The New Age of Streaming Sports Online

Marcus ShockleyCorrespondent IApril 12, 2017

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The broadcast networks weren’t the first to arrive at the streaming video party.

In fact, while some networks are quickly embracing some portions of streaming their content online, others still either haven’t figured out how it will fit into their business or whether they should even be paying attention.

Streaming sports online is a market that broadcasters are still missing the boat on. In fact, even while some fantastic successes have arrived over the past two to three years, there is still so much open water in this area that many broadcasters may be suddenly too far out of position to catch up.

This is a bold statement, but there is a very high chance that television in general, as we know it, may be vastly changed in only a few short years.

Probably the most visible and successful online sports experience to date has been the CBS March Madness broadcasts, which are a perfect vehicle for basketball fans.

In fact, the digital streaming option has filled in gaps that CBS absolutely could not have solved otherwise.

For basketball fans, there are so many games on during the first weekend of the tournament, that it’s impossible to watch them all. In fact, several games actually are played nearly simultaneously.

This means that CBS has to choose which games are to be broadcast in single game fashion to it’s regional broadcast partners.

They accomplished this in the past with the law of averages; if Duke or UNC are playing, the Southern markets would get that game, and if UCLA is playing, the Western markets would get that game.

But even though this accurately hits large sections of the fan base, that still doesn’t address the fans who live in those regions who would prefer to watch games taking place elsewhere, and it also does not address the games that suddenly create compelling television, such as when an underdog looks like they might knock off a more highly seeded team.

CBS attempted to solve the two issues with two strategies, neither of which are great solutions.

The first strategy was splitting the screen into several portions, sometimes as many as four games at once, while the central sports anchor would attempt to narrate what fans should be watching. That specific strategy failed, as fans felt as though they were being taken out of the game they were watching and suddenly thrown into a dizzying mess of action.

The second strategy, which CBS still uses and is attempting to improve, is the concept of the "live look-in", where the studio team keeps an eye on all of the games, and when a game in another market suddenly looks like it might develop into something worth watching, they switch the viewers briefly.

However, the online package from CBS resolves both of these issues by allowing fans to watch any game they choose, switch at any time, and still watch the scores from other games. Fans in any market can pick a game outside of their market.

Another benefit which CBS may or may not be taking advantage of is the massive amount of tracking data that can be gleaned from this. The online broadcasting data should be able to tell exact numbers for which games fans are watching, and when fans suddenly switch to watch a more compelling game, it’s invaluable data to have.

The CBS March Madness broadcasts have been wildly successful in usage by several metrics, fans love the experience and the product seems as though it will continue to grow. This is certainly a successful case study for streaming sport events online.

This article originally appeared on the blog .