Mickey’s big score

You may have heard that Disney is buying part of the Fox empire for a major chunk o’ change.  What’s the game plan with that?  Welp, sure sounds like sports to me.

But buried within the release is the announcement that Disney will be acquiring Fox Sports Regional Networks, a collection of cable channels that are broadcast to local subscribers across the country. (Fox Sports, the FS1 and FS2 networks and the Big Ten Network will remain with Fox.) Assuming the deal passes federal antitrust muster, this portion of the pact could have a seismic impact on Disney-owned ESPN, rearranging a business model that until recently was thought to be the cause of the network’s well-documented financial problems.

For starters, ESPN will be acquiring a massive amount of new content, as Fox Sports’ 22 regional sports networks (RSNs from here on out) control the local cable rights to the following professional teams:

NBA (17): Suns, Hornets, Pistons, Magic, Pacers, Pelicans, Timberwolves, Cavaliers, Thunder, Hawks, Grizzlies, Mavericks, Spurs, Heat, Clippers, Bucks, Nets.

MLB (15): Diamondbacks, Tigers, Rays, Royals, Cardinals, Twins, Reds, Padres, Braves, Rangers, Marlins, Angels, Brewers, Indians, Yankees.

NHL (12): Coyotes, Hurricanes, Red Wings, Panthers, Blues, Wild, Blue Jackets, Predators, Stars, Lightning, Kings, Ducks.

That doesn’t even include college football and basketball, plus Major League Soccer and the WNBA…

ESPN will certainly slap its name on all of those networks, but this goes far beyond mere branding. Cable companies can charge customers top dollar for the right to have RSNs in their cable lineup, with monthly costs that approach the more than $9 ESPN gets monthly from each customer who has ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and the SEC Network in their package. The price is so high because cable subscribers view RSNs as essential: According to a 2016 Neilsen survey of 1,500 pay-TV subscribers, the local RSN ranked as the fifth-most-important cable channel in their lineups, ahead of any other cable channel (including ESPN). In some markets such as St. Louis and Detroit — both of which are served by Fox Sports RSNs — the local RSN ranked higher in importance to cable customers than broadcast networks such as NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox.

ESPN’s financial woes have stemmed from cord-cutting cable customers who have balked at the high prices cable companies are charging, with the network losing more than 13 million subscribers from its peak of 100.13 million households in 2011. Those losses, combined with steadily escalating rising sports-rights fees, led the network to lay off around 550 employees over the past two years, with the most recent round of job cuts coming late last month.

But customers might think twice about dropping their cable packages if it meant losing access to games played by their local teams. Those games — and the money cable customers pay to watch them — will now be under the ESPN domain.  [Emphasis added.]

Complain about the political leanings of their faces, or cord-cutting, or whatever else suits you, but there is still one essential truth underlying everything:  content is king.  The manner in which we receive our sports will always be secondary to the subject of the broadcast itself.   All ESPN is really fighting about is the access fee.  That’s the bet the WWL is making.  The more it holds, the stronger its leverage.


Filed under ESPN Is The Devil

16 responses to “Mickey’s big score

  1. 79DawgatWork

    My bet is that ESPN will bundle its current channels with the Fox RSNs into its own “super sports tier” that it will charge primo dinero for – it is essentially wagering that enough sports fans will pay $30-40 per month for this bundle than non-sports fans (who currently pay, say $10 per month) who cut-the-cord on this bundle.
    It will either be a huge homerun (if, indeed, there are enough sports fans willing to pay through the nose) or a complete whiff (if the price and demand curves cross below their break-even point)…


  2. paul

    Funny how the customer is saying that regional and local programming is very important to them. Yet the regional nature of the current four team playoff is seen as a liability. Indeed, the conference realignments and TV deals that have proliferated in recent years appear to be designed to destroy the regional appeal of the sport.


  3. Russ

    Pro sports? Bah!

    What this really means is the X-Men can now team up with the Avengers! (Oh, and Mickey can now be on The Simpsons.)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Stoopnagle

    This really only impacts my Atlanta United viewing experience. If I can still stream AUFC, I’m good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Faulkner

      My concern as well. It was nice to be able to catch most games on TV this year. If they mess with that, I’ll cut them off and go to the new soccer pub in Brookhaven that just opened up. I only need ESPN for college football.


  5. This means we’re either about to be finally rid of Skip Bayless and Colin Cowherd for good or we’re about to never be rid of Skip Bayless and Colin Cowherd. Here’s hoping the former.


  6. ApalachDawg

    Nothing compares to the impact of the global game of soccer. It laughs at all the major American sports combined as far as revenue for eyeballs.
    Just watched the BBC news report on this in London


  7. SCDawg

    So is the net neutrality decision going to change things with cord cutters? Right now I can watch lots of stuff fast via the Internet. And cheap. Will I have to pay lots more per MB to cover their losses for cable? Will my provider slow down Sling and speed up Netflix? If so will that send folks back to cable?


  8. WarD Eagle

    Just one more tick on the tally of reasons to do something else on Saturdays.


  9. noseanmorono

    I hope they retain the commentators from Fox. Whenever I watch their football telecasts, it’s a nice departure from the standard voices and dribble from ESPN. They have an odd, earthy and worn tone to them, and it pleases me in the same odd way that the smell of tobacco and mahogany did whenever I would walk through my great grandparent’s home in Shiloh. Single lightbulb house, warmed and lit mostly by the rays of sunshine that God shone down on homestead and pie the oven where mema would bake rhubarb pies or cracklin corn bread.

    We would play in the back yard sometimes, which was really nine acres of forgotten farmland and brokedown machinery, and we’d plink pecans and old baby food bottles with a lever action .22 Marlin. It was simpler then, until Skip showed up one day and started running his mouth about the Bulldogs and the Crimson Tide and the entitlement of the SEC.

    “You’d best to shut yer mouth, Skip! Don’t nobody talk badly about the SEC, and I ain’t gonna stand for it.”

    Skip took an umbrage to me and cracked me on my jaw with a swift little hook. The salty warmth of blood not unlike the taste of chewing on iron seeped through my teeth, and I dropped the Marlin so that I could return the courtesy with a kick to the nethers.

    He dropped like a Hereford that had just got the nail between the eyes back when pawpaw used to keep cattle on the farm, and he grimaced as he dug deep to make the horrible mixture of nausea and needing to express your bowels from overtaking his world. It was of little use, though, I’d drilled him good and deep, and he wasn’t gonna be getting up for too long.

    “Go back to yer stupid Jim Rome show! And Stephen Smith has credibility where you ain’t got it!”

    He remained there, groaning and coughing deep and trying to retort just as the rising wash of vomit rushed to the point of no return. I heard him retch as I turned, and continued along the way, cranking the lever down and up, and plucked another pecan in a way that only the Marlin could allow.

    In the distance I could hear mema calling us back for supper. Skip lie there a while, but never came to supper and never came back to the farm, best as I know. I remained, there in the grove of pecan trees that made the boundary of the north end of the property, as tangerine rays ran through the interstitial network of green and open air of the pecan leaves. In the stillness of the afternoon a patch of leaves rustled, squirrels chasing and leaping in their own high-wire act of being. We were all where we were, as God placed us and should be in the grand scheme of things, and in that peace I turned to get some pie, the only worry in my head being whether there’d be ice cream melting off the top when I got there.


  10. Damn phone! Either way that’s some purty words.