Meerkat and Periscope, the new category of mobile apps that allows users to live stream videos in real time, are allegedly a “new form of piracy.”
And their most vociferous critics are within the still conservative live sports sectors, which have always been cautious when it comes to new-tech adoption. Despite its successful use in tennis championships for over 15 years, several professional sports organizers remain wary of the much-admired Hawk-Eye ball-tracking tech.
Meerkat and its rival Periscope looksset to be even more challenging. They allow smartphone users to transmit any event live for their social media followers to watch for free. And organizers of major sports events, which broadcasters have paid billions for the exclusive live rights to, are none too happy.
Live-streaming iOS and Android apps are so new (Meerkat and Periscope only fully launched in March), there are no official forecasts of future growth rates nor predictions of the potential damage they could cause rights owners.
Price paid for sports exclusivity
But what we do know is that the US’ National Football League (NFL) received almost US$40bn from the major US terrestrial TV and pay-TV networks, plus related media services, to cover the games from 2014 to 2022.
In 2011, NBCUniversal’s NBC and NBCSN networks agreed to pay US$200m a year for North America’s National Hockey League (NHL) ice-hockey competitions until the season ending 2021. An additional C$5.23bn (US$4.25bn) is coming from Canada-based conglomerate Rogers Communications. That amount will cover the matches starting last year until the 2025-26 season. There is a similar scenario in the United Kingdom.
The domestic TV rights alone to the English Premier League (EPL) soccer games cost about £5.5bn (US$8.5bn) to Sky, BT and public broadcaster BBC from the 2016-17 season to 2018-19.
These expensive long-term deals, including digital-media rights, mean broadcasters are not keen to see their potential viewership dwindle just because another clever digital media idea has emerged.
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