We sat down with Adam Seaborn on Free Lunch By The Peak to dive into what’s going on in the business of sports, including the emergence of challenger leagues and streaming deals.
Has the NFL always been popular?
“NFL wasn’t always the king of sports TV. A hundred years ago, it was horse racing, boxing, and baseball. Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, understood football was closer to pro wrestling than to horse racing, in the sense that it's an entertainment product first. He knew the rules and scheduling of the game should be in service of entertainment because that's where the money is. The NFL has been the most innovative when it comes to getting big audiences and, forever, they've owned a day of the week. They've owned Sundays.”
Will sports become more globalized?
“I think we might get some global leagues because the media market is changing so much. ESPN sells ads and subscriptions to people in the US, but that same regionality of traditional TV networks doesn't exist with streaming companies. It’s difficult to schedule international games, but golf and Formula One are leagues taking advantage of this globalization. But that’s probably also why the PGA has been targeted by the Saudi-backed LIV Golf. Every golfer is really an independent contractor, and the touring model is easy enough to replicate.”
Will the move to streaming isolate fans?
“I think for mid-tier sports more than it will for the big sports. But at some point, you sell the media rights to all these places, they’re behind all these paywalls, and the average NBA fan says, 10 years ago I could watch the NBA with my cable bundle, which cost me $100 a month. Now I need to subscribe to multiple streaming services, it's difficult to use, and that's just for one sport. So there is a fear, and I think we're at an inflection point. An example of it pushing too far that happened just recently with regional sports networks in the US.”
This interview has been edited for clarity and length. To listen to the full episode, find “How Streaming Is Upending The Sports Business” here or wherever you listen to podcasts.