Category Archives: ESPN Is The Devil

Unbundling and the limits of ESPN

Here are a couple of questions for you.  Let’s say this becomes a real thing in the near future:

One industry source I spoke to believes ESPN would have to charge sports fans at least $30 a month for an a la carte version of the networks to offset lost cable subscriber fees and advertising. MoffettNathanson Research believes Disney would have to charge $36.30 a month for ESPN to achieve the same level of reach it enjoys today.

At this point, we’ve reached a similar structure to European television. Channels such as Sky Sports, which carries popular properties like the English Premiere League, are not part of the basic service and run at $40 a month for the family of networks. Sky Sports even offers “day passes” for roughly $15. While hardcore American sports fans can justify similar prices here in the States, casual fans will balk and just catch the big event games on over-the-air networks.

Would you subscribe and pay $40 a month for the privilege of watching ESPN?

Me?  I probably would, if I could just subscribe for football season.  The rest of the year would be a waste of money.  I kind of doubt that’s the customer base ESPN’s looking for, though.

But if I’m typical, what happens to college athletics’ current business model when the broadcast revenue stream takes a significant hit from Mickey’s wallet shrinkage?  With regard to Ovies’ last point, keep in mind that there is very little college football shown on an over-the-air basis now, so chasing the casual fans in bulk, which is implicit in building up a national playoff, is not as easy as it sounds anymore.

Eh, it’s probably no big deal.  Delany, Sankey and Scott are on the mother, right?

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“But all good things must come to an end.”

I don’t think Spurdog is gonna be real thrilled with the latest ESPN narrative.

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Filed under 'Cock Envy, ESPN Is The Devil

Your cable dollars at work.

Just shoot meNow.

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Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, PAWWWLLL!!!

ESPN College Football Final, I don’t know you anymore.

Well, things are certainly looking up.

Whatever the WWL comes up with as a replacement, it can’t be any worse than the Holtz-May clown show was.

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Bowling for dollars

College football is adding three new bowl games this season.  Now, I’m not complaining – when it comes down to it, college football is like beer; you can never have too much on hand – but I’m detecting a note of quasi-shame from the decision makers about it.

“I’ve quit worrying about numbers,” said Wright Waters, the Football Bowl Association’s executive director. But he and others in the bowl industry are aware they’re nearing a saturation point.

“There’s got to be one,” Waters told USA TODAY Sports, “but I don’t know where it is. Every time I meet a mathematician, I ask him to solve this problem for me. They all look at me and laugh.”

The math guys may laugh, but you know who isn’t laughing?  The bean counters at ESPN.

Disney’s cable networks reported 9% lower operating income to $1.8 billion. The decrease was caused by higher programming and production costs at ESPN, which had higher rights fees for the college football playoffs, an added NFL playoff game and the newly launched SEC network. Cable revenues were up 11% to $4 billion.

Add three new bowl games, and you offset the hit to the bottom line a little bit.  And every little bit helps.

“At some point this is gonna be a self-limiting thing,” American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco told USA TODAY SPORTS. “It wouldn’t be responsible to have bowls beyond that certain point – but I don’t know where that point is.”

Brother, that’s something you need not worry about.  If that day ever comes, Mickey will let you know, for sure.

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Filed under College Football, ESPN Is The Devil, It's Just Bidness

It’s all just a big misunderstanding.

Why can’t we just leave Kirk Herbstreit alone, dammit?

You know, it would just be a lot easier if he’d simply say he’s sorry that he didn’t express himself correctly, which is what I suspect he told Richt privately.  But if Herbstreit wants to leave it on us, that he was misunderstood, it’s hard to see how the snark ends.  Unless kids stop getting arrested…

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UPDATE:  Welp, that’s fifteen minutes of my life I’ll never get back.  Herbie has the utmost respect for Mark Richt and we misunderstood his intent when he tweeted.  Buck says that those of us continuing to poke at Herbstreit are part of the lunatic fringe, for not letting things go.  And Kincaid claims this is more about Georgia fans defending Richt from criticism than trying to hold Herbstreit accountable for his lack of consistency.

Thanks, guys.  I learned a lot.

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Filed under Crime and Punishment, ESPN Is The Devil, Georgia Football

Battle of the 800-pound gorillas

I mentioned last week that the WWL was more than a trifle miffed with Verizon’s new Custom TV package, which allowed customers to choose basic cable packages that didn’t include ESPN – sacrilege, I know.

Anyway, it seems Verizon didn’t take the hint.  So Mickey is taking things to the next level.

ESPN filed a lawsuit against Verizon in New York Supreme Court on Monday, asserting that the telecommunications company breached its contract with the network when it unveiled a new cable package last week.

On April 19, Verizon introduced a cable package that took channels normally available on basic cable — networks like ESPN, Comedy Central and USA — and separated them into smaller, category-specific groups like sports, entertainment and children’s programs that customers can choose from. Verizon introduced the package with apparently little to no discussion with these cable networks. Disney, which owns ESPN, complained that Verizon made a “unilateral” decision.

What this is all really about is streaming.  Netflix and similar enterprises are eating into what cable and satellite broadcast providers market because they’re cheaper.  Funny how that works.

This is a fight over preserving market share in a changing market.

“ESPN is at the forefront of embracing innovative ways to deliver high-quality content and value to consumers on multiple platforms, but that must be done in compliance with our agreements,” an ESPN spokeswoman said. “We simply ask that Verizon abide by the terms of our contracts.”

Verizon is not backing down.

“Consumers have spoken loud and clear that they want choice, and the industry should be focused on giving consumers what they want,” a Verizon spokeswoman said in response to the lawsuit. “We are well within our rights under our agreements to offer our customers these choices.”

Sometimes, we consumers sure can be a pesky lot.

The longer trend doesn’t favor ESPN.  Even if the network prevails and stops Custom TV for the moment, there’s always the next contract to fight over.  And consumer choice ain’t going away.

The reason you should pay attention to this fight isn’t just because you’re a consumer.  It’s also worth watching to see if it eventually impacts the conference broadcast business model, particularly the Pac-12’s, but also to a lesser extent, the Big Ten’s, as both have ownership interests in their conference networks.  In any event, if things reach a point where these networks have to stand on their own as part of a special platform, as opposed to being ladled in with basic coverage, that’s likely to be problematic.  It’s one thing to see the cost of the Big Ten Network subsidized and pushed to viewers at a lower cost.  It’s another to ask those viewers to pay for the package on its own at a cost several multiples higher than it is now.

What happens to college athletics if the money spigot from broadcast revenues slows?  Think of all the money-driven decisions that have been made over, say, just the last five years.  College football has been modified in substantial ways over that time.  If the cash flow begins to dry up, there will be plenty of unpleasant ramifications.  And I doubt the geniuses who have driven things to this point are even thinking about those yet.

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UPDATE:  Brian Cook, on the Big Ten…

… Right now sports is being subsidized by people who don’t care about it at all. In an a-la-carte world that no longer happens.

Then what? Then ESPN takes a bath, with sports leagues next on the chopping block. ESPN costs 6 bucks a month for a channel 20% of people are interested in; it will not cost thirty bucks a month in an a-la-carte world because a lot of people will forgo it. There’s only so much you can do by strong-arming customers in an environment where ten bucks a month gets you a virtually infinite pile of content. The people who don’t care will opt out.

This is why adding questionable fanbases to the Big Ten in the pursuit of short-term cable dollars was so incredibly foolish even beyond the deleterious effects of adding a bunch of games nobody in the world cares about. Every time I see someone hail Jim Delany as some kind of visionary I want to laugh/cry.

Give this a few years, and I suspect he’ll be far from alone.

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Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, It's Just Bidness, See You In Court