One company thinks it's managed to take some of the hassle out of watching sports online.
Sports are weird. Image: USAG- Humphreys/Flickr
Watching sports online can be a real pain in the ass. Why? Because there's no central place to find exactly what you're looking for. It's not like tuning into your cable guide where it's all organized for you. It's fragmented; everything is in a different place.
Want to watch tomorrow's baseball game, you'll probably need MLB.TV. But for game six of the NBA Finals, you can watch free on the WatchESPN app with your cable provider's login credentials. You might be able to find the latest soccer match on FOX Soccer 2Go, or it could be on WatchESPN or the NBCSN app. It's hard to tell, because soccer has so many options for streaming and they vary based on broadcasting rights. And I won't even get into all the different ways to watch the NFL online.
So while last year, 37 percent of sports fans said they stream sports "often," and that number will only go up with new streaming options coming out on a seemingly daily basis, there's a hole waiting to be filled. Someone or something needs to come out that can help sports fans make sense of all the streaming madness.
The brainchild of Adam Shaw, who has held higher-up positions at both FOX and NFL Network, Sportle is an entertainment platform that seeks to simplify the sports streaming process.
For the sports fan, it's "entirely unclear what's being streamed and where to find it," CEO Adam Shaw told Motherboard. Then there's the whole "if you have access to it… and if not, how do you get it?"
How does Sportle help iron out the creases? You join up for free and then log in with your cable provider's credentials. This gives you access to streams from any of the channels your cable provider is partnered with.
"Most people don't even realize that Time Warner credentials (for example) can be used to log in all over the place," Shaw explained. These credentials can give you access to games streamed on WatchESPN, FOX Sports Go, and other apps depending on your cable plan.
From there, Sportle will ask you about your favorite sports and favorite teams to customize your experience. Once you're finished, you'll be greeted by a comprehensive guide of sporting events for the day, broken down by sport. It's similar to a traditional TV guide, except the channels are actually the sports categories. And there are thumbnails for each event.
Sports featured in the guide include the big ones like NFL, NBA, and MLB, along with countless smaller sports ranging from archery to volleyball. There's even a section for e-sports, which people are still trying to figure out how it fits into the overall sports landscape.
Don't have cable? No worries. Sportle works for cord cutters too. You can use your MLB.TV credentials, fuboTV login, and more (Shaw said they're in "very early discussions" with Sling TV). Even if you aren't subscribed to any of those streaming services, Shaw pointed out that at the time of our conversation, "in the next 48 hours, through Sportle there's a free game every day, a weekend golf tournament, and Argentine Premier soccer," all available live for free and legally.
Perhaps the coolest part of Sportle is the notifications feature, which you can set up to notify you when your favorite teams are playing. It's also useful for when something big is happening in the sports world. For example, say it's the end of the last quarter in game six of the NBA Finals, and the score is tied. Sportle can send you a notification letting you know that a big moment in sports is going down and oh, by the way, here's how you stream it through Sportle.
The alternative? You're reading about the game on Twitter, and you decide you want to watch the end. You scramble around trying to find it online. "By the time you figure out how to get to a game, you've already missed it." Chief Product Officer and co-founder Ali Tahmasbi told Motherboard.
While the Sportle team aims to simplify the online sports experience for fans, the goal for the platform is actually two-fold. Not only does Sportle "allow fans to find games," but it also "allows games to find fans." Shaw explained that "network rights are monetized by aggregating audiences." But with sports streaming being as fractured as it is, "networks are having a tough time."
So not only does Sportle benefit the sports fan, it also benefits the networks by increasing the number of people who find their digital product as they struggle to make the transition to live streaming. It's a win-win.