ESPN president: Don’t hold your breath for standalone ESPN streaming

“Don’t look for ESPN to launch a stand-alone streaming service soon,” Jefferson Graham reports for USA Today. “Speaking at the Re/code Code/Media conference here Wednesday night, ESPN president John Skipper reiterated several times that he wasn’t ready to go down that road yet. ‘We will look at direct to consumer… and decide to be more aggressive when we think it will help us grow our business,’ Skipper said.”

“HBO, which has 30 million paying customers, launched HBO Now in 2015, bypassing the cable operator to offers its programming to smartphones, tablets and smart TV customers. It picked up just under 1 million subscribers for HBO Now. ESPN is the most carried cable TV channel, in nearly 100 million homes, but it’s offered as part of basic cable packages,” Graham reports. “‘With the numbers of people who have pay TV, our best business right now is to stay in that bundle,’ said Skipper.”

“ESPN has joined the potential future of TV by offering the channel as part of Sling TV’s so-called ‘skinny’ bundle of a smaller selection of channels, starting at $20 monthly, that can be viewed on new media devices,” Graham reports. “Skipper said he’s open to having ESPN on more alternative carriers. ‘We’re in discussions with a large number of people,’ Skipper said. ‘I think other people will enter into some markets with lighter packages in this calendar year.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As we’ve oft written: Apple’s Internet TV service will have to have ESPN. It will also likely require the “Big Four” networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC) – although it could launch with three out of four and eventually hammer out a deal with whichever one is being the most reticent. That said, having already missed the launch of the new Apple TV, Christmas 2015, and the Chinese New Year, Apple might as well wait until they have a full dance card.

What others networks should be considered to be must-haves?

Beyond the Big Four, if you go by primetime ratings (total viewers), the top 20 U.S. cable networks are:

2. Fox News Channel
2. USA
3. TBS
4. Disney
5. Discovery Channel
6. History Channel
7. TNT
9. Nickelodeon
10. AMC
11. Adult Swim
12. FX
13. Cartoon Network
14. Food Channel
15. Lifetime
16. ABC Family
17. Syfy
18. TLC
19. Hallmark
20. Investigation Discovery

Source: Nielsen estimates, Live plus-3 for Dec. 29, 2014 – Dec. 16, 2015 (M-Su 8-11 p.m.)

Disney says skinny bundles are hurting ESPN, but will help ESPN – February 10, 2016


  1. if they get the big 4 (even 3) some less costly content like Velocity, USA, Hallmark or equivalent I’d buy. Keep in mind that these other channels would be able to expand based upon new income.

    1. For me personally I would like the Golf Channel (own along with NBC by Comcast so it’s unlikely). Why on earth the FCC approved of these acquisitions is beyond me. No double $’s.

  2. I’m not holding my breath. But it sounds like the big media companies are holding theirs collectively. “I’ll show you, Apple.” What happens when they pass out? The world is changing. Those that don’t see the future will be left in the past… with a lot fewer viewers.

  3. This is because Disney extorts TV services to buy a whole package of channels they might not otherwise want in order to get ESPN. If they don’t have ESPN as the bait, their trap doesn’t work.

    1. And as the marketplace’s terrain keeps changing, they’re going to lose more and more of their historical leverage.

      This perspective was essentially why I disagreed with my wife on buying some DIS stock last year; we agreed to keep it a small slice, which was a good thing, as the performance to date is down: -13.42% (10x more than the dividends).

  4. ESPN is something I and many others have no use for. I prefer to play sports rather than watch them. People who don’t have much to say in life are the main consumers of ‘sports’ TV and really watch it so that they have something to talk about the next day at work.

    “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

  5. The there is what no one is talking about: pay as you watch.

    I think the networks have got to stop protecting cable companies. The FCC is about to bust up this 20th century monopoly-building model.

    Maybe wireless fast internet faster and more capacity than fiber will come
    along and bust it open.

    Finally, Apple should buy GE and split it up, keeping the networks for itself. If not, just start buying the best new shows and sell them through iTunes at Netflix +1 pricing. AppleVision on AppleTV is a strategically intelligent move. And they could do a news channel.

  6. Get rid of Fox News, what are you an idiot who can’t think for yourself? It’s mind-control busy-work for the low intelligent. How about CNN instead?

    I also hate sports and don’t want or care about ESPN. I thought avoiding ridiculous garbage like this was going to be how we dropped prices.

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