Aug 20, 2022 - Economy

RSNs bet on direct-to-consumer streaming services

RSN segment year-end subscribers
Data: S&P Global Market Intelligence. Chart: Axios Visuals

Boston calls itself the Hub of the World, and now it's paving the future for sports fans as the New England Sports Network (NESN) was the first regional sports network to launch a direct-to-consumer streaming service. Many more are coming.

Why it matters: Live sports is one of the few remaining reasons for cable, and yet regional sports network subscribers are dwindling, per S&P Global Market Intelligence's Kagan. RSNs have been adapting with their own streaming platforms.

State of play: The rise of cord-cutting has left streaming services fighting for consumers' wallets. This means that in addition to paying for Netflix and Disney+, a sports fan can now subscribe to their team's streamer.

What's happening: NESN 360 launched in June at $29.99 monthly or $329.99 annually.

  • Subscribers can access live games, video-on-demand content, and perks such as free Red Sox tickets.
  • Game streams are up 40% month-over-month since the launch, and on average 40% of subscribers watch any given Red Sox game.
  • "People are looking for more choice and more access to the things they care about most," NESN CMO Ahmed Darwish says. "We want to make sure that we're building something that people love."

Yes, and: Sinclair Broadcast Group's Bally Sports operates in 19 markets, and released its RSN app, Bally Sports+, to five of those in June and will be in all 19 next month.

  • "There is significant fandom that is outside the pay-TV bundle. Servicing those fans is really important for the health of not only our business, but the league and teams," CEO Chris Ripley told Axios' Tim Baysinger in April.

What's next: The YES Network is preparing a streaming app, Yankees President Randy Levine said on the “Carton & Roberts” show in July.

  • Darwish of NESN says he frequently chats with the YES Network about their fan offerings, as they look for ways to enhance NESN 360. While the main reason to subscribe is likely live games, Darwish says he wants to offer "more community and exclusive content."
  • "I almost like to compare it to Prime where Prime started with free shipping, not even two-day shipping, just free shipping," Darwish says. "Fast forward to today."
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