Android lacks quality apps for legally streaming sports

by Phil Owen

We live in a compelling day and age, certainly, thanks to everything our smartphones can do. Furthermore, cable TV, once seen as a necessary fixture in the home, is starting to fade as the streaming business takes off. Right now, there are two things on cable we can't live without: sports and HBO. And that's about it.

HBO, unlike our sports services, is smart. A subscription to HBO, on cable or satellite service, comes with complimentary use of HBO GO, the network's streaming platform, where you can find pretty much all of their original programming plus the movies in the current rotation. Last year, I watched all of the second season of Game of Thrones on my tablet while sitting on my porch at night. It was a precious weekly ritual.

Go-to sports streaming apps

ESPN does something similar with WatchESPN. If you have cable or satellite service with a select provider, you can have live access to all content that plays on the ESPN family of networks (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN Classic and regional ESPN-sponsored broadcasts like the SEC Network). If you've cut the cord, you can watch any of that content that starts outside of primetime (6pm to midnight on weekdays and noon to midnight on weekends) as well as online-exclusive ESPN3 content, of which there is a lot. WatchESPN is an incredibly handy service. Having it means when you want to watch more than one game at a time, as I always do during college football season, I can put one game on the TV, one on my iPad and one on my Galaxy Nexus. And if I have an extra TV, I can stream a fourth game through Xbox Live. ESPN on ABC events, however, are not available on WatchESPN.


Also on Android Apps

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CBS makes a pretty half-hearted attempt at keeping up. Through the CBS Sports Android app, you can stream live college sports events that are broadcast on CBS proper. The CBS Sports Network gets no love. When the NCAA basketball tournament comes around, though, the March Madness app allowed for streaming of every game. That's been a huge boon for many, as a lot of folks were at work during many of the games.

Finally, the standalone subscription service NHL GameCenter has an Android streaming app, and MLB.com at Bat offers games MLB.TV Premium for $19.99 per season.

Overabundance of sports riches

And that, my friends, is the extent of legal sports streaming on mobile devices. Yes, there are some Android apps that hook you into bootleg online feeds of pretty much anything that's on TV anywhere in the world. Considering the number of ads that pop up on these feeds, I imagine that broadcasting your own cable feed is a bit of a moneymaker. These feeds are typically pretty low resolution but also reliable, making them feel like a viable option when you're trying to figure out how you're going to watch all the football games that are starting at 3:30 EST on any given Saturday, or if you're watching at a bar that doesn't get the Pac-12 Network.

What I'm getting at is this: in our golden age of outstanding media, there's little reason for anybody who broadcasts live sporting events to not offer streams of those events, even if said streams would be tied into a cable subscription. The network heads might argue that these streams aren't super lucrative, but I'd bet they're more lucrative than the bootleg streams that pay nothing to the broadcasters. The fact is that there is just so much sports to watch on cable, thanks to four ESPNs, CBS Sports, 20+ Fox Sports regional networks along with Fox Sports Net and the newly announced Fox Sports One, budding college conference networks, pro league-specific networks, part-time sports dabblers like TNT, and so on.

There's so much of it, that it's more than one or two TVs can handle. We must be able to bring our phones and tablets into the mix so we can see all that we want to see. There are a lot of sports fanatics in this country, and the networks are not serving us as well as they should. They need to make us love them, but only ESPN is succeeding at that, at least in terms of live games (their afternoon programming leaves something to be desired).

I can watch every movie available digitally on my phone. I can watch the complete run of The Wire on my phone. I can play online games with my friends on my phone. I can buy anything that exists from my phone. But I can't legally watch any sporting event broadcast in the US on my phone. And that's embarrassing.


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