Streaming vs. long-term exclusive broadcast rights

Due to the inability of my four-year-old to handle technology and not become a total nutball, last month we put our television behind lock-and-key, requiring us to disconnect from cable television. I thought this would be problematic for someone like me who enjoys the occasional NFL playoff game.


There were multiple options to stream, though not all were free. had a free stream of the New England-Denver game. There were ads, but only a few and those that were had been repeated quite a few times over the duration of the broadcast. As a Verizon Wireless subscriber I could pay $5 to watch this game and several others.

And it appears that will be streaming the Super Bowl next week. For free.

In 2010, CBS and Turner paid $10.8 billion for fourteen years’ exclusive rights to broadcast the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament (“March Madness”). I really can’t understand why media corporations would enter into massive long-term deals to broadcast headlining sporting events, given the state of what’s already available with streaming. YouTube started in 2005 and AppleTV came out in 2007, so the idea of widespread streaming services wasn’t new when CBS and Turner made their mega-deal. I have to imagine that five years from now we’ll have even more streaming options, even if some are questionably legitimate or cost a couple bucks.

Smarter people than I have done the math on this, so I’m sure the exclusive rights to broadcast March basketball makes sense to CBS and friends. I just can’t believe that the rights would have increasing value over time. It’s like a baseball team signing a 35-year-old shortstop to a ten-year contract — you have to expect that you’re paying for production over the first couple years and not the last few.

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