Today, in broadcasting

You may have heard ESPN has breathlessly released The Next Big Thing.

ESPN+ is the most aggressive step to date by ESPN to recapture the consumers that are dropping its channels along with the rest of their pay TV subscriptions.
For $4.99 a month, the new service will give users the kind of all-you-can-watch buffet they have enjoyed on Netflix and other streaming video platforms, but with live sporting events.

Pitaro previewed ESPN+ last week at the ESPN Technology Center, where visitors are greeted by a message on the wall that reads “Where Innovation Takes The Field.” The streaming service, a top priority at the facility over the last eight months, is kicking off what Pitaro called an “era of innovation” at the company.

ESPN+ subscribers will have on-demand access to thousands of live events, including Major League Baseball, NHL hockey, collegiate sports, Major League Soccer, boxing, PGA golf, Grand Slam tennis events and even cricket. It will also offer the entire library of ESPN’s critically acclaimed “30 for 30” sports documentaries and new exclusive original programming that includes a weekly basketball analysis show hosted by retired Los Angeles Laker great Kobe Bryant.

The programs and live events will have commercials…

Such a deal.  It’s really a balancing act for Mickey.

Pitaro, who became president of ESPN last month after the sudden resignation of John Skipper, is careful to emphasize that the new service is not a replacement for the cable and satellite subscriptions that still bring in about $8 billion annually.

“We are really doing this as a service that is complementary and additive and not competitive with the pay TV business,” he said. “What you see on linear [TV] will not make its way on the subscription service. And what’s on the subscription service will not be on television.”

Therein lies the balancing act that Pitaro has to perform with ESPN+. He needs to push ESPN further into the digital TV future while preserving the traditional cable and satellite model that continues to make a substantial profit, even though it eroded.

Good luck with that, fella, because it really seems like all the big monetization is coming up front.

The first result of the marriage of a tech startup and legacy content provider is a newly updated ESPN app and the ESPN+ subscription option, which arrived nearly two years after it was originally announced. Disney hopes that consumers will pay $4.99 a month, or $50 for a year, to access a long list of games and other content to which it has the rights but is not showing on the channels for which cable subscribers pay roughly $8 or $9 a month through their cable bills.

Many of those games were already available, however, as part of a digital channel known as ESPN3 that will live on, according to the company. ESPN has long had an app, called WatchESPN, that offered live streams of all of its channels as well as many ESPN3 games it was not airing on its TV stations. ESPN+ bundles many of those streams it offered to subscribers in WatchESPN with other previously free services and some niche sports and original programming for a fee, and offers that service in the same app as streaming versions of ESPN channels available only to cable subscribers.

”Those subscribers are already paying more than $100 a year for ESPN content,” BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield said in a telephone interview. “Now, they’re being asked to pay another $60 a year for the least compelling parts of that content.”

To reiterate, such a deal.

Meanwhile, Jim Delany’s gig running a broadcast network took a hit.

Unfortunately for Big Jim, Comcast doesn’t roll over like the Sun Belt Conference.

Comcast will drop the Big Ten Network from its cable television system in states where there are no teams in the conference.

The Big Ten Network will remain available on Comcast Xfinity in Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Virginia and Washington, D.C. Comcast is not available in Nebraska and Iowa.

Note that New York is missing there — the raison d’etre for adding a pathetic Rutgers athletic program to the conference in the first place.  Nice how that’s working out.  It’s also nice to see that the Big Ten apparently couldn’t care less about making sure folks in Nebraska and Iowa who are Comcast subscribers can get Comcast to watch their teams.  Jim probably thinks if those folks want it badly enough, they can just move to New Jersey.



Filed under Big Ten Football, ESPN Is The Devil

28 responses to “Today, in broadcasting

  1. Biggen

    I just went back to Comcast X1 cable after a year using PS Vue. It’s like a breath of fresh air compared to streaming services. Shit just works again. No buffering, pauses, wife complaining she can’t DVR or watch On Demand “X” show because it isn’t availed on PS Vue, no having to restart the FireTVs occasionally, no having to worry about Comcast’s 1TB data cap, etc…

    With that said, I’ll be damned if I pay for ESPN twice. Surely these games that won’t be offered on the traditional ESPN channels must be obscure sports right? Like curling or cricket??


    • I don’t know. It sounds like the old ESPN3 stuff is being rolled into the $5 pay service. The Dawgs vs. Little Sisters of the Poor games could end up there. I can’t remember the last time, but I do remember watching Georgia on ESPN3.


      • Russ

        I’m thinking (hoping) that my cable login will still get me ESPN3 like it does now. It sounds like the $5/month deal is ESPN3 for people without cable.


      • Football games will be on the SEC Network at a minimum. Even the Samford game was available on the SEC alternate channel this year … probably Austin Peay will be similar. Therefore, for all the bellyaching about that game, I imagine it’s going to be a late afternoon/early evening kick.


    • Junkyardawg41

      Dodgeball on the Ocho

      Liked by 1 person

  2. 81Dog

    Did I read something incorrectly? “Comcast is nor available in Nebraska and Iowa.” That would mean Comcast isn’t denying their subscribers in those states BTN access, since they don’t have service there, right?


    • I think you’re right. Thanks for the catch.


    • Dawg1

      But Comcast IS denying those fine folks overpriced cable, poor customer relations, even poorer “service” and generally in your face, we don’t give a shit about our customers, company.


      • Russ

        Meh, all cable companies suck. I’ve tried them all (Uverse, Time Warner, Comcast) at least once, sometimes twice. Comcast sucks the same as the rest, but their speed is the fastest by far. None of it cheap, though.


  3. Normaltown Mike

    This is part of a big move by Disney into streaming.

    The reason Netflix is scrambling to throw original content up (much of it bad) is b/c eventually the big dogs will pull content or price it so high Netflix won’t want to pay.

    In the long run, Netflix will likely get buried as a few major studio/distribution companies start selling streaming services and they are able to put better content on them.


    • JCDAWG83

      I don’t know, the stuff on the networks and coming out of the major studio/distribution companies is pretty well unwatchable now.


      • Russ

        Agreed. The only regularly scheduled programs we watch anymore are either Netflix or HBO. We watch very few shows on the traditional networks, mainly just live (sporting) events.


    • I would take the Netflix originals over what traditional broadcast/cable has to offer nine times out of ten. There are several excellent original programs from Netflix like Stranger Things, Ozark, Mindhunter, House of Cards, Narcos, Orange is the New Black, Black Mirror, etc. There are only two currently running shows on traditional broadcast/cable networks I even bother watching: The Blacklist and Elementary. I watch those because of James Spader and Jonny Lee Miller who I find to be fantastically underrated actors. (I would be open to suggestions on shows I have overlooked.)

      When streaming becomes the primary way people consume content, Netflix will not be the one buried. As you say, they foresaw the changes in the market, invested heavily in original content, and themselves became one of the few major studio/distribution companies to withstand the coming doom of traditional television distribution.


  4. junkyardawg41

    I think ESPN is doing everything it can to increase revenue before it is forced to make serious cuts. There was an interesting article I read this week. tl;dr Mike Greenberg’s new show pays him, Michele Beadle, and Jalen Rose $14.5M while at the same time taking down the most successful ESPN show, Mike and Mike. Misteps like this that is forcing ESPN to do whatever it can to try and squeeze revenue. I think we all saw/heard (NASCAR Style) last year what the squeeze on falling revenues did when they brought in Tubberville to do some announcing…. Mickey might have a few problems going forward…


    • Who is the audience for that show? Women? Greeny, bless his heart, was the worst part of Mike and Mike. I liked the personalities of the engineers and studio crew better. They give him his own show, put it opposite Golic and Wingo (who they demoted to ESPNNews!), and add Jalen Rose (who I don’t dislike, but don’t find compelling either) and Michele Beadle, who was okay on afternoon ESPN2 talking head shows, but certainly not a must-watch, program headliner.

      I had no idea they were paying such an exorbitant amount of money to put up a show that will be off the air within the year, but after following ESPN’s missteps for the last several years am not surprised in the least.

      Disney has done very poorly adapting to the changing media landscape, with ESPN being the worst example.


      • atlasshrugged55

        Not just who watches, but why would anyone watch anything other than a sporting event? ESPN is the reason I became a cable cutter & it’s awesome not having the misfortune of stumbling upon that mess.

        We have a Roku for the limited tv we do watch & find plenty on Netflix, Amazon Prime & the NHL network. Yes, there’s a reasonable price to pay for each, but it’s far less than what we paid for Direct TV. We rarely, if ever, have the buffering issues mentioned above & can stop & start shows at our leisure.

        I don’t see our house ever re-attaching to the cable. I can watch most sports I want on ESPN3 via the skycam view. This is a much better viewing experience since it doesn’t have announcers. No cries of a NASCAR offense or other mindless blather.


        • Normaltown Mike

          I’m cable free too, have Roku, Netflix & prime, but want to find a way to watch college football.

          How do you watch CBS games and is this ESPN3 skycam free?


          • atlasshrugged55

            We have a HD antenna in our attic that picks up the signal for the local channels (ABC, FOX, NBC & CBS Atlanta affiliates) plus quite a few more options – game show channel, a western channel, numerous shopping & religious channels. You can watch all your 1970’s favorites.

            ESPN3 is free for us since we have Comcast as our internet provider.

            You can always look into skinning the cat a different way too. DirecTV Now & YouTube TV are new streaming channels that allow you to go month-to-month & have the major networks plus several of the ESPN channels. The basic package is very reasonable at $35/mo.


            • I’ve been using PlaystationVue for awhile now. Since I use Amazon sticks, I’m out of luck with YouTubeTV, but am considering DirecTV Now and Hulu if the prices are right.


  5. I believe the collegiate sports that are being included right now only consist of conferences like the CUSA. I know they had a press release announcing it, but I can’t remember what other conferences are included. Suffice to say, no Power 5’s are included right now because of their other multi-media deals.

    Andy Staples has long said that ESPN will become the Netflix of sports, but this seems like a half assed effort. A positive is they’re using the same technology that worked for so they’re investing pretty heavily in it.

    I think it spells out how difficult it is to fully make that transition when you have such big contracts with cable companies to deliver content. They can’t just make everything a la carte until those contracts wind down. What we end up with is a watered down sports Netflix while all the good stuff is still on the traditional cable model.


    • junkyardawg41

      What will be interesting to see is as these deals wind down is to see how ESPN and the cable/satellite providers play it. I think what might happen is the pricing of ESPN per subscription jumps significantly. I would think if the subscription price jumped to say $30 a month the cable/satellite folks may try and absorb those costs rather than passing them on to the consumer to try and create value against the cord cutters. No idea if it will just something to keep an eye on.


  6. Thorn Dawg

    ESPN still doesn’t get (or won’t admit) why people aren’t watching. Not only that, it seems like they are doubling down on their stupidity and bias.


    • atlasshrugged55

      Agreed, those in charge are driving them towards the edge of the cliff. They’ve taken the emphasis from the sports they cover & put it on their on-air personalities. Plus everything is scripted towards an agenda starting w/ the desire to guide each sport’s selection process to enhance their ratings.


      • DoubleDawg1318

        Everyone has moved to on-air personalities because they aren’t selling access to the news and highlights anymore. Now they have to sell compelling stories which opens the door wide for star personalities and opinions. SportsCenter used to be must watch morning television because that’s how i saw the highlights from the previous day. Now I just open an app. I wouldn’t even dream of watching a full hour of SportsCenter because I don’t need to. The only reason the average viewer will tune in to something other than live sports is to listen to their favorite talking head. That’s why ESPN is investing so heavily in personality driven shows. It isn’t driven by a nefarious agenda. It’s driven by the need for eyeballs. Unfortunately for them, they are stuck between the demands of viewers and the changing cultural landscape within sports.


  7. I seriously do not understand what is happening and/or changing in this new (or rebranded) service. I am a cable subscriber and, therefore, I have a WatchESPN login. Is this a stand-alone way to watch anything ESPN provides ? Pretty sure this is deliberately ambiguous. Is this an avenue for me to move closer to dropping my cable package or, as somebody else mentioned, an avenue for them to move the Austin Peay game over to pay-per-view while still getting my traditional cable subscription ?

    WTF is happening ?


  8. considering how awful streaming the Semi-final game was on the ESPN Apple TV app, I sure as hell hope ESPN figured out how to handle the load of users trying to access. it.


  9. CB

    My only question is are they bringing back the World’s Strongest Man marathons? Need to see if Phil Pfister can bring home the title again.


  10. MLB2

    Excellent post, Bluto.