Cable TV isn’t dead yet, but ESPN’s departure might be the last nail in the coffin.
What happened: Disney-owned ESPN plans to start offering its channel as a subscription streaming service, giving people access to the biggest live sports channel without needing to pay for a cable bundle, per The Wall Street Journal.
- How, when, and where the service will launch is not clear. ESPN doesn’t offer its more limited streaming service (ESPN+) in Canada because of licensing issues.
Why it matters: This is terrible news for cable. ESPN is one of the last big draws offered by many cable providers, and live sports are one of the few things that cable cutters (for the most part) can’t easily stream.
The importance of ESPN in a cable bundle is reflected by how much providers pay for it: The sports broadcaster’s fee is nearly 20x more than the typical channel.
Yes, but: This also means sports fans could wind up paying more.
- In a cable bundle, all subscribers subsidize the high cost of sports, whether they watch them or not. Now, that entire cost will be borne only by sports viewers.
Zoom out: Streamers, including Apple, Amazon, and YouTube, are scooping up sports broadcasting rights to attract subscribers. By streaming ESPN, Disney will leapfrog them all.—TS