“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
5. Discovery Channel
6. History Channel
11. Adult Swim
13. Cartoon Network
14. Food Channel
16. ABC Family
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