Paid Online Options Prove Lucrative for Sports Networks

Networks have struggled with embracing the fact that the Internet makes their shows available anywhere, anytime – which means they get fewer people sitting in front of the television to watch.

They may have found a model that works for them with paid viewing options for their sports offerings, especially as we enter into March Madness.

CBS offers March Madness on Demand, an online viewing service that is free for users but managed to bring in $32 million in ad revenue in 2009 and projects a 20% growth in that number for 2010. It’s not as good as the numbers for SuperBowl, which brought CBS $200 million in ad revenue, but it’s also not shabby when you consider the relatively slim number of people who prefer watching their sports online.

Other networks are going with a paid option for their viewers, often with a series of packages that let users choose which sports they want to watch. The NBA went from a single streaming option to a number of standalone packages, and Major League Baseball has been using MLB.tv as a pay model since it launched in 2003. Subscription revenues there bring in $88 million.

Networks are getting more creative with iPhone apps as well, but no matter how they choose to make profit from their online offerings, they seem to no longer be attempting to resist the drift online. Now they’re simply learning to monetize that drift – and it seems to be working well for them.

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