NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- With all the speculation about Google (GOOG) making a play for some flavor of National Football League broadcast rights, it probably makes sense to address a lofty piece, published by All Things D earlier this week, that fantasizes about Netflix (NFLX - Get Report) moving into live events.
But first, TheStreet's Chris Ciaccia is absolutely right: Apple (AAPL - Get Report) must be part of any NFL-related speculation. And, make no mistake, that's all we have here. The All Things D reporter has nothing solid. He screamed "fire" then qualified his lead several times. That said, it's only a matter of time before technology companies get more involved in live events, particularly sports.
Why wouldn't professional sports leagues look to big tech? There's no reason not to. Companies such as Apple have more money to blow than the big media establishment. While a deal with an Apple or Google doesn't necessarily broaden distribution, it certainly could enhance it.
However, the leagues will have to be sure not to burn bridges with partners such as DirecTV (DTV - Get Report). Though they haven't gone full-blown digital yet (Ciaccia's story provides examples of existing NFL/digital partnerships), the NFL has made more games available, outside of NFL Sunday Ticket, through outlets such as The NFL Network and the expansion of games beyond Sunday and Monday nights.So, again, it's just a matter of time before a non-traditional player meaningfully enters the picture. But the key is cash, which makes it funny to read through Ben Elowitz's OpEd, where the tech entrepreneur argues Netflix should get into live events. First, Elowitz didn't break any ground. Here's a January 2012 Seeking Alpha piece where I work in the Canadian sports media landscape to highlight the importance of premium content. So, yes, Elowitz is correct. Netflix absolutely must diversify itself to stay relevant. That's what original programming is all about after all. However, Elowitz dismisses Netflix's precarious cash situation when he makes horribly misguided statements such as:
With TV network ratings shrinking these days, at what point does Netflix surpass NBC in viewership and become a credible bidder for streaming rights to the Olympics? NBC has those rights locked down through 2020, but if the audience continues to shift online, we could be just two more Summer Olympics away from the first completely cordless Games.I won't even get into the context-less statement about "shrinking" ratings. More to the point, the idea that Netflix will ever be able to afford the Olympics -- if the company continues on its present trajectory -- is absurd. We're talking billions of dollars for a company that has had to raise cash twice in the last two years and likely will end up going to market again.