Here’s a simple question. If you’re a fan of a sport, and you want to watch it online, you’re going to watch it, no matter the source.
If there’s an easy to find official way to watch online, then that’s going to be the first port of call. What the sports industry needs to make sure is that when people look online, they (a) find the stream they want and (b) the industry is getting something from that view, be it a small subscription fee or in-vision advertising.
What the industry need to watch out for is to not make the mistakes that other areas of the media have done and ignore the issue till the viewers are trained to “find free"– the genie is already out of the bottle and more people every day are finding free content of their favourite sport.
By protecting the income from the TV Fees from players such as Sky in the UK, the different sporting regulators are still gorging themselves, but all that cash is suddenly going to disappear in the future as viewing figures switch to online sources. When Sky and their ilk realise they have to get into the online subscription game, the users are not going to be expecting to pay, and they’ll stay on the illegal streams.
What UK sport needs to do is look at how Baseball in the US has a full online subscription service, airing every match, at MLB.com, even though Baseball is a huge draw on TV. Because if they go the legal route and slap down a few people, the majority of people will never experience a problem, and the same problem the music and film industry is in now will happen to sport.
Hat tip to the BBC.