The NLL and CBS Sports Digital will partner up to stream live and on-demand regular season and playoff games on CBS Sports’ Over-The-Top service SportsLive. NLL Commissioner Nick Sakiewicz’s statement outlined the agreement:
“We are thrilled to continue to build upon our historic broadcasting partnerships with the addition of CBS Sports Digital. The future of sports is an ever-changing digital viewing experience, and bringing in a world class organization and platform like CBS Sports Digital is truly exciting for our fans. Last season we witnessed the additions of some major broadcasting partners and as a result more viewers are tuning in to NLL TV than ever before.”
Additionally, the press release stated that CBS Sports Digital will also promote NLL games across its digital platforms, which should expose a large audience to the League.
This is certainly a noteworthy further commitment by CBS into the lacrosse market. CBS already has a long-running deal with the Patriot League to show its games, so an expansion into professional lacrosse is certainly a good sign for the #GrowTheGame crowd. Indeed, last season CBS Sports Network aired 9 Patriot League lacrosse games including the semifinals & championship game of the Patriot League Tournament. Who can forget last season’s thrilling regular season finale between Notre Dame & Army?
A Sports Live subscription costs about $10.00/month or $100.00 for the year. I figure many NLL fans already have NLLTV, which is $35/season pass, $25/team pass, or $8/game pass, so I don’t see many NLLTV subscribers flocking to SportsLive, if they weren’t already members before today. Nevertheless, the key to the deal is introducing the League to a large number of people who already have SportsLive and might be receptive to lacrosse if it were available.
Moreover, this deal is a smart move by the League as viewing habits are not as static as they were 5-10 years ago, and signing a digital deal with a blue chip company like CBS helps the League stay flexible as the market changes away from watching tv via cable. Streaming games via one’s phone or computer is only growing in popularity and this deal helps the NLL get its games in front of an ever-increasing streaming audience who don’t have NLLTV. Furthermore, as Bloomberg noted in August, streaming games on OTT platforms is a great way for smaller leagues to compete with larger leagues & their billion dollar tv contracts.
When ESPN streamed the professional indoor lacrosse playoffs for pay-TV subscribers last year, about 4,000 people tuned in on average. This year, the National Lacrosse League averaged almost 344,000 viewers for each “Game of the Week” streamed on Twitter Inc.
For football and baseball, which have billion-dollar national TV contracts, an online or over-the-top viewing option is a smart bet on the future and a way to please the most loyal fans. For professional lacrosse and other small sports, it’s a must, even when the teams are owned by billionaires like the Buffalo Bandits’ Terry Pegula or the Colorado Mammoths’ Stan Kroenke.
“We’re not on the big linear networks,” NLL Commissioner Nick Sakiewicz said in an interview. “We may be someday when those networks may want our content and they want our audience, but for now, OTT is the absolute best way,” he said, using the acronym for over-the-top viewing.
One thing seems certain about Commissioner Sakiewicz, when it comes to broadcasting deals, he’s a man of his word.
The League is definitely going into its 2017-2018 season (which starts on December 8th) with a lot of momentum. This deal is another win in a year full of them. Indeed, per today’s press release, this is the league's 13th partnership announcement since November 2016. But, even if you only count the CBS deal, and the news this fall about San Diego & Philadelphia(!!!!) getting a team, I think it’s pretty obvious the NLL in winning 2017.