Read an interesting piece in USS Mariner this morning that looked at the whole regional sports network (RSN) explosion in baseball that is now changing the sport on a daily basis. The post asked a question which I’ve heard coming up more and more frequently as each new RSN deal is announced: what happens when the bubble bursts?
In other words, when cable companies, because of a consumer revolt against bundled charges, stop paying the going RSN rate to show games in order to subsidize the exhorbitant rights fees charged by teams? Or, when there’s a changing of technology away from the current TV model? Or maybe a decision by regulatory bodies to do their jobs and stop allowing for the gouging of TV-watchers who don’t even like or want sports programming?
What happens if all three things take place in coming years? Will the RSN then be able to afford to fulfill their financial obligations to a team, say, 10 years into a 25-year deal?
These are all very good questions, with no easy answers simply because none of us has the crystal ball to predict how the future will unfold. Three years ago, I thought the Flip camera was a great video device. Now, the product is obsolete because smartphone technology blew its video abilities out of the water within a span of 12 months. Today, I can wirelessly live stream stuff from my phone with the type of quality you would get from recorded video on a $700 camera just five years ago.
So, no. I won’t try to tell you where the future of television is going to wind up in 10 years.
For me, though, that’s not the biggest worry if I’m a baseball fan. For me, the worry right now would be that my team get the biggest slice of the RSN pie that it can before it all gets eaten up by the aforementioned possible changes.