spend some effort remaining spoiler free. Some people say they can’t watch a recorded sports event but what’s really the difference if you remain spoiler free?

December 12, 2014 10:23 am

“If there was a way to stream live sports in HD without buffering etc, my cable bill would be gone.”
I thought the situation had improved greatly in recent years, at least for the official legal sites.
I don’t think it will be completely disappearing any time soon, but the traditional TV business — cable/satellite/IPTV service with its dedicated 24 hour TV channels — will be significantly contracting (if it isn’t already happening) as it becomes increasingly irrelevant because we can more directly access the content we want.

Steve in Waterloo
Steve in Waterloo
December 12, 2014 10:36 am

I have not watched “live” tv in 15 years.

Pre PVR’s, we used to use a two VCR system. Tape upstairs, watch another night downstairs.

The PVR is IMO, the best invention in 10 years.

The ONLY live TV I watch is sports, notably hockey and baseball. I cannot watch an NFL game live ( I would be surprised if anyone can, other than those that are severely hung over)I PVR a Bills game and zap through the commercials. I can be done in less than 1.5hrs – which is more time than the terrible Bills deserve, but….

December 12, 2014 11:21 am

Cable companies know that live sport is the only thing preventing A LOT of people from cancelling their TV service which is why rights fees have skyrocketed in North America over the past few years.

I watch a tonne of sport, from domestic/international soccer to the major leagues here to rugby and motor sports across the world. I can’t ever imagining all of those leagues and sports all offering online streaming services anytime in the future and at a price that would be cheaper than my current price of $80/mo for Bell Fibe TV.

As for PVR’ing sports, I’ll only record a game if I’m missing the beginning of the game and will be home to catch up to realtime before the end or if it is something like rugby that is on in the middle of the night. Once I hear the final score of a game I’ve recorded, I found I don’t really want to watch it on delay and can easily find highlights online instead.

December 12, 2014 12:04 pm

I know a number of people who “time shift” a game for about an hour or so, so they can watch the game on their DVR/PVR, skipping commercials, and ending about the same time as the live feed.

Lee (Oakville)
Lee (Oakville)
December 12, 2014 12:59 pm

Count me as someone that PVRs and time-shifts a lot of sporting events. I do this primarily to avoid commercials or, more recently, the HNIC intermissions. As long as you avoid spoilers it’s a great way to watch sports.

(Another) Andrew
(Another) Andrew
December 12, 2014 4:56 pm

The only sport i watch regularly, premier league futbol

Ugh! I hate the American hipsterization of my favourite sport.

Love that shot of the Jerrold converter you included with this post!

Me too. It brought back a memory from 1981 when I, as a young kid, visited relatives here from a country that only had 2 TV stations, both of which started at noon and ended before midnight. Seeing all the channels – and on a remote control! – I thought “wow! coming to Canada is like being Buck Rogers in the 25th Century”.

December 13, 2014 1:38 am

I think the most important thing in reading this post is just how awful john Shannon is at role he is in. That luongo to toronto study was worse then the messier to the buds a number of years back

Jim from Abroad
Jim from Abroad
December 13, 2014 9:26 am

I don’t mind John Shannon, but that might have to do with the fact that I only know him as a co-host on Prime Time Sports and do not watch Canadian television much (only in Canada a couple of weeks a year).

Having said that, sports journalism is changing as much as the tv landscape. With the arrival of the 24 hour news cycle it has become less easy to rely on multiple sources for a story. Back in the old, pre internet days, I could easily work on a story for a couple of days, get the facts absolutely right and publish it in a carefully crafted article.

Nowadays my editor and publisher are continuesly pushing me to produce, our editorial staff has been cut so there is less time to work on stories and you can no longer afford to hold news back because the risk of other news sources bringing the story online are a lot bigger. Only when working on niche stories I still have time to actually do all the proper journalistic checks I was taught early on in my career, as long as I keep up a steady stream of other stories in the mean time.

December 13, 2014 9:42 am

Cut the cable cord long ago. Pay about 28 dollars per month for a Netflix subscription, an NHL sub, and a MLB sub. All Rogers would have had to do to keep my business back then, was offer a la carte programming. They don’t, so I left and now I stream it all.

For those who worry about stream quality, I’ve had zero issues. A lot of TVs or Video game systems come with all the necessary apps to stream perfectly.

And yes, in Canada there are ways to get Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer and others.

Why pay Rogers for hundreds of channels you will never watch? You don’t have to.

December 13, 2014 9:55 am

Is the live streaming of sports really still all that bad with lots of stuttering and drop outs, even on the official sites? Here is a link to a live legal free ustream of a sports car race from Abu Dhabi that runs until 3 p.m. EST on Saturday. It looks good to me (as I type this, they have temporarily gone to a single stationary camera, but most of it has been like a multicamera TV broadcast, though with ambient sound only and no announcers).

December 13, 2014 11:09 am

I agree wholeheartedly with Neal. Seeing that old Jerrold converter made my week.

Good stuff, TSM!

December 13, 2014 12:23 pm

Interesting. Not ready to cut the cable yet. I PVR Leafs games then watch again some of the highlights as well as the between the period stuff.

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