ESPN wants you to stream their ads. They’re even willing to pay for it. And with Thursday’s FCC 3-2 vote aimed at guaranteeing an open internet, ESPN and other mega-providers of digital sports content may just get their chance. The ruling is a significant blow to net neutrality supporters, and will likely result in a delivery speed bidding war for content providers with the most clout.
In the never-ending pursuit to increase advertising eyeballs, ESPN and a slew of other mainstays in the digital sports arena seek to capitalize on the new interpretation of net neutrality rules. But the ability to pay a premium for an enhanced efficiency of streaming capabilities ensures a wide gap in competition among the industry’s haves and have-nots, according to the New York Times:
“While the rules are meant to prevent Internet providers from knowingly slowing data, they would allow content providers to pay for a guaranteed fast lane of service. Some opponents of the plan, those considered net neutrality purists, argue that allowing some content to be sent along a fast lane would essentially discriminate against other content.”
Expect lengthy legal skirmishes and public debates as a byproduct of Thursday’s ruling. The revisiting and refining of net neutrality standards is a journey into uncharted waters, particularly as the industry’s major players seek to control the distribution channels.
The FCC’s verdict ensures that we’ve entered a new frontier in the digital distribution of sports programming and analysis – but hardly without opposition and friction. ESPN, MLB TV, NBA League Pass, NFL Mobile and a host of other content providers appear poised to harness the opportunity in speed and noise reduction afforded by the upcoming internet fast lanes. The potential sustainability of the new system calls into question the legality of web-based traffic parity and fairness – persistent issues requiring that the FCC and U.S. courts eventually reach a consensus.
Stay tuned. Unlike the unprecedented web-based speed ESPN seeks, this could take a while.