After Paying For Sports, What's Left For Sports Fans?

Headlines like “Regional sports networks are popular among sports fans” makes me wince. We need to go a bit deeper.

This came by way of research from Fox Sports and commission study with Nielsen, that showed -- shockingly -- that sports fans/viewers value regional sports networks. Also, Fox Sports owns a few regional sports networks.

Nielsen found that 23 of the 29 teams on local regional TV based in the U.S. ranked in the top five of all networks in their market when the teams played in prime time.

OK, we get that part. But what I’d really like to know: How much more those consumers would pay to regional sports TV for that content? And how much will sports viewers pay for nonsports TV channel to perhaps keep down their overall TV bill?

Media critics complain sports TV channels continue to hijack the TV ecosystem with high pricing -- wholesale and retail -- that is then packaged to consumers.



SNL Kagan says 40% of monthly consumer pay TV bills go to sports networks.

The opposite side of the argument: TV sports continues to grab a big TV dominating viewership -- especially on national TV networks. That is the bottom line. As long as that happens, there will be a big market for sports fans, sports advertisers and those TV distribution platforms that make lots of dollars on sports.

Now, however, with the rise of digital media’s over-the-top platforms -- either from standalone networks, or packages of channels -- we enter a different world.

Right now, you don’t have to have ESPN or regional sports networks if you never watch sports. Soon, you will be able to pick and choose any combination from a growing number of channels/packages.

The cost to consumers? That’s another matter.

Price-conscious OTT services, such as DirecTV Now, offers 60 channels for $35 -- including ESPN (but not CBS). That’s a pretty good deal -- in theory -- when looking at traditional $80 to $100 a month for around 200 channels.

Not watching sports all the time -- what to watch then? Well, that’s a good question to ask a fanatical TV sports fans.

And then I go with a new round of research from pay TV subscribers revealing a different headline: “Regional sports networks are not popular among nonsports fans.”

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