As we suggested last week, big changes are coming to out of market television packages following the settlement the NHL reached with plaintiffs on its Center Ice package. The NBA has announced it intends to offer single a la carte games, and the NFL is being sued for only offering full league packages.
The NBA again seems to be a step ahead, as the league already offered five-team packages and will now offer a la carte games. This is interesting because although the NBA just re-upped its TV deal with both ESPN and TNT, there was still a focus on digital distribution. The NBA could have issues with those partners, especially if cord cutters show a preference toward a digital/ a la carte option. Still, the NBA did keep itself out of the courts, and scores another PR victory.
The NFL seems to be digging its feet in, and why wouldn’t it? The league’s last deal with DirecTV, exclusive rights holder of Sunday Ticket, is worth $12 billion. To put that in perspective, the entire NBA TV rights deal was for nine years and $24 billion. The Sunday Ticket deal is just for exclusive rights to the TV package (not general TV rights like the NFL’s deals with ESPN, CBS, and FOX). DirecTV also has more riding on Sunday Ticket, as the DirecTV/AT&T merger hinged on the Sunday Ticket renewal.
In any case, cord cutters seem to be slowly winning the battle against traditional cable television. Sports are the biggest draw and now the NHL and NBA are offering a la carte options. ESPN is offered on digital platforms such as Sling, and even cable companies such as HBO will be offering stand-alone products. If the cord cutters can beat the NFL and DirecTV in court, it will be another blow.
Michael Colangelo is Assistant Director at the USC Sports Business Institute and Senior Editor of The Fields of Green.