Love to stream sports? Be prepared to pay up or be disappointed.

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My love for watching professional cycling is becoming an expensive pain. And if you’re a fan of March Madness or any other sport, this angst is coming for you.

Last year I paid at most $10 a month to stream most of the cycling races I wanted, from the Tour de France to cyclists squishing through muddy goop in Belgium.

But to watch most of the significant cycling races this year, I need to subscribe to three streaming services at a cost that could reach $40 a month or far more. No way.

Welcome to the sports streaming age, where nearly every game, match or race is at your fingertips — but it’s going to cost you.

Streaming companies and sports leagues want to squeeze every dollar from fans eager to watch at home. So enjoy March Madness starting this week. Next year, you might need to pay around $50 a month to stream college basketball and other sports.

How watching sports became scattered and expensive

When nearly all Americans had cable TV, the dirty secret was that we all paid for sports — whether we watched games or not.

A big chunk of our monthly cable bills went to pay for networks like ESPN, TNT and Fox that aired football, basketball and baseball. Your cable bill helped make sports available on TV, and it made sports owners and TV companies very rich.

What’s changed is that fewer than half of American households now pay for cable. Companies that air or stream sports are chasing a smaller number of people who are willing to pay for cable or services like Google’s YouTube TV and Peacock that stream games.

You’ll probably need to hunt for your favorite sports across multiple TV and streaming services and pay higher bills than you’re used to — whether it’s for cable or streaming.

Naveen Sarma, a media and telecom specialist and managing director with S&P Global Ratings, said that sports fans helped create this mess.

We maybe didn’t notice that cable made it relatively affordable to watch pricey programming like sports. “Consumers have historically not realized how expensive content is,” Sarma said.

Would you pay $30 to $50 for your favorite sports?

My painful cycling math involves races scattered across three streaming services.

Peacock, which costs $5.99 a month with commercials and $11.99 without ads, streams some races like the Tour de France.

For the first time this year, Max — previously called HBO Max — is streaming a different set of races.

Max costs at least $9.99 a month, plus I would need Max’s add-on sports streaming service, called B/R Sports. It’s free for now but will soon cost $9.99 a month on top of a Max subscription.

Get familiar with B/R if you love sports. It also streams baseball, hockey and some games from the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

A third streaming service, FloSports, is the only spot in the United States to watch a still different collection of cycling races. It costs $150 if I commit for a year, or $29.99 to pay one month at a time.

The tab could reach nearly $40 a month or much more to watch most major cycling races. It wasn’t this expensive even a year ago.

(You can watch cycling for nothing from foreign streaming sites or pirated websites. I won’t do that.)

Be realistic about how much you pay for sports

If you think it’s cuckoo to pay $40 a month to watch cycling, consider the cost of your own sports habits.

To watch all National Football League games this past season, you might have needed CBS, Fox, NBC, ESPN, ABC, NFL Network, Amazon Prime Video, Peacock and maybe YouTube’s Sunday Ticket.

And soon, Disney’s ESPN, Fox and Max owner Warner Bros. Discovery are starting a new streaming service with the sports they air on TV — including some March Madness and NFL games and NASCAR races. The price? Maybe $50 a month.

If you love sports — really, any sport — you probably need to juggle multiple TV or streaming services and pay up.

I’m still better off than I was when American cycling fans could watch Tour de France highlights on TV and not much else. But I’m reluctantly cutting back.

I’ll subscribe just to Peacock even though I’ll miss some of my favorite races. I’m disappointed. And that’s a feeling all of us sports fans will have to get used to.

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