This is Why You Can’t Watch the CrossFit Games Online for Free.

CrossFitCrossFit GamesMiscellany

The fun part about personal blogs is that you pretty much get to write about whatever the eff you like, so pardon me here while I go off on a mini rant as I watch the individual fields take on Murph at CrossFit Games, live on ESPN3.

Every year the comments section on every single social media platform fills with people whining that they can’t see the Games online via ESPN3 because you have to have a paid subscription to a cable provider.

FUN FACT: The term ‘streaming’ does not automatically equal ‘free’.

Yet, because Regionals are streamed free of charge via the Games site and YouTube, fans seem to get their nano laces in a knot over the fact that once the Games roll around, they need to pony up a username and password to view the content they desire.

Netflix isn’t free. Why? Because they pay for the rights to stream specific shows and movies via their online platform. Hulu isn’t free. Because they pay for the rights to stream specific shows and movies via their online platform. ESPN3 isn’t free. Why?

Say it with me, folks… because they pay for the rights to stream the CrossFit Games via their online platform.

While cord-cutting is becoming a more widespread trend in at-home media consumption, the fact of the matter is that the rights for content (and the production costs to go with it) come at a premium.

The fact that CrossFit is streaming ANY Games coverage in the US on Facebook live is a real treat for anyone who refuses to pay for cable.

When you cut the cord and opt not to pay for certain cable channels, you are opting to limit your own access to the content that those channels provide, all those Real Housewives and American Pickers and the Kardashians too.

It’s the nature of CrossFit’s having successfully grown a profitable, nationally-recognized event. Mens’ masters division made the SportsCenter Top 10 the other day. Lauren Fisher is all over the Nike store. CF is going mainstream, and the fact of the matter that ESPN has a huge subscriber base who will flip on the network just for ‘sports’.

ESPN is bringing eyeballs to the sport of fitness that wouldn’t otherwise cruise on over to YouTube to specifically watch a bunch of fit people pick things up and put them down for time.

If you’re hungry, you can eat off the McD’s dollar menu, or you can fork over a lot more than that for a lobster roll at a fancy restaurant.

Regionals coverage is primitive. Games coverage is NOT. I am very familiar with the technology that CrossFit is using to create these broadcasts (it’s up there with Monday Night Football), and let me tell you that IT’S NOT CHEAP. But, the product is worth the watch.

CrossFit spends a ton of money to create the content. Selling the rights to ESPN helps recoup those costs, and being on the ESPN platform provides a ton of national exposure that the Games otherwise wouldn’t have gotten.

For those who want to argue that the NFL, NBA, etc are free on the 3-letter networks like NBC, CBS and ABC… the ad revenue brought in by airing those events creates the income to cover rights fees and production costs. Said revenue on 3-letter networks is higher because they appeal to the most eyeballs across the nation because they are indeed free to watch.

It’s business. CrossFit is no longer a local comp in a garage in Aromas. CrossFit is big time, and big time means BUSINESS – in the most literal sense of the word.


  1. As a cable-cutter myself (intentionally now versus due to circumstances before), I completely agree with all of this. I don’t mind waiting for when the full streams do end up on YouTube because then I can easily skip ahead to the parts I want to see and in the meantime I can follow along via the internet and even catching some coverage on ESPN last night when we were out to dinner.

  2. This was my first year watching the games and I was super impressed with the coverage – from the website to FB to YouTube. I work shift work and worked all weekend, so I didn’t really miss anything by not watching live!

  3. I really like this post, it’s quite topical and covers from a perspective that I hadn’t really considered. However, as one of the contrarians who thinks the coverage was pretty crummy this year I’d love it if you’d consider and respond to my rebuttal.

    Crossfit is a little bit different from any other sport. The whole point of the open and one of its biggest selling points is that you compete along with the very best in the world. To do that you have to pay $20. Personally I think it’s bad form to sell the whole idea of “community this and togetherness that” and at the very end pull the rug out from under the people who paid to participate and not allow them to see the final coronation. Your point about tv contracts is great and extremely valid. It’s entirely possible that HQ never saw it getting this big and a long term restrictive contract with ESPN was their best bet at the time. However, to me it’s a bit like a dirt farmer dangling a carrot in front of a mule. I don’t pay the Texans $20 for the right to be a part of the team, if I did, I’d complain a lot more about not getting to see the game on Sundays.

    Secondly, one of CrossFit’s greatest strengths is their media, I cut my teeth and learned so much from the daily wod videos they posted back in 2010. Their strength and growth as a media company is one reason I was so disappointed with the games this year. Looking at the finances from the open and doing some rough math, $20 per person x 324k registrants = $6,480,000. That’s a lot of money any way you look at it. But especially when you consider that CrossFit’s only overhead is their horrendous leaderboard website. Just for the sake of argument, let’s just say that paying for employees, bandwidth, etc. eats away half of registration fees, leaving HQ with $10 per, that’s still $3.25M in the bank. They’re not paying the athletes a salary (unless they win) and they’re not paying the affiliates a percentage of profit. If HQ really cared they could have easily sunk a couple hundred thousand to find a way to get some better coverage of the first two day’s events rather than the horrendous Facebook Live they they scrapped together. I’m sure technology exists to buildout internet in remote areas if you’re willing to pay. But instead, we get HQ saying deal with it and be happy while Castro sprawls across his tricked out range rover and Gassman flies around in the company jet. Leaves a bad taste in my mouth personally.

    Overall, I really feel like HQ leverages the whole community idea to their benefit but then turns around and acts like a private business the rest of the time. Either treat it like a community and listen to what your members have to say or be a business and tell people to F-off if they don’t like it. You can’t ask someone to support you with the right hand and slap them with the left. That’s a big part of the reason this will was my last Open. Just my long winded $0.02 I’d be curious to see your take on it.

What Do You Think?