Study: ESPN Popularity Wanes, 56% Would Drop Trad TV Service

A new study suggests that just 6% would pay for a modestly priced over-the-top digital TV ESPN package, but that nearly 60% of people would drop ESPN to save $8 a month from their traditional pay TV monthly service.

BTIG Research had the study conducted by consumer marketing company Civic Science, which surveyed 1,582 consumers. Eighty-seven percent of these respondents subscribed to multichannel TV packages.

Fifty-six percent of consumers surveyed said they would remove ESPN/ESPN2 -- 60% female respondents and 49% male respondents. BTIG says the results did not vary by age group, with Millennials, Gen-xers and boomers reporting similar results.

Media analysts have been concerned that ESPN could see some additional steep subscriber declines.

The cable sports network had witnessed subscriber drops, resulting a drop in parent company Walt Disney’s stock price and causing a ripple effect for other media companies.

For some time, Bob Iger, chairman/CEO of Walt Disney, says ESPN is prepared to sell direct-to-consumer “over the top” digital network packages.



The study says only 6% would subscribe to ESPN/ESPN for $20 a month under a direct-to-consumer model; 85% say they would not pay for this package; and 9% were not sure.

Rich Greenfield, media analyst for BTIG Research, writes that even if ESPN gets double these levels in subscribers buying an OTT package, it would still cause some dramatic revenue declines.

“If 15% paid for an ESPN/ESPN2 DTC [direct-to-consumer] offering at $20/month, that yields $4.1 billion in revenue, dramatically below the nearly $9 billion the two channels generate from the legacy MVPD [multi-video program distributor] ecosystem.”

2 comments about "Study: ESPN Popularity Wanes, 56% Would Drop Trad TV Service".
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  1. Leonard Zachary from T___n__, January 14, 2016 at 12:51 p.m.

    Downsizing. Ed Please take note for other Broadcasters and PayTV bundles. Advertisers follow the eyballs not Nielsen.

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, January 14, 2016 at 5:39 p.m.

    Leonard, I'm a former sports enthusiast and avid fan who is now disgusted with most of it---the big money and "me first, not we" attitude has turned me off almost completely. So I, too, might do without ESPN if I was strapped for cash. I do think that there remain a lot of TV sports "junkies" out there, which tells me that ESPN will probably continue on basic cable, carrying the big ticket sports stuff that generates the incomes that the leagues depend on, thereby earning both carriage fees and ad dollars. I also believe that there will be some further defections, but not massive ones in ESPN's national coverage. Also likely, is the launch of one or more ESPN SVOD services featuring sports like lacrosse, vollyball, bowling, minor league baseball, hockey, etc. as well as sports game shows, interviews with sports legands, old sports movie classics, and who knows what else--all low budget fare---that, collectively will attract something like 5-8 million subscribers at $8 per month. If I'm right, the SVOD portion of the ESPN portfolio, would rake in $500-800 million per year and be more profitable than the cable version of ESPN thanks to greatly reduced program costs.

    One thing to remember is the fact that most advertisers who plunk down huge sums to "sponsor" the big time TV sports attractions are not doing so because they want to reach men at the lowest possible CPM. Actually, from a dollar and cents standpoint, these are terrible media buys, but they continue mainly because of the imagry and prestigious, highly merchandisable attributes of being a major sports sponsor. So even if ESPN's ratings falter somewhat and it covers several million fewer homes, most of its kind of advertisers will keep on spending whatever it takes to be associated with the NFL, MLB, etc.

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