What are the benefits to watching sporting events via live streaming?

The Internet gives sports fans lots of opportunities to follow games.
The Internet gives sports fans lots of opportunities to follow games.
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Sports fans, it's time to face facts -- you owe a lot to the nerds of the world. Because of the geeks, you have more ways to watch your favorite events than ever before. There are dozens of different apps and services that let you catch the next game on your television, smartphone, computer, tablet or video game console.

Perhaps the biggest benefit to this technological approach is accessibility. Many services and apps give you access to games you might not be able to see otherwise. As every sports fan knows, not every game or match is available in every region. But with the right streaming services, you're able to watch many games even if they're nowhere to be found on TV in your area.

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And since there are many streaming services that let you watch sports events on mobile devices, you can watch a game even when you're nowhere near your television, entertainment center, man cave or faithfully constructed replica of Wrigley Field. The only components you need are the right broadband Internet connection, a device capable of running the service or app and access to the app itself.

There are a couple of caveats to keep in mind. One is that not every sports organization supports live streaming yet. Digital streaming is still a young broadcast model and not everyone is comfortable with it. In some cases, you may only be able to access certain content on specific devices. An iPhone owner may be able to see some content an Android handset owner can't access, and vice versa.

The second big warning is that there are some sites online that stream video from sports events without permission. These sites violate the rights of the sports organizations. While you might not get in trouble for watching the content, may feed digital piracy concerns among sports organizations that are already hesitant to adopt digital broadcast models. In fact, the desire to address digital rights issues may cause these organizations to move toward a streaming model more slowly. Playing by the rules gives everyone a better chance at accessing content in a legitimate way.

Next, we'll look at how to use these services and apps.

Using Sports Streaming Sites and Apps

With the wide variety of sports organizations out in the world today, it should come as no surprise that there's not a standard approach to streaming services. Many sports organizations have formed partnerships with specific cable or mobile service providers. This means that in order to access the live streaming content provided by these organizations, you'll need to be a subscriber to their partnered cable or mobile telecommunications company.

For example, in the United States, you can access National Football League (NFL) games on Verizon mobile devices using NFL Mobile. This app allows you to watch live NFL coverage as well as access other features. While there are other apps for mobile devices that integrate with the NFL, they don't include the live video feature you'll find in Verizon's app.

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Other sports organizations take a different approach. Major League Baseball (MLB) offers an app for devices running iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7, BlackBerry and even WebOS operating systems. When paired with an MLB.tv subscription, this app allows fans to watch out-of-market games. There's a fee for the app (which decreases as the season wears on) and you still must subscribe to the MLB.tv service to be able to watch the games.

Not all the streaming video you'll find online is live. During the 2008 Summer Olympics and 2010 Winter Olympics, NBC Universal delayed some streaming video feeds in order to save the events for prime-time television broadcast. While you might have been able to watch minor events live on the Internet, some of the high-profile events were inaccessible until much later. In 2011, NBC sports executive Mark Lazarus said that every event in the 2012 Summer Olympics would be broadcast live on one platform or another. Some events may remain exclusive to television broadcast [source: Zaccardi].

If you're a true sports fanatic, subscribing to every service and purchasing every app might be a bit expensive. But these are still the early days of digital transmission of live video content. As some methods show promise and others falter, we'll likely see a more standardized approach in the years to come. And at the end of the day, it's hard to argue with the countless hours of sports footage we have access to, thanks to a bunch of computer nerds. Remember, sports fans, to tip your cap the next time you see a computer scientist!

Learn more about sports and streaming video by following the links on the next page.

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Sources

  • Kravets, David. "Feds Tackle Sports-Streaming Pirate Sites." Wired. Feb. 2, 2011. (Oct. 23, 2011) http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2011/02/feds-tackle-sports-piracy/
  • MLB.com. (Oct. 23, 2011) http://mlb.mlb.com/mobile/?tcid=nav_mlb_mobile
  • NFL.com. (Oct. 23, 2011) http://www.nfl.com/mobile
  • Sling Media. (Oct. 23, 2011) http://www.slingmedia.com/
  • Sullivan, Patrick. "The Sports Fan's Guide to What's On Online (We Need More!)." Clicker.com. July 16, 2010. (Oct. 23, 2011) http://www.clicker.com/blog/the-sports-fans-guide-to-whats-online-we-need-more-2978.html
  • Zaccardi, Nick. "Comcast/NBC's plan for the London '12 broadcast; more Olympic notes." Sports Illustrated. June 9, 2011. (Oct. 23, 2011) http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/writers/nick_zaccardi/06/09/olympic.notebook.london.broadcast/index.html