In a universe where you pay for a cable channel whether you watch it or not, some content distributors are now realizing that keeping smaller niche channels alive so they can be bundled with their bigger networks may not be a good idea. Since the 1990’s, we’ve seen the amount of cable channels rise to the point it’s impossible to keep track of them all.

Companies like Comcast and Viacom have decided that keeping smaller networks around may not be a good idea. Already, NBCUniversal has shut down Cloo which was a network that specialized in airing old crime dramas. It’s on the verge of taking Esquire Network off cable systems and making it into a digital over the top channel. The decision was made easier after DirecTV dropped Esquire late in 2016.

And there’s Viacom’s MTV Classic which likely has a target on its crosshairs as the company makes an emphasis on six core networks, smaller channels be damned.

If you think that this couldn’t happen to sports networks, think again. Networks like ESPNU, FS2 and Golf Channel which have lower viewership actually cost their companies more on a per-viewer basis than higher-viewed networks like CNN, ESPN and others.

And if let’s say a network like FS2 went a la carte, it would be off the charts:

But even knowing that some channels are dying off, it doesn’t mean that your cable bill will go down. The amount of networks on an average cable/satellite system total about 200, but on an average, we watch about 15 a week, which is why online skinny bundles are becoming popular. And not enough channels are dying off for the bills to really reduce.

One reason why smaller channels have stayed around so long is that they’re profitable. With little to no staffing and lower overhead, they can charge less and make more.

However, it still doesn’t mean that all of them are going to stay around. According to the Wall Street Journal, Disney in its negotiations with pay TV providers is lowering the emphasis on ESPNews and ESPN Classic as those networks don’t bring in the viewers as ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU.

So as we enter a new world where content providers are now looking at which channels are worth keeping and which ones are candidates for the chopping block, we may see a day of fewer sports networks and that concept of ESPN the Ocho may remain just part of a Hollywood movie.

[Wall Street Journal]

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the three Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.

  • RadioGuy

    Whatever happens with cable or satellite happens. I bought Roku Express a year ago and it was so much better that cutting the cord with Dish was a no-brainer (and I LIKE Dish, all things considered…I just don’t need it). Of the 125 free channels/apps I’ve bookmarked on Roku, 24 of them are for sports, plus I’ve figured out how to access ESPN for free, so I’m covered.

    • Gerald Trent

      I agree…we have roku and Android tv box…we are good!

  • Respected Citizen

    Your cable bill isn’t high because of rerun channels like Cloo, Esquire, MTV Classic, ESPN Classic, and FS2. Those are dime channels.

  • GameFederer

    ESPNews used to be an awesome channel. Before it just became ESPN 2.5 where it got scraps of stuff running over and E-list college games that nobody cares about.

    The peak days of ESPNNews is similarly when CNNHeadline news produced actual news round the clock… Headline News became HLN with tons of talkshows and Nancy Grace. ESPNews stopped being ESPNews and just became a place to show Sportscenter or radio show re-runs when ESPN and 2 are airing other stuff.

  • David Stroud

    I think the Longhorn Network gets less viewers than ESPN Classic and ESPN News. I watch G5 and FCS and lower games on ESPN News, ESPN 2, CBS Sports Network and so forth. My favorite teams are in G5, FCS, D2 and D3.

    Pivot already went belly up last year.

    ESPN channels have way too many talk shows on all of their channels except for Classic. I watch Classic because of Battle of The Network Stars, classic Pro Wrestling and when they had Roller Derby on.

    I completely stopped watching FS1 because I only watched it when it was Speed. They ruined Speed to have sports that I do not watch on there. Who gives a care up UFC or any other cage fighting.

  • Iheart

    If you don’t have kids and still paying for cable every month then my message is SHAME ON YOU

    • Real Talk


    • PAI

      I think I am free to spend my disposable income wherever I choose without your condescending input, thank you.

  • MrBull

    Do not see the Golf Channel going away at all…it is still important in providing live golf coverage…nor do I see FS2 as Fox needs a second channel if it is going provide as much live coverage as they do…
    Also, ESPNEWS is still needed to run sports center and even live events…but, ESPN Classic, I could see either be revamped into another channel such as the ACC Channel in order to get carriage…

  • Q*Bert

    But being a nightly shill for “Sportz entertainment wrestling cra” like WWE doesn’t bring wnough viwers to bleeding ESPN????SHOCKER~!

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