In all of our coverage about cord-cutting, we have mostly focused on how the public is in large swaths ditching cable for over the air and internet alternatives. Aside from that, we've also commented on stories where the networks are looking for new ways to measure viewership of their content given all the cord-cutting that has already occurred. The common theme, however, is that cord-cutting is not some fad and is a full on thing among the public.
And also, it turns out, among some relevant companies as well. I've made the point for a long time that professional sports are the last thread to which cable is clinging. Once the larger leagues out there realize that they can just stream games on their own "networks", cable is over. But perhaps it won't necessarily go at the league level. At least in the case of Major League Soccer, one team has decided to cut the cord themselves and go full streaming.
Soccer fans wanting to watch D.C. United this season will not find matches on WJLA 24/7 News, where they were shown for three years. The games won’t appear on NBC Sports Washington — the team’s platform for much of its first 20 seasons — or Mid-Atlantic Sports Network.
In fact, except for select nationally televised matches, viewers will not find Wayne Rooney and United on any standard cable or satellite channels.
That’s because, like millions of Americans, United is cutting the cord and enlisting a pay streaming service for video needs. The MLS franchise said it has signed a multiyear contract with subscription-based FloSports to carry 21 of 34 regular season matches. The remainder will appear on the league’s national TV platforms (Fox Sports, ESPN or UniMas).
So before everyone not into soccer gets into the comments to make the point that soccer isn't the most-watched sport in the United States, yes that's true. On the other hand, the DC United is not some mom and pop sports franchise. As far as soccer goes, DC United has a decent following, as evidenced by their TV contracts. For the team to, on its own, make the decision to go all streaming means it thinks its fanbase will be able to follow the team online just fine without needing a TV screen to do so. This determination is almost certainly correct, given the broader trend in cord-cutting.
“The decision was very much based on what our options were and what was going to be best for our fans to really connect with the team,” said Sam Porter, United’s senior vice president for business and legal affairs. “What FloSports is going to offer is more in-depth coverage and story lines around the team on a year-round basis.
“When you look at all the cord-cutting that is going on, it’s really not as radical as it would have been a couple of years ago.”
The cable companies out there can play pretend that this analysis isn't soon going to fit the views of the more major sports leagues out there if they want, but there is an inevitability here that is palpable. Many have predicted the swift demise of cable television for years and they have been wrong. But sports teams cutting the cord? That's a dark cloud on cable's horizon.