MSG SportsZone Joins Free Streaming Service Plex; Could This Be a Way to Drive Subs to RSNs?
Recently, and unceremoniously, free streaming service Plex added a new channel that may be the harbinger for the future of regional sports networks (RSNs).
During its investor call following its quarterly earnings report on Thursday, MSG Networks mentioned that it had brought its MSG Sportsnet channel to Plex. the free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) channel brings scripted and studio content from MSG’s regional sports network (RSN) to the service. The channel covers New York-area sports teams including the New York Knicks, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, and New Jersey Devils. While you won’t see any live games on MSG SportsZone, the move allows MSG to bring hard-to-stream regional content to a national audience, and the power of New York sports can only help Plex.
“In addition, we recently launched nationally MSG SportsZone, a new free ad-supported streaming TV channel, which features a mix of original programming from our content library,” MSG Networks CEO and president Andrea Greenberg said. “SportsZone is currently available on Plex, with other distributors expected to launch shortly. The introduction of this FAST channel provides us incremental opportunities to monetize our current and archived non-game content and increases the exposure for our original sports, gaming, and other programming to a new national audience.”
This is not the only venture into the streaming world for MSG. On the same earnings call, Greenberg announced that the company’s long-in-development direct-to-consumer (DTC) service has once again pushed its launch date. It is now slated to become available to viewers over the summer in order to ramp up to the forthcoming NBA and NHL seasons.
This begs the question — could this be the future of RSNs?
Regional sports networks were once the biggest money-makers in television, as networks and teams alike were able to secure massive financial backing due to high consumer demand. As those very same consumers have started to cut the cord and embrace streaming services, these once-powerful networks find themselves at the mercy of providers who may no longer be interested in shelling out big bucks to carry a middling network — nor are viewers willing to pay extra just to watch their teams.
Such is the case with Diamond Sports Group, a subsidiary of Sinclair Broadcasting Group, which owns 19 Bally Sports-branded RSNs across the country and is in danger of going bankrupt due to low cable subscriber numbers and mounting debt. The company launched a direct-to-consumer streaming service in September 2022, but DSG has already started to think about different ways to monetize sports, including streaming singular games through a specialized app, but perhaps FAST could be the future instead.
As more and more people cut the cord, cable revenues invariably decline for all channels, but it hits more dramatically hits RSNs than most, because of the inherently high cost of acquiring the rights to live sports broadcasts. However, one way to further monetize their offerings would be for RSNs to make their ancillary programming around those expensive games available for free to a wider audience. Then, not only could they increase their advertising revenue via the FAST channel, but they could also use the free content as a way to encourage people to sign up either for their own DTC service, or to opt for the channels in their cable or live TV streaming packages.
While MSG is still moving forward with the launch of MSG+ later this year, that hasn’t stopped the company from branching out to Plex. Instead, the company launched MSG SportsZone on the platform that has just over 16 million monthly users, and very well could add more destinations in the future. As Plex and other FAST services continue to grow, it may force sports leagues, their teams, and broadcasters to consider expanding their vision of what streaming content looks like. MSG SportsZone is available now on Plex.
Plex is a free streaming service that includes on-demand access to 50,000+ movies and TV shows. The service also offers 300+ free-to-stream live TV channels in 193 countries. Users can also connect Plex to their computers to stream and share any media they have on their hard drives.
The service also offers a universal watchlist - simply add the streaming services you subscribe to and Plex becomes an automatic launch portal for any show or movie. This saves you the trouble of looking up what is streaming where.
Plex offers a subscription tier that offers even more features for people who want more functionality, but it packs a powerful punch even in its free version.
The service offers 11 live local news channels, including outlets in Detroit, Atlanta, Memphis, Jacksonville, Tulsa, Boston, and Seattle.
Plex even offers a Plex Arcade option where you can play dozens of Atari classics plus your own collection of game ROMs and emulators on your favorite devices.
This is an incredibly flexible platform that’s perfect for fans of any media.