Internet TV has arrived and 2015 could be the year that sees a massive shift in American viewing habits away from cable TV to “cord cutting” — consumers relying only on the internet for their TV viewing — and the driving force, experts say, will be live online sports.
While online services such as Hulu, Netflix and the upcoming HBO Now offer wide selections of TV shows online for monthly subscription fees, the immediacy of live sports, which cannot be “time shifted” by viewers the way scripted television easily can, keeps millions of viewers locked into to their steep monthly cable fees.
“Sports is one of those last things that makes people still want to watch TV in a linear fashion,” Microsoft Managing Director Tony Emerson, who works on developing internet TV services for the technology giant, told Wired Magazine.
So far, according to industry research studies, about 7.6 million American TV viewers have “cut the cord,” switching to internet TV services alone, for their television viewing habits.
But that will all change in 2015, experts say. On Wednesday of last week, Sony rolled out a limited version of its new internet TV service, which will bring about 50 popular “free” TV and cable channels to the company’s PlayStation devices.
Among those channels are three of the four major networks — ABC, NBC and FOX — complete with all of the extensive sports coverage provided by those networks included.
Later this year, according to reports in the Wall Street Journal and other sources, Apple plans to launch its own TV streaming service, which will include ABC, Fox and CBS, again, including sports programming.
While pricing for the Sony service was not yet announced, the Apple service which would include at least 25 channels is rumored to carry at $40 per month price tag — a price that will need to come down if Apple hopes to lure cable customers away, according to Rod Hall, an industry analyst with J.P. Morgan.
Sling TV, a service premiered last year by Dish Networks, costs $20 per month for about 20 channels, including the leading sports network, ESPN. Sling TV also carries the TNT network, which broadcasts NBA regular season and playoff basketball games.
Currently, most major sports are already available live online — for a price. Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, National Basketball Association and Major League Soccer all offer internet TV packages allowing fans to stream almost every game live online.
The National Football League remains the one holdout, offering its online NFL Game Pass service only overseas.
But the available sports packages cost well over $100 each. Interestingly, the MLB.TV package at $130 costs less than the NBA or NHL packages even though Major League Baseball plays over 2,400 games per season, far more than any other pro sports league — and most of those games are available for viewing with the MLB internet TV package.
A true sports fanatic who wants to cut cable, but still demands access to every available game from all four major North American pro sports leagues that offer internet TV games online, will pay a total of $545 per year, or about $46 per month.
That price would go up substantially for viewers who want access to international sports such as cricket, European soccer, and even Australian Rules Football — pictured above — which are all now available through various internet TV packages.
[Image: Mark Nolan/Getty Images]