A TV antenna for sports?

The cord-cutter’s dream scenario would be getting every program for free. Every sporting event, every one of the top 10 rated broadcast programs, every news show, every comedy. The truth is that you’re far closer to that than you realize — over 90% of people can get every single top-rated show just by putting up an antenna. Connect it to your TV and you’ll get the highest quality and the best sound, and you’ll never pay another dime.

But what about sports? What if you’re a sports nut?

That’s where it gets challenging. More and more teams are making lucrative deals with cable channels that mean you won’t see those games without a subscription. Streaming packages for sports are in sort of a transitional phase. On the one hand you have major league baseball, which has a rich streaming package that gives you hundreds of games but still has rigid blackouts. On the other hand you have NFL Sunday Ticket, which has been exclusive to DIRECTV for most of its lifetime. In the middle you have apps from the other sports which give some streaming capabilities without a cable or satellite subscription but nothing like “every game, every week.”

The good news for cordcutters is that last year DIRECTV opened up NFL Sunday Ticket to many college students as well as millions of people who live in apartments not served by satellite television. It’s too early to tell, but there’s every indication that you’ll see a standalone NFL Sunday Ticket service sometime in the future. We just don’t know when. In the meantime, every league is looking at the success of MLB.TV and trying to create a similar model.

It isn’t the technology that’s holding things back, it’s usually a complicated series of contracts that prevent streaming or direct payments to the leagues. It’s an incredible mess that will take years to sort out.

In the meantime… what can be done for someone who just wants to put up an antenna and do nothing else? It really depends on the market. Some markets still broadcast college and major league sports over the air, and CBS broadcasts the majority of local games to local TV affiliates. It may take some detective work, but you may find that your favorite team is available with nothing more than an antenna on a non-network channel. Certainly it’s worth spending a little time learning about the state of sports in your city or town before plopping down thousands of dollars for cable TV when you don’t really want or need it.

So, the bottom line is that the sports landscape is still a bit confusing when you’re trying to go antenna-only. On the other hand, you’ll save so much money by going antenna only — as much as $1,200 per year — that you could actually afford to go to see the games live. What a treat that would be!