ESPN A la Carte Will Happen

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Could the Sports Leader be coming to a streamer near you?

Achording to Mathew Belvidere of CNBC ESPN, one of the most sought after cable channels available, will be available A La Carte. In An article posted today quoted Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger as saying

“If we end up seeing more erosion in the so-called multi-channel [cable and satellite TV] bundle, quality will win out,”
Whether this erosion takes place over the next five years as the CNBC story suggests or whether the timeline is a lot faster the mere fact that it is being discussed as a real possibility in the future is considerably more than significant. Until recently ESPN execs have been saying that there are no plans to introduce a bundle free option.  Right now the closest thing anybody has to a bundle free option for ESPN is through Sling TV. Sling TV though is really a system of easier to deal with non contract bundles than it is a la carte TV. You still can’t very well just order ESPN. At this point ESPN is available via Sling’s introductory price of $20.00. That includes a number of other major content offering such as TNT, AMC and 19 more. This is significant because it is the first sign that ESPN is willing to look past standard practices, but not exactly what people are clamoring for.
ESPN better be making back up plans
Why is there a five year bubble floating around the proverbial back yard waiting to burst when it comes to ESPN A la Carte? The dirty little not so secret about ESPN is that it is funded in great part by people who could care less about the service it offers. Not to say that this makes it any different than other basic cable channel, but what it means is that as viewers who do not value sports drop cable and satellite service, which is very much on the rise, then it means ESPN loses part of their revenue stream. As media companies lose subscribers they up the prices on services in order to make up for the subscriber losses. That in turn leads to more customers feeling the squeeze and dropping pay TV services. It should be a frighting scenario to look at not just for ESPN but other basic cable channels as well. ESPN unlike HBO has always been available without a premium price. So while HBO has been able to start offering an OTT service for $15.00, which is what people paid with cable packages, ESPN would have to create a new paradigm.
Expect a Disney Bundle
ESPN is not a network unto itself. Because ESPN is owned by Disney I would expect to see the network and the rest of the ESPN family; ESPN2 ESPNU, ESPN News, The SEC Network, ESPN Classic to be packaged with other properties such as ABC, multiple Disney Channel options and who knows what else Disney will purchase going forward, as a mini-bundle for what it considers a reasonable price. In fact I really think this is more likely how linear TV will work across the board going forward, but that is another story.

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