Remember all those miniature essays I wrote about folks not seeming to be able to wrap their heads around exactly how easy it’d be if they really wanted to prevent piracy of anything from movies to software? Yeah, those posts. The ones where even the TV stations themselves don’t much get it. It would seem you can add to the list, the major sports organizations (I’m looking at you, MLB).
Your average American’s got two things going on on Christmas day. They’re eating way too damn much, and probably watching either football or basketball. Or both, if you’re some folks. An author over on Techdirt wanted to be one of those folks. Here’s the catch, though. As always happens, the gatekeepers said thanks, but no thanks.
Like many of you, I made the trek with my girlfriend to my parent’s house to exchange gifts, eat too much food, and sit around with my family and friends talking as the television sat in the background displaying football and basketball. As the night progressed, the food cooled, the board games became boring, and the way my family slings around red wine resulted in the urge to go home early in the evening. Since my girlfriend was kind enough to drive us home (sober, of course), I was free to do what I wanted in the passenger seat.
And what I wanted to do was watch sports. The tail end of the Bulls game was still on. The Bears game would shortly follow. Sports on radio never did much for me. I wanted to watch. So I yanked out my smart phone and checked out the NBA site, the NFL site, and the sites of our local television stations. What I found was what I expected: the local stations didn’t offer any streaming of the games, but the NBA and NFL have their versions of mobile streaming packages which generally start right around the $50/season mark. This gets you access to their respective broadcasts (not the local ones).
Enter a problem easily solveable by pirates, as the article explains. But I’ll pause there just for a minute. He’s already got a cable package, presumedly. Were he already at home, he could plunk his ass down in front of the tube, flip to the local station, and catch the broadcast that way, at no extra charge. He would probably even, though he doesn’t say so in the article, not mind paying a little bit extra just to get that same broadcast on his phone. But the NBA and NFL have their own ideas. What he does say, though, is he’s not out to avoid being nagged at by advertizing–he’d have it easily, and the leagues wouldn’t be responsible for it.
Here’s my question: why is any of this necessary? With that same smart phone, I could have gone to one of dozens of websites (evil, evil websites) that would simply stream the games I wanted directly to my device for free. More to the point, they’d stream the local broadcast that I wanted, complete with commercials. Why wouldn’t the major sports leagues do the same thing? If advertising is still the major money-maker for professional sports (and, along with merchandise, it is), why wouldn’t they want to increase their reach by offering their own free advertisement-laden stream? Coupled with location identifiers, I’d think the leagues could partner with local broadcasters to make sure that people were getting the same geographical broadcast they’d get watching at home. Again, the same commercials can be in place, so what’s lost? Why charge me $50 a season to watch the game on my phone or tablet, but not levy that same charge for watching on my television? It’s the ads that matter, isn’t it?
And, as he somewhat sideways eludes to, had he done exactly that–gone to one of those evil websites that would have given him exactly what he wanted exactly how he wanted, he’d be among the masses the very same leagues accuse of depriving them of their advertizing dollars and causing all manner of horrible evil bad things to happen to innocent children. And yet, you can probably guess exactly what he did. Rather than let you, have this.
And so we get back to the start of this piece, in contrast to Mike’s message of masses saying “no” to those who impede technological progress. Because in my case, driving home that blustery Christmas night, with only thoughts of Derrick Rose and Brian Urlacher in my head, I felt no urge to say “no”. I only recognized one sentiment as I glanced over the league’s packages for streaming and then turned to one of the evil, horrible, death-enducing sites that gave me the stream I wanted just in time to see Derrick Rose drive the lane and score the winning layup to beat the Lakers: I don’t need their packages.
No one needs their packages, necessarily. Not as long as the same damn thing can be obtained at a cost no different than it would to watch the same broadcast at home. The leagues already make mega cash off advertizing. Plus I’m fairly sure they all have their own TV channels now, which means more mega cash from cable and satelite subscribers. But they’ve joined everyone else in the recent trend of charging multiple times for the same content in a slightly different format. No, you don’t need their packages. And neither do they. The sooner they realize that, the more willing their fans would be to fork over more of their money. Now which league’s gonna go first?