Streaming deals ramp up for sports as MLB Opening Day and Masters Tournament begin

In light of all the recent complex streaming sports licensing deals, it becomes more evident each day that streaming platforms are beginning to realize the cash grab of having live sporting events on their services.

Just yesterday, Hockey East reached a six-year media rights agreement with ESPN and ESPN+, which will bring games from one of the hockey’s NCAA conferences which feature 21 NCAA Division I teams across the men’s and women’s leagues. The deal will begin this fall and will end the 2027-28 season.

Today it was reported that beIN sports announced a broadcast deal with World Rugby and they will cover the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series for the rest of the 2022 Series as well as the full 2023 Series. In addition, the agreement includes rights to Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022.

But now, let’s get into the bigger players, shall we?

Major League Baseball

Today, Thursday, April 7, at 2:20 p.m. EDT, Opening Day will commence, and cord-cutters may be scrambling to find a service where they can watch all the action. Livestreaming services such as DIRECTV STREAM typically has most of the RSNs available.

Other options include FuboTV, YouTube TV, Hulu Live TV, Sling TV and ESPN+, which only shows one game per day, and local games are blacked out.

MLB.TV is another great option since out-of-market games are available to stream live or on-demand. However, if you want to watch your home team, there will be a delay as the game won’t stream until 90 minutes after the game ends. (You can see the full schedule here.)

  • Apple TV+: This year, Apple TV+ struck a deal with Major League Baseball, bringing viewers exclusive games of “Friday Night Baseball,” along with a ton of other extras like the new live show “MLB Big Inning,” replays, highlights, news, analysis and more. Here is its “Friday Night Baseball” doubleheader schedule, set to premiere on April 8. Today, Apple introduced its broadcaster lineup and production details for the streams.
  • Peacock: NBC’s streaming service is also riding on the MLB train, streaming 18 MLB games on Sundays beginning as early as 11:30 a.m. EDT. for the first six weeks, then transitioning to a noon start time for the following 12 weeks. The first game will be simulcast on NBC, which is the first time since the early 90s that baseball has played on the network.
  • Amazon Prime Video: Last week, the company announced that the YES Network would exclusively stream 21 New York Yankee games as well as include 19 Friday night games on the service. This is free for Prime members in New York, Connecticut, north and central New Jersey and northeast Pennsylvania. The first exclusive New York Yankees game on Prime Video is scheduled for Friday, April 22, when the Yankees host the Cleveland Guardians.
  • Bally Sports App: Sinclair plans to launch a DTC product, adding to the saturated market of streaming apps. It recently took on another $600 million of debt to fund its plans. The app has yet to launch but Sinclair has rights for five teams such as the Kansas City Royals, Milwaukee Brewers, Tampa Bay Rays, Miami Marlins and Detroit Tigers. There is also a rumor that the company is exploring a streaming app for the Chicago Cubs.

In addition, MLB is interested in exploring a DTC bundle with the NBA and NHL, to keep the cable model alive in the streaming world.

Masters Tournament

For the 15th consecutive year, ESPN and ESPN+ are providing live coverage of the first and second rounds of the Tournament from 3 p.m.-7:30 p.m. EDT on Thursday and Friday, April 7-8. It will then air over the weekend, April 9, on CBS (available to stream with a DIRECTV STREAM, FuboTV, YouTube TV or Hulu Live TV subscription). For extra coverage of the 2022 Masters, viewers can stream on Paramount+, ESPN+, and the CBS Sports App. See the full schedule.

In 2020, the PGA Tour announced a nine-year media deal starting in 2022 and ending in 2030. This renewed linear broadcast deals with NBC and CBS as well as added ESPN+ as the exclusive digital home for PGA Tour Live. This year, ESPN+ started its digital rights deal with the PGA Tour at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

National Basketball Association

Later next week, NBA’s Play-in Tournament begins on April 12, with the Playoffs on April 16. The NBA is the next major sports organization to have its national rights come up following the 2024-25 season. Many believe that Apple or Amazon are the biggest contenders for securing those rights.

For now, basketball fans can stream with NBA League Pass, DIRECTV STREAM, Hulu Live TV, YouTube TV, Sling TV and FuboTV.

National Football League

The 2022 NFL Draft will kick off on April 28-30.

  • Amazon Prime Video: Its 11-year agreement allows the service to stream NFL’s “Thursday Night Football.” The two have partnered on streaming since 2017. While it used to be simulcast across Fox and NFL Network, it is now an Amazon-exclusive.
  • Apple: A competitor to Amazon, Apple is the second frontrunner to possibly land the rights to NFL Sunday Ticket, reported the Sports Business Journal. DirecTV’s rights expire after the 2022 season so it’s going to be a battle of the tech giants to see who will be the next home for NFL games on Sundays.

Along with Amazon Prime Video, live TV streaming services like DIRECTV STREAM, ESPN+, FuboTV, Hulu Live TV, NFL Game Pass, Sling TV and YouTube TV will stream the NFL Draft.

Sports leagues targeted by streaming companies

Not only are there more ways to watch live sports than ever before, but also a greater variety of rights for streaming services to snatch up for themselves. Most sports fans would rather watch live matches and events on streaming platforms, anyways, since pay-TV broadcasters have less flexible pricing and streaming has greater accessibility.

Professional sports leagues are desirable acquisition targets for streaming services as the ever-increasing fees for live programming rules advertising revenue. Owning a league rather than relying on multiyear license renewals would not only reduce subscriber churn, but it would also make them a valuable rival and possibly out survive the rest that didn’t even consider live sports.