Has another revolution arrived in Boston? Local-area sports fans aren’t so sure.
Two weeks ago, New England Sports Network (NESN), the exclusive regional sports network home of baseball’s Boston Red Sox and hockey’s Boston Bruins, launched a new $30-a-month direct-to-consumer streaming service, NESN 360, that requires no pay TV subscription.
Other owners of regional sports networks (RSNs) are in the process of doing the same thing, notably Sinclair Broadcast Group and its 19 Bally Sports-branded RSNs. But NESN was first out of the gate with NESN 360.
So two weeks in, are we witnessing the collapse of the final piece of utility for the pay TV bundle, which is access to live sports? Based on the many recent Reddit responses from New England-area sports fans we perused, that's not the feeling we get at all.
Scanning hundreds of Reddit comments, we found that many Red Sox and Bruins fans are skeptical about the service following their experience with the NESN authenticated TV Everywhere streaming app.
There’s frustration with its support limits — in terms of connected TV access, the NESN app is limited to Roku and Apple TV. You can also watch it on iOS and Android mobile devices, as well as Mac computers, but you're not able to view it on Amazon Fire TV and Android TV/Google TV, proprietary smart TV platforms from Samsung, LG and Vizio, or video game consoles like Xbox and PlayStation.
Meanwhile, many Red Sox and Bruins fans — particularly those who reside out-of-market — are frustrated that the service isn't available outside the region. This is a function of league contracts — Major League Baseball controls national broadcast and streaming rights and will only let the Red Sox carve out local deals with entities like RSNs, for example.
But the majority of comments centered around the basic economics of the service -- as in, is it a good deal to pay $30 a month for NESN 360 (or $27.50 if you pay the $330 annual rate) and ditch linear pay TV?
"I understand that streaming services for sports can be expensive, but $30 a month is a bit much just for NESN," wrote one Reddit commenter.
"JFC! $30/mo??!! Do they think they are worth more than a Netflix subscription??!!," added another.
"Hah! They finally got something right and offered a direct to consumer service, but f***ed it all up by charging way too much. I'll keep sailing, thanks!," added yet another potty-mouthed Boston-area Reddit poster.
The linear NESN is available across New England except for Fairfield County, Connecticut through pay TV providers including Comcast, Charter Communications, Cox Communications, DirecTV, Verizon Communications and fuboTV. The addition of the RSN adds about $5 a month to a pay TV package.
For fans of the Red Sox and Bruins, ditching those providers means losing access to games covered under national TV rights. Both Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League have national TV deals with Disney's ESPN and Warner Bros. Discovery's Turner Networks.
Fox and Turner’s TBS have MLB playoff games, which require either a pay TV service or over-the-air antenna to see.
“NESN 360 ($30) + Sling Orange ($35 for ESPN and TNT) + ESPN plus ($7) = $72,” wrote one Reddit poster, working out some back-of-the-napkin math for a package that would provide comprehensive access to the local teams.
“Fubo TV is $79, and does not carry TNT,” noted another poster.
“If you want absolutely no other live or local channels, maybe. Otherwise, Fubo or DirecTV is still a much better deal,” added yet another poster.
Meanwhile, others lament that YouTube TV no longer carries NESN — the $65-a-month Google-owned virtual MVPD used to bundle the RSN along with ESPN, TNT/TBS and Fox, along with a cloud DVR — a tech feature NESN 360 lacks.
We looked long and hard for a comment lauding NESN’s DTC decision. There weren't many!
“What a bunch of morons at NESN,” opined one Reddit denizen, summing up the sentiment succinctly. ■
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Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!