Can Sports Fans Cut the Cord? It's Game On!

Media Practice Lead, Canada

maart 31, 2016

The PGA Masters’ broadcast is the perfect example of a sports-watching experience more tailored to what consumers want: more content, cross-devices, no extra fees.

The PGA Masters, the most prestigious golf tournament in the world, is starting next week. I can’t wait; tee off doesn’t get better than this! The way I see it, I’m practically spending my week on the golf course (digitally).

This is the new way of watching professional golf, and it's coming up aces. Traditionally, when you count on television to watch golf, you only see the best shots. Now with the online streaming – or at least during the Masters— you get total control over what you see. You can choose between two featured groups and follow them during their full round, or bounce between the magnificent holes of Amen Corner or see the pros during the decisive 15th and 16th holes. It's a totally different experience, and I love it.

TV coverage is finally catching up with online. For the first time this year thanks to a new agreement with Bell, TV is now broadcasting the same feeds you can see online, in addition to traditional coverage, showing the best shots. But there's a cost to seeing it on TV; you have to pay for a cable subscription package and a full suite of sports channels to get access. Plus: you have to be physically in front of your TV. When you watch online, you can be anywhere.

I question this: if everything is online for free, why would I add more channels to my already pricey package?

If you're a big golf fan like me, you'll be downloading the official Masters Golf Tournament App for your mobile phone or tablet, or streaming it on your computer. I’m telling you: the streaming doesn’t disappoint.

And while I’m not taking days off work for the PGA, my work colleagues know that I’ll have a strong grip on my iPad at work…

Sports Fans are Incredibly Plugged In

It turns out I am not alone in my utopian multi-channel sports universe.

According to the Nielson 2015 Year in Sports Media Report, my preferred spectator sports experience is not at all exceptional. Fans across all sports are hanging on to TV subscriptions and also plugging in to online apps, live feeds, and social media, engaging with the game in a highly interactive way. The report says that in 2015, there were over 69 billion minutes, or 1.2 billion hours, spent on sports sites via smartphones. That’s up 22% from 2014.

What’s more, television sports dominate all TV conversation on Twitter. According to Nielsen Social, 2015 Sports Events only make up 1.4% of TV programming itself, but close to 50% of all Twitter TV conversation.

While live sports are viewed on TV, sports news and updates are consumed across platforms. This trend results in sports dominating conversation via other platforms such as Social and Digital. Despite what some may think, content consumption via various channels actually complements TV viewing rather than cannibalizes it,” the report states.

More sports fans are plugging into a multi-channel universe every day; and they’re hungry for more!

The multi-device experience leaves you craving more information, details, and action.

I am part of this tribe of information-hungry sports fans. I love watching all kinds of sports; but golf is my game and I plug in for it all the way. I’ve been playing golf since I was 7, and for the last four years, I’ve learned a lot just from watching. Online coverage just keeps getting better. Every year there’s more choice, more cameras, and more angles. It has changed my game, and the way I see the pros. I see them practice swinging, I learn from it. I see how much water they drink, how they stand, what they’re looking at, what flavour Gatorade they drink, what they eat and more.

You live the full experience. You almost feel like you’re there.

Who’s Cutting the Cord?

I teach a Digital Communications class at UQAM, a university in Montreal. There are about 50 students in my class, all millennials. I recently asked them, “How many of you have a cable TV subscription?”

Nobody raised their hand. Not one student.

At the age of 31, I’m the last of a dying breed of cable subscribers. Even though I’m in the business of creating digital experiences, and have knowledge and access to all the newest experiences, I have continued to pay my cable subscription.


I’m a sports fan. If I cut cable, I lose access to ESPN, TSN, RDS, TVA Sports, RDS 2… the list goes on. There's too much to lose.

Is it high time to cut the cord? If you’re a sports fan like me, you may still need to hang on… but it’s game on folks. The more the sports associations build digital experiences online, the less dependent we will be on traditional ways of broadcasting sports.

Young people are unlikely to subscribe to cable TV in its current state – they expect more than a one-dimensional experience.

I look forward to the chase. I look forward to more action. It's time to stop taking chip shots at creating Apps and digital experiences. It’s time to land your drive on the fairway in digital, and get your game on.

The only downside? My tee off time is causing my girlfriend to more and more likely to have “teed-off” time at me… because I’m as good as gone to Augusta Georgia next week.

…you can’t win ‘em all…

In the meantime, see you on the green!

Bonus: for the Masters fans out there, here’s a clip of one of the most memorable shot in the history of the Masters.

© Photo credit Pete Pappas

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