The TV Landscape is changing. People are cutting cable and choosing alternatives like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. While streaming TV platforms like Sling TV do exist, there isn’t a great way for most cable cutters to view live sports. But that all could be changing soon. Disney President Bob Iger, the head of ESPN’s parent company, recently said that ESPN could eventually be sold without the burden of a heavy cable bundle in an interview on CNBC’s Squawk Box. Here’s the direct quote:
I think eventually ESPN becomes a business that is sold directly to the consumers.
ESPN is extremely popular. So popular, in fact, that the channel is responsible for the top 20 most-watched shows in cable history. Because of the channel’s success, ESPN is able to pull in huge dollar amounts per subscriber in cable fees. Most of the time, cable subscribers don’t notice how much they pay per channel thanks to the fact that cable companies bundle everything together, but as of last fall, the per-subscriber fee for ESPN per month was estimated at over $6 dollars—and that’s just for the main channel.
It’s hard to tell what a standalone ESPN service would look like. Iger mentioned that it would be “conjecture” to even guess what the price of an ESPN standalone streaming service would be at this point. Honestly, the price range of streaming services vary at this point anyway, with Netflix currently costing $8.99 per month (although prices are expected to go up) and HBO GO costing $14.99 a month. I’m guessing since fans would be getting more than just ESPN’s regular programming, they should expect to pay more that the estimated 6 bucks cablers shell out per month, but again, as the service isn’t moving forward, yet, it’s hard to tell how hefty (or not) the fees we’ll be.
Regardless of what happens, Iger isn’t worried about the future of ESPN.
While the business model may face challenges over the next few years, long term for ESPN … they’ll be fine. They have pricing leverage, too.
Iger also mentioned that the Disney brand is probably strong enough to be offered separately. You can see more from the interview, below.
For people who only want a few channels, these standalone options could present major value. However, for people who want a large variety of channels, a streaming bundle like Sling TV—which offers more than 20 channels, including ESPN—might be more viable. We’ll have to wait and see how this story continues to shape out. Since ESPN's streaming platforms haven't gotten the best buzz so far, it could still take a while a standalone service to move forward.