Matt DaSilva -- Lacrosse Magazine's Editor in Chief -- uncorked some feelings about streaming over the weekend, penning a piece that created a minor storm of angst among lacrosse fans following its publication.
I'm not sold on streaming.
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If you're a hardcore college lacrosse fan, then you're in heaven. You've got your laptop, tablet and phone up at the same time, following three different games and a bombardment of tweets from a variety of lacrosse media and personalities.
If you're a casual sports fan or even just a casual lacrosse fan, this is no way to consume the fastest sport on two feet. It's frustrating and isolating. If a game is on TV, maybe you're on the couch with your kid or at the bar with some buddies, analyzing what you see, socializing and connecting with real people. Instead, you've got your nose buried in some device, hoping your wireless connection doesn't fail you and ignoring everyone around you.
Streaming is going to define content delivery in the next decade, supplanting television's current form as the dominant vehicle of content distribution. All signs point to this occurring, and merely pining for traditional means for content ingestion fails to acknowledge the potential that streaming holds in both the overall strength of programming delivery but also the quality, breadth, and availability of services and material that content creators are producing. Streaming is the near-future of programming consumption and criticizing its perceived flaws -- flaws that will recede and will be held only by cantankerous disciples of traditional forms of media digestion -- misses the point of the true value of where lacrosse is in the landscape of eventual media platforms -- right on the cutting edge.
There is an understandable unease to embracing streaming. Like the early years of broadcast television there are weaknesses in its full scope -- production values can be uneven, content is developing, and its delivery models are still evolving. Yet, nobody is aching for radio over television despite the time it took for television to find its place and volition. There was a time when people legitimately thought that radio would never take a backseat to television given radio's place in America and its relative strengths compared to a burgeoning television medium. This attitude adjustment took time, but the result was a stronger overall product. The traditional television-streaming transition evokes much of the same issues inherent in the radio-television transition upheaval, and the survivor of the progression will prosper just as it had over 50 years ago. Complaining about what streaming isn't right now misses the point about what streaming is -- the next generation of communication, and it's creating its place faster than any other medium before it.
The fact that lacrosse is already ahead of the curve in this paradigm shift of service offerings -- even in the context of its growing pains -- is exciting and important. Lacrosse fans are already building behaviors around consuming games via streaming options, and those streaming options are growing and improving each and every season as the content providers learn more about what's necessary to deliver high-caliber products. (In the overall, streaming services that are offering lacrosse games have hit the mark significantly more often than it has spit the bit. It's not perfect, but it's earning buckets of silver stars along with a handful of gold stars.) The reliance on ESPN or any other network broadcasting games on traditional television has become less important due to this fact, and the idea that the game's growth hinges upon the broadcasting of games across a cable wire exists only in the context that the traditional medium will never regress in its power to dominate content consumption (and that's becoming exponentially less true each and every month). There are more games available to lacrosse fans and curious viewers right now in 2015 than has ever been made available before, and that's attributable almost entirely to streaming services offering solid products to anyone willing to seek out or be made aware of the opportunity to consume its wonder.
And the great thing about the shift to streaming-based content distribution is that it doesn't disrupt many well-worn habits. It takes only a cord -- and if you have basic tech skills, no cords -- to move a streaming broadcast from a computer or other device to one's television. (I do this all the time at home and at the bar.) The television itself -- a giant piece of furniture that shows moving pictures instead of flower-printed upholstery -- isn't changing, but what is appearing on the television is. This is a great thing; the entire experience for lacrosse fans -- and future lacrosse fans -- is only getting better, and it is getting better at a pace that is surprising and comforting at the same time.
Everything that traditional television currently provides isn't effected by streaming, and streaming -- in many ways -- is actually outpacing what traditional television is right now and will pass it in the very near future. Those traditional television content providers will still have a role in the new content distribution regime -- many of the companies that dominate the traditional television market (including ESPN) are coming around to the nontraditional forms that streaming provides -- but the mere desire to stump for a diseased platform smacks of short-sightedness and a lack of recognition of what content will look like in a decade (and what it is capable of achieving right now). The more that streaming is demanded, the faster that it will improve and mature as audience desires are the ultimate driver in the atmospheric shift from traditional television to streaming.
Streaming matters, and it's going to matter more and more as the days die off the calendar. If it isn't embraced, it's the equivalent of listening to a snowy A.M. radio broadcast of a game rather than viewing it full color in beautiful high definition.