You can’t cut the cord on cable if you want to watch a hockey game that’s broadcast nationally on NBC Sports Network. I have the NHL’s online streaming package, but I can’t watch a ton of my team’s games unless I have cable because they’re on NBCSN or NHL Network nationally. I’m out-of-market and even then, paying for the streaming service is useless every time the team is on nat’l TV.
There’s the local blackout rule of course, too. If you’re in-market and you want to watch your local team, you need cable because the game is on your local RSN and you’ll be blacked out.
I’m sure the NHL would love the flexibility to say “hey, pay us X amount per year and we’ll stream you every game whenever and where ever you want.” I think that’s the future. But right now, the money comes from television networks — local RSNs to a certain extent, but mostly the big national networks.
I’d imagine the leagues (especially the ones with younger, more tech-savvy audiences like the NHL, NBA and MLS) want the flexibility to get rid of blackouts on their streaming services, but as it stands now the NBCs and ESPNs of the world are never going to pay billions for broadcast rights without some (or a lot of) exclusivity.