As the competitive market of OTT (over-the-top) streaming services continues to grow, Bleacher Report is making plans to stay in the race. Unfortunately, by the time the process may be completed, their advantage against the field may be gone.
B/R Live General Manager and Turner Sports Senior Vice President of Digital Hania Poole told Sports Business Journal that the company are in the mid-stages of merging B/R Live into the Bleacher Report app. Reportedly, the process can take up to two years to complete. The merger makes sense because the Bleacher Report app is the program with the larger, more built-in audience so to include the streaming service there will make it easier for users to access it. The plan is similar to the way the ESPN app has a section where people can view ESPN+ content. The biggest issue is that the online and TV rights that Turner Sports has to show UEFA Champions League and Europa League matches ends after the 2020-21 season and the app migration might not be completed by then.
Also, there’s no mention that the conversion will improve the quality of the streaming because many people have encountered issues when attempting to watch UEFA Champions League and Europa League matches. Last year, B/R Live livestreamed the Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson pay-per-view golf event and malfunctions that viewers encountered in the app forced the company to give everyone a refund. Instead, there’s information about B/R Live having more gambling content and free programming in the near future. Networks like ESPN, FOX Sports and NBC Sports can use this against Turner Sports when the negotiations for Champions League and Europa League commences in two years. The timing of the news is also interesting when a partner of Turner Sports recently released a new OTT platform.
The NBA announced the NBA TV streaming service which is a direct-to-consumer version of the TV network. For the monthly fee of $6.99, or the annual fee of $59.99, customers will be able to access over 100 live NBA games, past programming and original shows. You can also watch their immense back catalog of older games, every NBA Finals game in the 21st century, a pregame show, a nightly show content like the popular Inside the NBA segment Shaqtin’ A Fool. This is a much cheaper alternative to the NBA League Pass which annual costs ranges from $59.99 to $249.99. The app can be found on services like Apple TV+, Roku and mobile devices. People using web browsers will be able to access the content through NBA.com and people who haven’t cut their cords yet can access the app’s content by signing in through their paid TV provider.
Outside of sports, Apple TV+, Disney+, which will have a package that includes ESPN+, HBO Max and NBC’s Peacock are new platforms that have either arrived or will be debuting in the spring of 2020. Entities such as Amazon Prime, DAZN, Hulu and Netflix also will continue to fight in the streaming wars. The OTT industry shows no signs of slowing down and has viewers arguably spending more money now than they did with cable companies when you also include music streaming services like Apple Music, Spotify and Tidal. If Bleacher Report wants to compete with the masses, then they should escalate the process if possible because by 2021 they might be left behind.
WHERE’S THE LOGIC IN MOVING B/R LIVE?
Analysis by Christopher Harris, Soccer media analyst
Reportedly, it’ll take B/R Live two years to be completely integrated into the Bleacher Report app. Let’s hope that the transition goes well because the tech company can’t afford to make any more major mistakes.
When Turner Sports acquired the rights to the UEFA Champions League in 2017 for the 2018/19 through 2020/21 seasons, the executives at Turner Sports had an important decision to make. Would Bleacher Report, a tech company, take the 16 months it had before their coverage started to build their own streaming service. Or would it pick up a white label streaming service that it could slap its logo on in order to have it ready in time?
In hindsight, Turner Sports made the wrong decision. Instead of the techies at Bleacher Report building or buying their own streaming service, Turner decided to take the streaming solution from a company named iStream Planet and make that into B/R Live — complete with the B/R Live name, branding and limited content.
The problem was that iStream Planet is not a major or reliable player in the streaming sports industry.
Not surprisingly, the debut season of B/R Live’s coverage of the UEFA Champions League was mired by a catalog of issues. So far, the 2019/20 season has been much more reliable, but for many, it was too late. B/R Live had made a devastatingly bad first impression.
Looking ahead, it’ll now take two years to migrate B/R Live into the Bleacher Report app. The move makes a lot more sense as long as the tech company can work out the kinks with the streaming solution. Unfortunately, by then, B/R Live may be out of the streaming soccer game if it loses the 2021-2024 UEFA Champions League rights to ESPN+, which is expected.