Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Over the Top Television: Do Cable Alternatives Have a Sporting Chance?

So anyone still unclear as to whether Over the Top Television (OTT) alternatives such as Netflix or Apple TV represent a true competitor to cable need only try to access the NHL playoff games without a cable subscription.  Or March Madness.  Or pretty much any other major sporting event.  In the era of the cable alternative, sports remains one of the major challenges for anyone trying to cut the cord.  There are some OTT work arounds, but for the most part sports content requires some paid access, which is fair and necessary for a sustainable model. 

The  frustration is that those who already have cable subscriptions are finding they still need to pony up for access to certain games outside their home region.  It has long been the case that games were available regionally, but changes in technology and consumer expectations have served to make content more available while undermining the rationale and expectations regarding what should be accessible.  Ironically, as the NHL reaps the benefits of last year's $2 billion, ten year deal with Comcast's NBC Universal to televise every playoff game, many consumers with cable subscriptions still can't access the games they want.

Viewers are also increasing aware of differences between cable companies. Games that are available in the LA market (Sharks v. Blues) with the standard Time Warner cable package are embargoed behind premium sports channels by Charter.  Bundling NHL games with golf and car racing isn't necessarily attractive for those who already feel like they are paying enough. Adding another subscription service to get access to games friends and family in other comparable markets get included with standard packages rankles.

Ultimately, it's simply another example of the barriers facing cable alternatives such as OTT television.  Competition isn't guaranteed a fighting chance.   

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