AP file

Steve Ballmer & the Clippers want to be on the cutting edge of digital-only streaming sports coverage.

By Kevin Zavitz
June 20, 2016

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It wouldn’t be a surprise if Steve Ballmer, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, is one of the many Americans “cutting the cord” on regular TV and embracing the online streaming lifestyle.

Last year, the New York Post reported that Ballmer turned down a $60 million-a-year offer for local TV rights in hopes to start his own over-the-top (OTT) streaming service for Clippers’ broadcasts. If this had come to light, all Clippers games would be digitally streamed, rather than airing to 5 million Los Angeles-area homes through Fox Sports’s Prime Ticket regional sports network.

The team’s existing deal with Fox Sports Prime Ticket, worth about $25 million, expired at the end of the 2015–16 season.

Ballmer, willing to take what the New York Post called an “enormous risk” on OTT, is no stranger to technology. After working at Microsoft for 20 years, Ballmer served as the company’s CEO from 2000 to 2014.

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In April, Ballmer ultimately settled on a more feasible financial decision regarding the Clippers’ TV rights. Ballmer explained that he “would hold back most of the traditional digital rights in the next media deal so the [Clippers] can launch an OTT service to supplement games.” These rights “will not include live games but will allow for other in-game programming, such as player-specific cameras, in-game highlights and real-time statistics—though no content has been determined.”

Utilizing a company called Second Spectrum, the Clippers’ OTT service will provide the usual player stats created during a game, in addition to more advanced ones such as players’ speed and their shooting percentage in specific scenarios.

The Clippers will likely renew their pact with Fox Sports Prime Ticket while “launching their enhanced OTT service on an authenticated basis, meaning it will be available to cable and satellite viewers,” according to the SportsBusiness Journal.

In the wake of traditional TV and movies, it can’t be too far in the future before we see sports becoming a streaming-exclusive model like Ballmer envisions.

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