This is my dream for the future of sports streaming
A few weeks into the football season, I’m happy to see the Philadelphia Eagles doing so well. As someone who grew up in that broadcast market, it’s hard to not see it as my team. However, actually getting to watch the games has been a mess for some reason. In my opinion, the recent attempts to open up NFL games to streaming haven’t made things any better.
Moving to New York City, suddenly I can’t just select the game on my TV. It’s a lot worse in sports like baseball, where I can’t watch the Phillies unless they’re playing a New York team. That doesn’t make sense. Baseball fans can be travelling, or may hae moved elsewhere. IT’s a big country. All I want is to give MLB a few bucks to just stream all the Phillies games.
The NFL recently created a streaming service similar to this. For $5/month you can stream games on your phone. omitting the TV as an obvious feature. I reckon this is due to some local TV station nonsense that should just fixed. I’d love to watch every Philly sports game on my TV but I’m not even allowed to because of these local stations. It’s great to put baseball on both streaming and local cable, but cable channels are also geographically limited.
$5/month is reasonable, but that gives me access to every NFL game which I don’t want. An alacarte plan where I could just pay for the Eagles would be more suitable.
What would be nice is having a single hub to watch the thing that I want. Amazon is streaming Thursday Night Football and it seems to work well. However, I’d rather just let Amazon have the rights for every NFL game to simplify the experience for me as a customer.
Unfortunately, some sports fans can’t even get their streams to work.
Ultimate Fan Service
However, the bigger issue I have with these streams is that they present all viewers with a singular stream and a singular set of commentary. As an Eagles fan, I don’t want to hear from the 49ers. I don’t care about their perspective. As a fan, I only want my own viewpoint satiated. This isn’t hard to do. It just requires splitting the camera feeds into multiple streams, splicing in different audio feeds.
Okay, that might actually be kinda tricky. But it’s in service of a better sports experience. Within a smart TV app you are able to control the UI and streams. One could create a package of streams that includes several audio streams. In fact, you could make a variety of cameras directly accessible to the stream, allowing me to pick the angles I want.
There’s actually a lot of opportunity to add more information. If you shrink the video feed just a bit, interlacing the preferred audio commentary (or none), you can add more stats along the bottom. On the right-hand side you could include audience participation. Add a live Twitter feed to encourage people to engage with the game. Partner with a sports betting app to provide real-time odds. Include a QR code to get some free in-app credits towards my first bet. It’ll turn sports from a passive to an active experience.
Since these panels are not embedded in the stream directly any user can swap them out with their own preferences. Maybe I don’t want Twitter but Facebook. I could connect my account and see chats with my friends. Football is a game rich in data, but that’s rarely ever shown to the viewer.
This has to be done in a single app from a single provider. Splitting up into multiple different apps including cable means the experience is going to be worse in at least one place.
I can understand why they’re going down this route. Which streaming service is the best? Which will give the most users? How do they maximize these things? You can’t really know until you run a bunch of trials. However, the fact that they’re still so tentative with streaming means they’re far away from adding in any fancy UI affordances.
While I respect Allison Johnson’s opinion in The Verge, I disagree that radio is the ideal sports experience. I want to get a feeling of community unlike anything else. For three hours I want to be oversaturated in content validating me for picking the best team, and maybe making me rich in the process.
Streaming is becoming increasingly the choice for customers, and sports streaming is absolutely going to follow. While we can just transition to Amazon or whoever, I think that’s a missed opportunity to create deeper experiences.
Sports fans can be rowdy, and Philly sports fans are especially rowdy. I just wish that sports executives could give me the product that I want.