NBA lets some fans stream a live game's final quarter for 99 cents
- The NBA appears to be testing a new streaming service to let fans watch the fourth quarter of a live game for just 99 cents, according to a report from The Verge showing a tweet from Vasu Kulkarni, founder of sports analytics platform Krossover, with screenshot of an NBA app notification saying he could stream the end of the Miami Heat-Oklahoma City Thunder game for less than $1.
- NBA commissioner Adam Silver has hinted at a similar concept multiple times in the past, The Verge reported, and said he wants the league's broadcast to more closely resemble Twitch, Amazon's platform for live gaming that integrates stats and online chatter from viewers alongside sports videos.
- The NBA offers other streaming options, including the League Pass, which is a season-long, full-league package. NBA Digital, a partnership between the league and Turner, also offers cheaper subscriptions, including team-specific options and the ability to stream individual games.
Creating content strategies around micro-transactions also highlights how sports leagues might adapt to fans' changing viewing habits. Giving fans access to the most exciting part of the game — the fourth quarter — plays into their growing preference for seeking out online sports highlights, interviews and bloopers. Instead of watching a full live televised game, viewers are increasingly choosing to watch on their own terms, which often means using multiple screens, social media or online streaming platforms. Watch time of sports highlights on YouTube increased 80% over the past year, a Google analysis of sports content on YouTube found. Giving fans access to the fourth quarter could also entice more pay TV subscribers to switch from traditional sports network packages and opt for digital alternatives. Among sports fans, 81% remain pay TV subscribers, but, of that number, 82% said they would trim or cut the cord entirely if not for live sports. They also said they would be willing to pay up to $23 per month for unlimited live sports on any platform, a PwC survey from December 2017 found.
While details are limited on the 99-cent streaming service, including whether it features ads, giving access to parts of games through micro-transactions could turn into a moneymaker for the league similar to how Twitch makes money, even if the strategy cuts into the NBA's own profits from larger subscription packages. Sports fans may more easily fork over the 99 cents to view the last quarter of action in a game, especially if the score is close or it's an important game.
If enough fans tune into this low-cost way to stream parts of games, the strategy could collectively cut down on the rate of game pirating, which strips broadcasters of missed opportunities for ad spots and revenue.
Social media platforms are also experimenting with live streaming sports as a way to reach younger fans that often prefer to watch on mobile devices while on the go or alongside interactive content. Facebook recently secured the exclusive national video rights from Major League Baseball to stream 25 games via Facebook Watch. The games, produced by the MLB Network to ensure TV-level quality, will air on weekday afternoons and will include in-game elements that allow for watching, sharing and interacting on Facebook. The social network is also experimenting with new Watch ad formats to offer marketers around the games.