Stop the Secrecy

NewRepublic: ESPN is fed up with cable

Fri, 01/09/2015 - 16:22 -- Eva Prkachin

More good news for cord cutters? 

Article by David Dayen for NewRepublic

On New Year’s Day, ESPN’s broadcast of the inaugural college football playoffs drew the highest rating in the history of cable television, with 28.3 million viewers. Just four days later, the same network likely signaled cable television’s demise, by signing on to Dish Network’s new streaming Sling TV service. Customers will be able to access ESPN and 11 other channels (CNN and the Food Network, e.g.) over the Internet at a flat rate of $20 a month, without having to order cable or even sign a contract.

Industry watchers have long awaited the “great unbundling” of television into an a la carte service delivered without a cable provider. ESPN’s move gives real momentum to cable cord-cutting, because the network dominates live sports, one of the only televised products that everyone prefers to watch in real time. The ripples from Sling TV’s announcement will move from cable throughout television production, advertising, broadband and even organized labor. Worldwide, entertainment represents the last bastion of American-dominated manufacturing. This move could disrupt the status quo as profoundly as the Model T.

Sports has been the great lifeline keeping traditional cable bundles in place. For all the hype, only a tiny number of television viewers—0.1 percent during the past year—actually has canceled pay TV and relied on subscription services. Among ESPN viewers, just 1.4 percent said they would cut the cord in the future, according to a study from last June. 

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