For Sports Fans, A Plethora Of Platforms To Watch On

The iPad version of MLB At Bat app enables fans to connect with their favorite baseball teams when they're on the go. i i

The iPad version of MLB At Bat app enables fans to connect with their favorite baseball teams when they're on the go. MLB.com hide caption

itoggle caption MLB.com
The iPad version of MLB At Bat app enables fans to connect with their favorite baseball teams when they're on the go.

The iPad version of MLB At Bat app enables fans to connect with their favorite baseball teams when they're on the go.

MLB.com

While most American homes still have a television in the den, how we watch, and what we watch, is changing. Computers, tablets, smartphones, DVRs and video game consoles have redefined what television is.

Viewers have officially become a multiscreen culture. And that means the TV industry is changing, as well. Consider that 36 million Americans watch video on their phones, according to the Nielsen ratings company.

That's why we're examining How We Watch What We Watch this week on Morning Edition. Today, NPR's David Greene speaks with John Ourand, media reporter at the Sports Business Journal, about how new technologies are changing the viewing habits of sports fans — and the business models of broadcasters.


Interview Highlights

On the prevalence and spread of new technology

"Right now for [the] MLB app, 2.2 million people have bought Major League Baseball's At-Bat iPhone and iPad app and are able to watch it. So that's a pretty substantial number. And I think that what you're seeing is, you're seeing a lot more people watching ESPN online or ESPN via their phones or watching cable TV via their phones. And it's a big initiative within the cable industry — they call it 'TV Everywhere' — where if you buy one subscription, you should be able to watch that channel whether it's on TV or whether it's on an iPad or whether it's on an iPhone. It kind of gets to the question of: 'What is a TV?' "

On how cable companies can make money from new technology

"Cable companies are making money because this is something that keeps subscribers subscribing to cable. The idea is that the cable industry is saying, 'I bought this stream. I bought ESPN, it doesn't matter how people watch it.' Whether they're watching it on TV or on a tablet or on an iPhone. And, furthermore, it's all a screen — what makes the tablet not a TV screen?"

The iPhone version of MLB At Bat collects the most relevant information in one place. i i

The iPhone version of MLB At Bat collects the most relevant information in one place. MLB.com hide caption

itoggle caption MLB.com
The iPhone version of MLB At Bat collects the most relevant information in one place.

The iPhone version of MLB At Bat collects the most relevant information in one place.

MLB.com

On how important sports are to the cable industry

"The big fear in the cable industry is something called 'cord-cutting,' and that's where people just cut the cord and just watch via Netflix, DVDs and just general broadcast. The only thing that's really saving the cable industry, in my opinion, are big-time sports that ESPN provides, that Turner provides, that NBC's and CBS's cable channels provide. Because if you want to watch sports, you have to watch them live. You can't watch those via DVD. And you can't watch them after the series has already run."

Catching The Game

Even if they don't have cable TV, baseball fans have many options to watch their teams' games:

  Live Subscription Mobile Interactive What You Should Know
Traditional TV, broadcast Yes No No No Limited selection of games
Traditional TV, with cable Yes Yes Many cable services now offer cross-platform subscriptions Minimal -- via DVR and On Demand More money = greater selection
Smart TV Yes, via streaming Yes, through cable or Internet provider No Yes Number of games depends on service provider. MLB.tv has a pay-per-view option
Smartphone/Tablet Yes MLB-approved apps At Bat and Postseason.tv premium require MLB.tv subscription ($24.99- $29.99) to watch video

WatchESPN app is free, but requires cable package
Yes Yes, multiple viewing options. Apps have clickable line scores, stats, highlights Postseason.tv lets you choose your camera angle. But it won't look like broadcast TV.

Can't watch your home team at home.
Gaming Console (PS3, XBox LIVE) Yes, games are archived in case you miss one MLB.tv Premium

PlayOn (media server software)

BUT no ESPN
Yes, can run on multiple platforms Yes, includes player stats and DVR function Some U.S. markets are subject to blackout
Computer/Laptop Yes Cable, MLB.tv, PlayOn, ESPN Depends on device Yes

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