The FCC’s plan for TV blackouts: what it means for sports fans

Sports leagues — especially the NFL — use blackouts to encourage fans to see games in the stadium rather than on TV. A new proposal by the FCC would make it harder to do this, but it won’t bring relief to the majority of sports fans. Here’s a Q&A that explains how it all works.

Pro athletes on Twitter: league execs say marketing outweighs gaffes

Former executives from the NBA and the NFL say that teams and leagues should encourage players to use Twitter — even if some foreseeable headaches occur. The marketing benefits are worth it and the number of gaffes may subside as players get used to the medium.

ESPN’s live-streamed NBA Finals averaged 330k viewers

If you look at the NBA Finals viewership by comparing TV and digital, the temptation might be a shrug. But in the context of a live event airing during prime time, it’s not shabby — and it shows why ESPN is looking to video and mobile for growth.

WNBA launches streaming iPad app to recruit new fans

Millions of subscribers pay yearly to stream baseball or basketball games to their web browser or mobile devices. But for leagues like the WNBA, getting into the streaming game is more about using online video to increase awareness and fan loyalty.

Finals wrap up record year for NBA streaming

The NBA’s effort to increase the amount of video available to fans in the latest season, with the league reporting more website visitors and video streams watched over the course of the 2010/2011 season and postseason than ever before.

How Content Bundles Could Make Cord Cutting Mainstream

While over-the-top video has made huge strides over the past few years, those cutting the pay-TV cord are still, by and large, early adopters.

With the high-prices of cable and the rapidly expanding choice of content available online, why exactly hasn’t the mass market started to cut the cord? Because for all the talk about the cost of pay TV, most people really like the content they get on their set-top box. It’s reliable and easy, much if it’s exclusive and there’s a whole lot of it bundled together.

And it’s that bundle that really matters, both in the world of pay TV and, believe it not, over-the-top.

In fact, it’s the bundle that’s responsible for Netflix’s success. What consumers get with a Netflix Watch Instantly subscription is a whole lotta perceived value by having access to tens of thousands of titles, all bundled together, for a low subscription fee. Hulu is built on a similar concept.

When I predicted last December that 2011 would be the year of the virtual video operator, what I was really talking about the bundle. In other words, 2011 is the year someone — Apple, Microsoft, Google or another company — finally brings a bundle of channels to over-the-top that looks, smells, and even tastes like a pay-TV subscription.

Judging by the news this week, the race to bring that bundled content over-the-top to the TV screen is on. Apple scored a big win, bringing perhaps the second most successful OTT paid service to the Apple TV in MLB.tv and NBA subscription services.

There was also talk this week of Microsoft’s renewed efforts to bring IPTV services to the Xbox, and also a possible new bundled content service platform. This follows up last year’s rumor that Microsoft had been in discussions with media companies to create a virtual service offering of video channels in a subscription package.

For both, it’s all about the bundle.

While economists have long touted the benefits of bundled goods and services and cited the Internet in particular as the perfect distribution channel for  bundled content, many cord cutters have pointed to the expensive bundled cost of pay TV as the reason for their cutting the cord.

But what both Apple and Microsoft understand is that the bundled-goods theory still applies in the world of over-the-top video, because an irrefutable law of consumer behavior dictates that they will gravitate towards perceived value. Sure, content-bundles in OTT may be narrower than the huge array of linear content channels providers in the world of pay TV (such as, say, a subscription to a season of live baseball games), and cheaper, but they are, in fact, still bundled content goods.

So don’t think OTT is going backwards as it begins to resemble, in some small ways, pay TV over the next few years. What’s happening is that the big-players want to push beyond early adopters, and they understand the content-bundle is the linchpin in making cord cutting a mass-market phenomenon.

Question of the week

How important are content bundles for OTT?

The Real Killer App For Apple TV Isn’t Sports — It’s Live

While the availability of sports will open up a whole new potential audience for the device, the more important addition is Apple TV’s ability to now stream live video, which could enable it to strike deals with content providers to stream linear TV channels.