Little by little, the giants of the net and the professional sports leagues are bleeding the sports channels.
After Amazon Prime, which took over American football on Thursday evenings, after Apple TV which now broadcasts two baseball games on Friday evenings, here is Tim Cook, Apple's great helmsman, making a sensational entrance into the world of soccer by signing a contract with MLS worth at least US$2.5 billion over 10 years. The terms of the contract are complex and give the impression, at first glance, that everyone is a winner, the amateur in the first place. This is far from the reality.
Without it seeming too much yet, the panoply of sports that traditional sports channels like RDS and TVA can present is shrinking to a trickle. Professional sports disappeared from mainstream channels a long time ago. Radio-Canada was one of the first public networks in the world to turn its back on sports, even hockey, which had been its main source of attraction since 1952. Today, to watch football, baseball, tennis, golf or soccer, you should subscribe to at least one specialized channel, preferably all of them if you don't want to miss a thing.
THE INTERNET IS CHANGING THE GAME
Faced with the ease of broadcasting provided by the Internet, I wrote, in a recent column, of fearing that the most important professional sports leagues would be tempted to create their own broadcasting platforms. By doing so, they would find themselves closer to the consumer-payer, closer to the advertiser and, above all, they would have full control of their destiny. This was without taking into account the threat of the internet giants whose appetite is insatiable. They too find that sport is an excellent hook. A cash cow they can milk too.
Now that streaming via the internet is possible, the days of traditional sports television like TSN, RDS and TVA Sports seem numbered to me. Ingratitude to history and galloping technology, these channels, which are primarily responsible for the popularity of all professional sports, are now becoming its victims.
The "deal" concluded Tuesday between the MLS and Apple seems very attractive for football fans, as has the forehead to claim the commissioner Don Garber. As if Apple was risking this fabulous sum with the sole intention of offering gifts to football fans like us!
THE SERVICE WILL NOT BE FREE
Starting next year, through a streaming service that is part of Apple TV but does not require an Apple terminal, all MLS games, including those of CF Montreal, will be available for viewing anywhere whenever and wherever around the world, without necessarily being an Apple TV subscriber.
CF Montreal season ticket holders and those of each local MLS team will have free access to the service. In order to gain new subscribers to Apple TV, a few matches will be presented free of charge on the internet during the season.
Games will be broadcast in English and Spanish and a number of CF Montreal games will be in French! But there will be a price to pay for the service. A price that will increase as it becomes popular. It may take longer than MLS imagines, as it will take some getting used to new teams of analysts and commentators. Will they be from Quebec? Nothing is less certain... Enthusiasts may regret TVA Sports.