And early tea leaves point to a development of ESPN as a premium TV service.Bob Iger, chairman/chief executive officer of Walt Disney Co, said: “I happen to believe that if we end up seeing more erosion in terms of the so-called multi-channel bundle, quality will win out and popularity will win out.”
He added that an ESPN stand-alone service might have more in comparison to HBO Now -- but targeting more subscribers. All this seems reasonable. But we also need to consider that ESPN currently garners a huge chunk of its revenues from advertisers.
Good news: Sports viewers indeed can be a different lot. Regional sports networks have done well wrapped as premium channels where consumers pay an extra monthly fee to their cable/satellite/telco, in addition to having to see commercials.
DirecTV has spent billions on its NFL Sunday Ticket, where consumers can see every game of the NFL season -- with advertising. (Red Zone Channel doesn’t have commercials, however). TV consumers can spend $250 to $300 for the season-long NFL Sunday Ticket.
These development would have a ripple effect on altering traditional pay TV packages -- which have for decades included ESPN as part of its standard basic package.
And then there is this: In its just-released earnings for its third quarter reporting period, Disney says while there was increase in subscribers, due to the new SEC Network launched in August 2014, this was “partially offset by a decline in subscribers at certain of our networks.” Many attribute subscriber erosion at ESPN to activity at traditional pay TV providers -- through cord-cutting, cord-shaving or otherwise.
It comes down to this: An ESPN stand-alone/a-la-carte plan need to get into a sprint.