Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Pac-12 launches a streaming sports app with limited carriers and limited geographic relevance

Just in time for the beginning of the college football season Pac-12 Networks launched a new iPad app that promises access to live events and that an iPhone app will launch soon. But if the purpose of the new app is to expand the reach of the conference coverage then it fails to do this rather spectacularly.
Like all such network streaming apps, the weakness of the approach taken is that one must sign into their cable provider account in order to access the content. The ability and willingness to reach a deal with the cable and satellite providers determines the usefulness of the app.

In the case of Pac-12 Now, the newly launched app, the number of cable providers that have signed up is very limited – just Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and Bright House Networks are on board. Neither DirecTV nor Dish are part of the service, and neither are Cox and Comcast. In some ways, one could say that the new app reinforces the notion that the Pac-12 is a minor conference (compared to the SEC and Big Ten) and becomes more so when even their app is limited to only those on the west coast.

This, of course, is the problem when contracts are negotiated that surrender streaming rights, or at least limits them. Powerful leagues, such as MLB, can not only negotiate huge new contracts such as the new ESPN 8-year deal, but retain the ability to control their online streaming rights. But let's not be naive, the lure of a bigger contract from the cable providers often overrides any New Media concerns.

The HBO GO app had to launch with limited partners, as well – though with a longer list than that of this new Pac-12 app. But deals were quickly struck so that now the app description doesn't even list the cable providers, saying simply "Free with your HBO subscription through participating television providers."