Although it’s in a few pay-TV places (I love it on Sling TV), Stadium concentrates on its OTA audience. “Our end goal is to be the most widely distributed and available sports network in America, far surpassing the 85 million in cable,” Stadium CEO Jason Coyle said.
Stadium is part-owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, perhaps the most enthusiastic driver of ATSC 3.0. When that version of broadcast TV displaces the current ATSC 1, it will multiply the possible digital sub-channels in each market. The bouquet of OTA programming could top 300 channels, making cable unnecessary. “Listen, obviously some of these channels are going to suck,” Ehrlich said. “But the point is that what’s available over the air could be extraordinary.”
I’ve written before about Stadium, which fills the most obvious gap in OTA TV programming. Here in Denver, it’s on a sub-channel with a tiny dribble of bandwidth that restricts it to 4:3 standard definition and poor quality game coverage. On the other hand, it looks great on Sling and on Stirr, the recent Sinclair over-the-top launch that I really need to write more about one of these days.
Some regional sports networks are for sale as part of Disney’s divestiture of some Fox assets, and Sinclair has been reported to be in the bidding war for them. If Sinclair lands some rights to major sports broadcasts, my hope is that they plug some of them into Stadium as part of a freemium business model – if you like a team’s occasional appearance over-the-air, you may be interested in seeing every game on that team’s full network. That also goes along with my belief that some of those 300 sub-channels won’t be free. Perhaps Yourtown Stadium Plus will be available OTA to anyone who wants to buy a subscription.
Whatever Stadium’s end game, it’s well worth enjoying now. I just hope that it gets enough bandwidth over the air wherever you see it.