Weekly Column: Cable and Streaming Models Mirroring Each Other

In his capacity as a Columnist for California Sports Lawyer®, Founder Jeremy Evans has written a column about the similarities between cable history and streaming future and where their paths collide.                  

You can read the full column below.

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Are we moving to a cable model of old, but on streaming platforms? It seems that cable providers are now looking to get into streaming directly—if they are not already tied to a streamer (e.g., Hulu/Disney, NBC/Peacock, etc.). Comcast and Charter Communications, two of the largest broadcast cable companies and competitors, are entering into a joint venture to create a streaming platform to distribute their cable packages. It is a wise move considering that cable subscriptions continue to fall, while streaming subscriptions are on the rise. The Comcast-Charter deal seeks to accomplish three things: (1) “aggregat[e] streaming services for broadband-only subscribers” for easier consumption; (2) meet loyal cable subscribers where they are; and (3) stay relevant in content distribution as the world moves toward streaming preferred models.

Meanwhile, the growth of content on streaming continues. Google is now considering purchasing Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket rights, which will likely exceed $7 billion dollars for 2023-2027 to stream on possibly YouTube or another platform? Although, Apple and its AppleTV+ platform might be a better fit to compliment Friday night Major League Baseball (MLB) and its growing entertainment content. As Amazon looks to exclusively launch Thursday Night Football games for the National Football League (NFL), it is a window into possibly more live sports rights negotiations for Amazon—even if not for full seasons of one league or another.

The NFL and Amazon want their streaming venture to be successful and as such for the Thursday night games there are fourteen playoff teams being featured, and none are repeat teams week-over-week. The streaming broadcast is said to change the way football is consumed. Indeed, Apple and Amazon as non-legacy cable providers are setting the table for how live sports are streamed now and into the future.

With California voters considering a ballot initiative to allow live and mobile sports betting this year, should the initiative pass, the sports betting market is set to double if not triple or quadruple nationwide in revenue as the fifth largest economy, most populous state, with more sports teams (college and professional) that any other state enters the market. Despite arguments for and against allowing sports wagering in California, the financial benefits to licensors and tax collectors is clear. By legalizing sports betting in California, it also possibly decreases the illegal market for sports wagering.

For context, national sports betting revenue reached $4.3 billion dollars in 2021, a 179.7% increase from 2020. The first quarter (Q1) of 2022 saw a 64.6% increase from Q1 2021, at $1.58 billion—without California factoring into the equation. Live sports on cable and streaming platforms stand to benefit from increased sports wagering.

If cable providers focus more on streaming options, it will create a mirror image of what cable was prior to the introduction of streaming. The mirror image being that ad-based streamers are becoming more popular, which is what cable is currently without the streaming platform. The only missing component is the aggregation of cable content, film, and television by a traditional cable provider on a streaming platform.

The difference between cable and streaming: cable providers distribute content on channels it likely does not own, while streaming platforms distribute shows and films, not channels, that it likely does own (or has licensed). Individual channels are being replaced by individual streaming platforms. The deregulation or decentralization, if you will, has lowered the cost to consumers in the interim. Lower cost is likely to stay consistent with more competition, but the price of content and subscriptions will increase with less competition, more consolidation, and mergers.

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About Jeremy M. Evans:  

Jeremy M. Evans is the Chief Entrepreneur Officer, Founder & Managing Attorney at California Sports Lawyer®, representing entertainment, media, and sports clientele in contractual, intellectual property, and dealmaking matters. Evans is an award-winning attorney and industry leader based in Los Angeles. He can be reached at Jeremy@CSLlegal.com. www.CSLlegal.com.

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Jeremy M. Evans is the CEO, Founder & Managing Attorney at California Sports Lawyer®, representing entertainment, media, and sports clientele and is licensed to practice law in California.