ESPN vs Cable

In this economy, the cost of cable television is more of a pain than a benefit. With the introduction of lower cost alternatives such as Netflix and Hulu, more and more people are deciding to cut the cord.  However, there is one problem, one obstacle — where will sports fans go? As it stands, the only way to "legally" watch real-time sporting news and events is to sign up for a cable TV service. This is because the 1992 Cable Act requires that consumers sign up for regular cable service before they can enjoy the benefit of having premium channels like HBO or ESPN.  However, consumers who want cable (and aren't that interested in sports) are being forced to pay tax on ESPN — and they aren't happy about it. 

The Problem that Just Won't Go Away...

Sports lovers want ESPN, others don't, but everyone's paying for it. As it stands, cable viewers are up in arms about having to pay a tax on the channel whether they want it or not. In fact, Bloomberg Businessweek stated the ESPN charges cable operators $4.69 per month, although I've seen much higher rates from other publications) for it. That charge trickles down to the viewer. The bad news is that this price is predicted to grow as ESPN announced its plan to broadcast Monday Night Football for the next eight years. As of now, it seems that the ESPN problem just won't go away. 

Or Can It?

So you want to be a cord-cutter, but you love your sports. This is a dilemma that many sports fans have. Not to mention the problem of having to pay for basic cable just to get ESPN. So what could solve this revolving issue? A subscription only option perhaps? If cable TV doesn't impress you, but you want to watch your Monday or Thursday night NFL games whenever they're on, this may serve to be the best way forward. This option would provide an outlet that allows you to just watch (and pay for) what you really want — ESPN. The upside to this solution is that only fans who want the subscription will pay, and people who aren't that interested in sports will no longer have to. Although ESPN has no interest in doing this for the time being, many cable providers are pondering it over. When asked about this very prospect in an interview in Bloomberg, Suddenlink Communication's CEO, Jerald L. Kent, said the following:

“If I could offer high-cost channels like ESPN as stand-alone channels, à la carte, I’d do it.”

Another option that could work to keep you off of the tube and into your smartbox is a Go option. 

The good news is that subscribers can still enjoy the flexibility of ESPNGo. As of now, ESPNGo can only be viewed if a person has subscribed to basic cable, but a standalone option could change that. ESPN-only subscribers could log into their cable account on the ESPNGo app and enjoy any game, any time, any where. 

What an ESPN Only Option Means for Everyone

For one, people who don't want it, will no longer have to pay for it. So, ideally a subscription-only option will save cable subscribers at least $5 a month. On top of that, those who only want ESPN won't be forced to pay for channels they don't want, which could range from $40 to $100 a month! A downside to this option is that some cable companies enjoy the inflated rates of bundling channels because after all, that's how they keep the revenue flowing. The other downside is that they could potentially charge consumers more per month to "unbundle" as they try to deter viewers from cord-cutting. 

All in all, a standalone ESPN option is a feasible solution to everyone involved. Cable companies can retain sports fan, who account for a significant percentage of their earned revenue, and sports-fans can take their games on the go. Will cable companies catch on? We can only wait and see.  I for one would be willing to pay a large portion of my current cable bill to have a sports only subscription.