Sports Streamers Pivot In Pandemic

As more high-profile events get canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, sports streaming services are finding new and unique ways to maintain subscribers without the appeal of live programming.

Companies like NBC Sports have made subscription video-on-demand sports content available for free on a limited basis, while other services like FloSports and FITE TV are reconfiguring their programming options to allow more flexibility and purchasing options for subscribers as the sports industry continues to wait out the virus.

SVOD platform FloSports has added around-the-clock channels dedicated to motor racing and other specific sports. 

SVOD platform FloSports has added around-the-clock channels dedicated to motor racing and other specific sports. 

The coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the sports schedule, with major events cancelled or postponed in the wake of the virus’s worldwide spread. The All-England Tennis Club cancelled Wimbledon for the first time since World War II, following the International Olympics Committee’s decision to postpone the 2020 Summer Olympics until 2021.

NBC Sports is offering free monthly access to 10 subscription-based sports pass services targeted to fans of specific categories, including the Premier Lacrosse League, track and field events and England’s Premier League soccer, for a limited time in April.

With boxing and mixed martial arts events shelved, pay-per-view event distributor FITE TV turned to the WWE to distribute this past weekend’s two-day Wrestlemania 36 in an effort to provide live content to viewers, FITE chief operating officer Mike Weber said.

“Up to a month ago we were averaging 20 to 30 live shows a weekend on PPV basis, and that was our revenue model and it worked out very well for us,” Weber said. “Almost all of our programming has now evaporated, but we’re talking to distributors like the WWE about potential new content opportunities.”

Subscription service FloSports has added 24/7 channels dedicated to track and field, college wrestling, cycling and motorsports, showing past events plus live podcasts and related programming, according to Amy Loesch, senior VP of marketing. The channels are available to the of the $29.99-permonth service’s more than 300,000 subscribers.

“We’re continuing to bring new content as well as the archives to our subscribers,” Loesch said. “For them, the 24/7 verticals are like continuous programming where they could come in at any time and check out what’s playing.”

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.