Streaming TV Is Entering Its Jock Phase

Gather ‘round, ye readers, I have a question for you: Are you ready for some football? Worldwide, where football is what Americans call “soccer,” there’s always someone, somewhere ready to answer “yes” to this question. In the US, where the start of fall means the National Football League is in full swing, it means watching pro games on Sundays, and Mondays, and sometimes Thursdays. In the Year of the Streaming Wars 2023, it also means having access to about half a dozen networks, streaming services, and other live sports channels.

Watching NFL games this year will mean accessing some combination of (deep breath): Fox, Fox Sports, the league’s streaming service NFL+, ESPN (or ESPN+), Hulu + Live TV, Paramount+, Amazon Prime Video, NBC Sports on Peacock, and CBS (for the Super Bowl). There are other options beyond these, some legal, some not. Watching college football involves a similar hodgepodge.

This has been the case for some time, for every sport in every league. Whereas Amazon has bet big on Thursday night NFL games, Apple TV+ has made a big push for the other football, launching a service this year allowing subscribers to stream all Major League Soccer matches this season. Apple also has Major League Baseball; so does Hulu and Peacock. In total, streaming services have ponied up around $6 billion to broadcast live sports in 2023.

Also entering the scrimmage this year: (HBO) Max. Earlier this week, Warner Bros. Discovery announced it would be launching a new add-on to its ever-changing streaming service that would offer access to sports airing on the media conglomerate’s variety of channels, like TBS and TNT. That Bleacher Report-branded package will launch October 5, giving Max subscribers free access to not only baseball but also National Hockey League content and the NBA. When it comes time for college basketball’s March Madness season next year, the service will cost those subscribers an additional $10 per month. The company claims it’ll give them access to about 300 live games per year.

If you’re starting to sense that this is what streamers are doing to fill their coffers with content during Hollywood’s dual writers and actors strikes, you’re not wrong. Sports has long been TV’s most popular moneymaker—ESPN brings in about $2 billion in advertising revenue annually—but for a long time, streamers were able to up their subscriber numbers by cranking out one bingeable show after another. Now, as viewership falls, subscriber numbers shrink, and Hollywood waits for an end to its labor disputes, sports are looking very appealing. With so many different channels to fill, everyone is clamoring to have at least one marquee sporting event jewel in its crown. Something to shimmer if all of the prestige TV shows begin to fade.

The Monitor is a weekly column devoted to everything happening in the WIRED world of culture, from movies to memes, TV to Twitter.

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