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Are sport leagues waging war on fans?

With many sports such as NBA and NFL games being exclusively streamed on select platforms such as Amazon, Apple, and ESPN+, watching games has become more difficult and expensive for viewers. Photo courtesy of D.Reichardt/Openverse

There was a day, not too long ago, when fans could enjoy major sporting events like the Superbowl, the World Series and the National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals without issues. Those sporting events are now readily available as they are broadcast on major networks such as FOX, NBC, ABC and more, but the games leading up to major events have become a commodity for only those who are willing to pay. 

Around the 2010s, streaming services such as Netflix began to sell themselves as a cheaper alternative to cable. From there, entertainment conglomerates like Disney, HBO and NBCUniversal churned out streaming services for their own content. As more and more competition entered the market, prices began to rise. In doing so, the average household would spend more in streaming services than they would for cable. 

In the background, sport leagues like the NBA, National Football League (NFL) and Major League Baseball (MLB) began to sell off streaming rights to Amazon, Apple and ESPN+. The NFL for example sold the Thursday Night Football license to Amazon and Amazon Prime Video for an exorbitant $105 billion. The MLB has sold some of its streaming rights to Apple for several Friday night games. That deal was worth $85 million a year. The most infamous act was committed by the NBA when the league sold regional basketball games to the Sinclair owned Bally Sports. 

Bally Sports Southwest, the package offered for the El Paso area, is priced at $229.99 a year or $19.99 a month. This package allows for fans to view select Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio games, Dallas Stars games, Dallas Wings games and select Atlantic Coast Conference games. This pricing places Bally Sports above every major streaming service by at least five dollars a month. 

An alternative would be the NBA League Pass which would offer fans hundreds of NBA games a season at a more palatable $49.99 a season with ads or $64.99 without ads. If fans are simply interested in one team, then the NBA offers a team pass which allows fans to follow just their team for $44.99 a season. But if you are a Mavericks or Spurs fan in El Paso, you are straight out of luck. Thanks to the existing deal with Bally Sports, the NBA cannot provide streaming options to region specific markets because of the exclusivity contract forcing fans to pay the premium price to follow their teams. 

If a genuine sport fanatic wanted to stream every major sport league in the U.S., they would have to fork over at least $71.83 a month, or $862 a year. That number is a sum of the cheapest services provided by Bally Sports, NFL+, ESPN+, Amazon Prime Video, Paramount+, Peacock, Apple TV and MLB TV. If a fan wanted the premium versions of these services, they would need to chock up $200 a month which adds up to $2,400 a year. 

The solution is simple; look at cable. Although there are other solutions, like limiting the types of sporting content you consume, cable offers several packages that already include in-market games exclusively found on providers like Bally Sports. Direct TV, DISH Network and Charter Spectrum charge an average of $70 a month for their services. Some plans include streaming services mentioned earlier. There will be missing games like Thursday Night Football or Friday Night Baseball, but for the average fan dedicated to an in-market team, cable would allow them to enjoy their team’s season without breaking the bank.  

Emmanuel Rivas Valenzuela is the sports editor and may be reached at [email protected]: @rivasemmanuel2 on Instagram. 

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About the Contributor
Emmanuel Rivas Valenzuela, Sports Editor
Emmanuel Rivas is the sports editor for The Prospector and is also a writer for Minero Magazine. He is a senior majoring in multimedia journalism with minors in political science and chicano studies. Although unsure about his future, Emmanuel plans to move back to the Dallas-Fort Worth area to work in journalism, media, communication or public relations.
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Are sport leagues waging war on fans?