NBA League Pass, NFL Sunday Ticket, and MLB.tv and At Bat users should feel slightly better about the future of their favorite sports streaming services after the FCC’s latest ruling on net neutrality.
For the uninitiated, think about the ongoing net neutrality debate as a discussion about whether internet service providers (ISPs) can legally charge a premium to receive quality streaming of your favorite sport.
The debate will probably continue in the courts, but for now the FCC has implemented rules to make sure ISPs treat all legal content equally.
In comments to the FCC over the summer, MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM) SVP and General Counsel Michael Mellis further relayed concerns about the potential loss of net neutrality:
Fast lanes would serve only one purpose: for Broadband ISPs to receive an economic windfall. American consumers would be worse off as the costs of fast lanes are passed along to them in new fees or charges where there were none, or higher fees or charges where they existed.
Mellis also considered how the decision could inhibit the marketplace:
Fast lanes would create new economic barriers for start-up entrepreneurs and innovators that have been critical to the growth of the Internet economy. As bad, since fast lanes would necessarily mean there are slow lanes, they would amount to “picking winners and losers online,” with Broadband ISPs acting as fast lane “gatekeepers,” precisely the opposite of the Commission’s past policy.
With the NBA focusing on digital content and distribution with its latest media rights deal and services like WatchESPN, UFC.tv and UFC Fight Pass, and NHL GameCenter Live providing live streaming sports content over the internet, sports fans are uniquely positioned to feel the impact of the decision the FCC makes. This week’s ruling ensures that the shift to digital distribution will continue.
Digital sports content consumption continues to increase and leagues and networks continue to find ways to provide consumers the content they want outside the boundaries of traditional television. As more people cut the cord and turn to streaming services for their sports and entertainment needs, the importance of the FCC’s ruling will become even more pronounced.