By Yuri Serafini*

The idea of broadcasting sports on streaming services, in theory at least, extracts the maximum value from willing payers. Viewers subscribe for a season, or perhaps just make a one-time-payment for a pay-per-view event, and predictably enough, the streaming service proceeds to broadcast the event at the scheduled time. The transaction is simple, and the equation is linear.

But while this paradigm focuses on maximizing value extraction (directly collecting payments from willing viewers), something has been lost in the slow transition from broadcast television: the ecosystem of punditry, prediction-making, and general news and discussion around sporting events.

In the early days of streaming, many sports viewers found that many feeds did not even start up until a few minutes before the sports event was due to start. Over time, pre-game and post-game shows were added to the stream, but perception of the quality of these programs fluctuates widely (“Is it just me, or is [Streamer Name Redacted’s] package terrible?” asked a fan on the social media platform Reddit in a post from 2021 in a forum dedicated to sports). Some minor or less-followed sports events might still have very short pregame and postgame programs, or none at all.

It is entirely possible that the streamers have internalized the notion that pre-and-postgame shows are typically disappointing from a ratings perspective when compared to the numbers that sports events can garner (the Sports Business Journal, in an article from August 2021, cited numbers stating that pregame programs tend to garner about 30 percent of the viewers of the ensuing live event). But this ignores the fact that pre-and-postgame shows are typically very easy to produce, meaning their impact remains high relative to the resources they tie up. After all, they need little more than a studio, a few journalists to serve as pundits, and a presenter to keep things moving along.

For streamers hungry for content, regular programming featuring panels and interviews of decorated past and present athletes, colorful media personalities, highlights and analysis, is a cost-effective way of providing programming options that have seldom been explored by streamers.

What is most interesting is that those sports events for which streamers might not see the value in investing in pregame or postgame programs would often be those which would most benefit from them. A specific example would be football (soccer), where foreign leagues have long sought formulas to dig into the comparatively deep pockets of American viewers. While headlines are often focused on leagues like the German Brundesliga or the Italian Serie A garnering this-or-that streaming deal or package, headlines seldom focus on the sort of adjacent content which would be necessary to generate the sort of dramatic storylines and insights which drum up interest, or at the very least translate and transmit the storylines which are already established in local media to an American audience. (In the example above, both German and Italian television has sports news and punditry programs which can run for hours into the night, but no analogous programs in English.)

New York-based comedian Jay Jurden has a routine in which he proclaims, “Sports analysis is just gossip for boys!” While this quip might discount that there are countless women who can be interested in sports, the essence holds true: sports news and analysis is for many viewers speculative fun, and it makes watching sports events even more fun if a narrative has been constructed around it. The demand is there — there are countless sports analysis podcasts, YouTube Channels, and social media pages doing just that. Why there aren’t analogous streaming programs, where the resources of streamers could pull headlining names in journalism and punditry, is a mystery.

*Yuri Serafini is an economist specializing in sports

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