ESPN has been the monolith not only in sports television but also in cable television packages. With the advent of DVRs and cord-cutting, sports is still the one thing that advertisers know people will watch live. It explains the large increase in television rights fees.
The SEC sensed that and struck a major television deal with ESPN to broadcast many of the conference’s games across all sports and the formation of the SEC Network, another big revenue driver for the conference.
ESPN has felt the pressure of cord-cutting, though. Fewer people are subscribing to cable TV packages, hurting ESPN’s bottom line. And so ESPN has had to find a way to keep up in this new television market to afford those large television contracts the network has doled out.
This is the reason ESPN has begun putting into action a plan for a subscription service separate from cable TV packages. The Information reports ESPN is planning to offer a Web-only subscription service directly to consumers.
It is unclear whether this will include the SEC and college football or not. The report says many of ESPN’s high-priced sports like the NFL and NBA will not be included in the initial offering for this subscription service. But minor sports and some college sports could.
This would obviously be a game changer for ESPN and for consumer with ESPN. The network has long resisted the call to sever ties with cable companies and offer its own subscription service, similar to HBO Now.
As more and more consumer cut the cord from cable companies, this is the next logical step. How long before fans can watch SEC games without a cable subscription remains to be seen.