When ESPN joined Dish Network’s Sling TV skinny bundle service in 2014, it did so with some reservations and some stipulations. But as it finds cord cutting more than just a disturbing fad, the Worldwide Leader not only finds that it’s welcoming skinny bundles and is looking to join more.
Bloomberg News reports that when ESPN joined Sling TV, it had several triggers that could give the network excuses to opt out of the service, whether ESPN’s cable subscribers dropped to a certain level or if Sling TV grew too quickly. And as ESPN’s numbers continue to drop on the traditional cable providers and Sling TV’s numbers continue to rise, there’s no particular hurry on the part of ESPN to leave.
At a investor conference, the CEO of ESPN’s parent company Disney, Robert Iger said, “It’s also important that ESPN be present in the skinny bundles, whether there are 2 million of them, 5 million of them, 10 million of them,” and ESPN has found that people who are buying Sling are those who have canceled their cable service or have never paid for TV before.
And those numbers are causing ESPN to do an about-face with Verizon’s Custom TV and join Sony’s PlayStation Vue TV. Once worried that the skinny bundles might leave them out, now ESPN wants to be in and it shows the change in thinking in the new television landscape. People are watching TV at their convenience and on multiple devices.
With mobiles, laptops, tablets and now smartwatches having an impact on viewing, ESPN wants to be in the forefront of whatever technology is being used to watch sports. And if skinny bundles will help ESPN maximize its viewership while people cancel their cable subscriptions, then that will offset losing cable subscribers.
This is all a brave new world and skinny bundles are just in their infancy. With AT&T planning an online DirecTV service for later this year and if Apple ever gets its TV service off the ground, ESPN wants to ensure that it will be part of it all so it can reach as many people as possible.