New England Sports Network Strikes Another Blow To Cable, Launching An RSN Streaming Channel

In another blow to cable and satellite operators, customers will no longer need to have a subscription video package to cable or satellite to receive all Boston Red Sox and Bruins Game as New England Sports Network (NESN) becomes the first regional sports network (RSN) to launch its own streaming service.

The NESN 360 app will be priced at $29.99 per month, or $329.99 per year. In additional to the live feed you would get on linear TV, they will supplement the online version with exclusive content. NESN is currently carried by Astound, Boston University and Comcast’sCMCSA
Xfinity in the Boston DMA and has about 3 million subs including out-of-market subscribers and satellite subscribers.

NESN started in 1989 and, like other cable networks, has continued to see a slide in its subscriber numbers in recent years as consumers continue to cut the cord or switch to a cheaper video package (cord shaving). However, COVID hit NESN and other RSN’s hard with a number of games not airing and RSNs having to rebate fees to multichannel operators, which eventually were refunded to customers.

Revenues fell by more than 35% in 2020 and, although things were expected to get better in 2021, NESN is on a trajectory to see revenue decline each year as more and more customers get their video content online. NESN generates almost $300 million per year in subscriber fees from multichannel operators.

Sports were at one time supposed to make the cable model bullet proof but with RSNs being offered up online, AmazonAMZN
licensing Thursday Night NFL games and reportedly looking to aggressively bid on more sports rights in the future, the outlook for traditional linear sports networks continues to get bleaker.

AppleAAPL
is also said to be bidding on the popular NFL Sunday Ticket package (now on DIRECTV) and these deep-pocketed companies will easily be able to outbid cable and satellite for some sporting events, although Walt Disney is still expected to be an aggressive bidder of sports rights as it builds its ESPN + platform.

Cable and satellite operators will have even more difficulty in the third and fourth quarters as Sinclair Broadcast Group, the largest owner of regional sports networks (under the Bally name, formerly Fox Sports Networks), rolls out its Direct to Consumer (DTV) service in some markets.

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