the summer, I saw a few articles that discussed the future of
cable and satellite television services. And just about all of
them saw the same shifting landscape… that between the attempts
at establishing subscription services, the potential for networks
to earn even more revenue from popular shows by combining syndication
with an on-demand library, and the viewing habits of consumers,
the future would likely see an unbundling of packages.
it won’t be easy… and it won’t be soon. Many groups are making
far too much money with the way things are currently organized.
But the reality is… technology moves on…
sports leagues have broadcast playoff games in places that are
not those classic, legendary, big three networks.
internet, smartphones, and all sorts of delivery methods and viewing
devices, are taking over from the set in the living room.
though… developing story… and the progress in so many areas does
not necessarily predict the immediate demise of another. Still…
ordering channels one-by-one and not from package listings. That
brings about an interesting question… what channels would you
pay to see?
more to the point… from that question to this essay… get ready
for ESPN to fight the change.
you pay for all of the stations you have available in one way
or another. Your monthly bill attests to that. It’s just that
your mind plays tricks with you when you see HBO, Showtime and
others treated as premium options. Your mind overlooks the monthly
movie or two or so that you ordered and paid something like five
bucks to see. These and other things are listed separately. Extra
charges. And it almost makes it look like you aren’t paying for
TBS, BBC America and whatever other stations are part of the service
plan you pay for to get television into your home.
my opinion, the network with the most at risk in this process
is ESPN. And I’ll sum it up in five words… I won’t pay for ESPN.
five more dangerous words? Many of you won’t either.
I love sports. Many of you love sports. We want to see them.
EPSN has changed over the years. It’s not about sports as much.
It’s about flash and screaming and jumping around to make sure
we’re looking in their direction. The best sports though? Live
games… coverage from reporters… and more? Seldom on ESPN.
favorite pet peeve is the sponsored “best of” segments that do
a better job of causing blinding headaches than they do of delivering
any moments that could really be called highlights (but I’m sure
do a fantastic job of raising money). The network… actually, networks,
since it’s a family of channels… is becoming virtually unwatchable
for the majority of the day.
that’s a shame.
remember watching Australian Rules Football matches when ESPN
first started. Those were awesome. I miss those.
we’ve got clueless reporters disagreeing with each other… and
disagreeing in ways that make no sense at all as arguments, but
quite often get the reporters criticized by others (and as such
they stay in the public eye, under the no press is bad press theory).
don’t want to get too far off topic here though… so let’s get
back to discussing ESPN and whether or not you’d pay for it as
a general concept, and not looking around for why or why not.
Again, I see trouble ahead for ESPN. And it could be big trouble.
Because I’d be willing to bet they have no desire to see their
channels placed on an a la carte menu, either individually or
as one big ESPN bundle.
probably wouldn’t surprise you to find out that ESPN is the most
costly of the “free” channels on your service. According to several
sources I researched, it’s believed that ESPN gets just over $6
per month right now for every subscriber receiving their broadcasts…
which means, since several ESPN channels are part of even the
most basic packages, they get just about $6 per month for every
house a provider sends signals into… and under current contracts,
that number will be over $8 each month by 2018.
wait… that doesn’t even begin to tell the entire story.
problem with the numbers I kept finding was that they didn’t reflect
whether these dollar signs are for just the flagship ESPN station,
or, how the differing ESPN channels are figured in. So maybe it’s
one or two dollars per station… and you may be aware that not
all providers offer the same packages of ESPN channels. Some offer
two or three… and some offer more… with all sorts of combinations
of ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN News, ESPN University, and more possible.
though, keep that $6 figure in mind… because that extends from
the idea that ESPN is usually a basic option. Sure… HBO may cost
about $15 each month depending on your provider and how many subscription
networks you add. (Save by bundling HBO and Starz!) But that $6
take by ESPN is, again, basically from every person ordering cable
and satellite packages. HBO comes only from a portion of those.
has just over twenty million people subscribing. (I saw those
figures in a couple of places, from data taken before the AT&T
merger.) HBO, on all platforms, is estimated to have about twenty-eight
million subscribers. In short… add Dish, Verizon, Comcast, Time
Warner, and so on… and ESPN is getting money from virtually every
subscriber, not just the ones that selected them… not just the
ones from DirecTV.
every place I looked, estimates for what ESPN might look to receive
all reached more than $30 per month.
keep in mind, all of your basic channels will see some crazy price
jumps. For the same reasons I watch ESPN now at times, but would
almost certainly pass if I needed to order it… channels like USA,
Bravo, Animal Planet, and so on would need to evaluate the new
dynamics and likely charge individuals more per month than they
makes sense. A few pennies from everyone add up. Means even more
pennies… or dollars… are necessary when being collected from fewer
thing is… ESPN does not get my attention for that many hours each
week. When I’m turning television on in the background, say for
some general noise while I’m writing or working, I’m much more
likely to look for reruns on TBS or a movie I’ve seen before that
is playing on HBO.
it gets worse for ESPN. Because even a show like Mike &
Mike is available over the radio or online feeds. So, depending
on how they adjust the delivery of their products (in short… they
theoretically could hide Mike & Mike as a free broadcast
and remove all places where “listen live” is a possibility), even
when not subscribing to the television broadcasts, for now I could
still find most of the few programs I do watch.
essence of the question becomes this… is Monday Night Football,
and the few live events they have exclusively on their network…
worth the money? And I say no.
won’t sit still for that reaction though. They want our money.
And so they’ll try to come up with some way on their own of packaging
together all of that quality content they have available in all
of their resources. You know… their archives of games, their brilliant
reporting, and so on. I’ll lose all of that if I don’t subscribe,
but I’ll get all of it by subscribing (and maybe even a football
phone and a special championship DVD of my favorite team… you
know, if people still wanted a football phone or purchased DVDs).
though. At least for me.
of the subscription necessary content has driven me away from
regular use of the ESPN web site over the past five years or so…
all of the sponsor themed content has driven me away from many
of their shows… all of the look-at-me-screaming has me rolling
other words… as a general statement of the overall problem… other
than my wanting to see Monday Night Football, there isn’t anything
else ESPN could add so I would subscribe to avoid losing Monday
Night Football. And with Sunday Night Football… Thursday Night
Football… and other networks broadcasting highlights and specials
and coverage, well, it’s not that big a loss today as it would
have been ten years ago.
for those at EPSN in charge of looking at the future, the scary
part is I’m thinking that I’m not alone.
~ ~ ~
freedom of choice options actually happen, the salvation for ESPN
is quite likely found in the power they have by being part of
Disney, and therefor associated with ABC. In other words, there
are some solid packages that could be developed. Let’s not shed
any tears… people making decisions involving hundreds of millions
of dollars do at least a little homework.
that doesn’t change the idea that awareness about what programming
they offer, creating the desire to see that programming, and offering
something worthy of the revenue they have managed to lock up is
still problematic for ESPN.
an open market… not a setting where providers are handing over
cash without a vote from subscribers… ESPN will suddenly be more
accountable for the quality of their programming as compared to
others. If someone is offering something better for free… or at
least for far less than $30-plus each month… the audiences will