NPR started a new series this week called “How We Watch What We Watch” exploring how television industry is changing with new technology. On Monday, they spoke with John Ourand, media reporter at the Sports Business Journal, about how sports fans are changing how they watch sports. It used to be that the only way to watch an out-of-market game was through cable, but with the advent of smart phones and tablet computers, many fans are simply going mobile.
On the prevalence and spread of new technology
“Right now for [the] MLB app, 2.2 million people have bought Major League Baseball’s At-Bat iPhone and iPad app and are able to watch it. So that’s a pretty substantial number. And I think that what you’re seeing is, you’re seeing a lot more people watching ESPN online or ESPN via their phones or watching cable TV via their phones. And it’s a big initiative within the cable industry — they call it ‘TV Everywhere’ — where if you buy one subscription, you should be able to watch that channel whether it’s on TV or whether it’s on an iPad or whether it’s on an iPhone. It kind of gets to the question of: ‘What is a TV?’”
On how cable companies can make money from new technology
“Cable companies are making money because this is something that keeps subscribers subscribing to cable. The idea is that the cable industry is saying, ‘I bought this stream. I bought ESPN, it doesn’t matter how people watch it.’ Whether they’re watching it on TV or on a tablet or on an iPhone. And, furthermore, it’s all a screen — what makes the tablet not a TV screen?”
On how important sports are to the cable industry
“The big fear in the cable industry is something called ‘cord-cutting,’ and that’s where people just cut the cord and just watch via Netflix, DVDs and just general broadcast. The only thing that’s really saving the cable industry, in my opinion, are big-time sports that ESPN provides, that Turner provides, that NBC’s and CBS’s cable channels provide. Because if you want to watch sports, you have to watch them live. You can’t watch those via DVD. And you can’t watch them after the series has already run.”
The article was mostly based on baseball, but it got me thinking about how we watch golf. Let’s take this past PGA Tour Championship for example. On Thursday and Friday, it’s on the Golf Channel. If you wanted to watch all of it on Saturday and Sunday, you’d have to switch between the Golf Channel and NBC. The NBC Sports app has live video, but PGA Tour app only has live scoring. Many fans just stream it on their computers but that can be spotty. Football fans can watch live games on their mobile device via the NFL Mobile app, but for golf fans there’s not one medium that currently gives easy live coverage of all games. This due to the fact that there’s no one organization that owns the viewing rights to all the games like the NFL. We golf fans definitely have it more difficult than other sport fans.
So, let me ask you Rockheads. Are you watching golf on mobile devices or do you still gather around the TV? Would you like to watch games on your phone or would you prefer that it stays mainly on TV? Let me know in the comments.