For anyone who pays for a traditional cable television bundle, sports are a large chunk of the expense. ESPN is the most costly channel on cable, and with one or two dozen other sports channels on most dials, the price tag gets pretty high.
That’s why, according to Bloomberg, several cable programmers including Viacom Inc., Discovery Communications Inc. and AMC Networks Inc. are in talks with distributors to create a new non-sports package. Via Bloomberg:
The media companies have explored offering entertainment-only packages over the internet with four to six pay-TV providers, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified discussing the private negotiations. The talks are at various stages, but at least one service could be introduced this year, the person said.
Channel owners hurt by subscriber losses want to be part of new web-based video services as people drop pricey pay-TV packages for cheaper options, yet some have been left out of new “skinny” bundles. Viacom and Discovery, for example, aren’t part of YouTube’s live TV service or Hulu’s upcoming package. While sports is the most popular live programming, it’s also the most expensive.
The prospect of cable companies proceeding without sports must put a scare into ESPN and every other sports channel. Sports networks have benefitted from the cable bundle as much as anyone, reaping huge subscriber fees from viewers who’ve never watched a football game in their lives. A package that allows non-sports fans to bypass ESPN et al. would be a big blow.
Clearly, the cable bundle is on its way out, thanks to the glut of online streaming options and the inevitable cord-cutting that comes along with that. The question is, what will the next model look like? And it seems as though viewers might soon be forced to choose between paying a ton for sports or not watching sports at all.