Each passing day more and more Americans are taking the plunge and cutting their cable cord, opting to get their television fix through streaming services and the increasing a la carte options, such as HBO Now. The major sticking point for many– and selling point for cable and satellite operators — remains live televised sports. Odds are you can figure out a way to wait until the latest season of Mad Men appears on Netflix. Trying to do this for, say, the Rose Bowl is considerably more difficult.
That’s part of the reason cable providers charge over $6 per subscriber for ESPN — the largest of any channel and figure that is only going to rise. If you don’t care about sports, but enjoy cable television at your home, you’re probably paying somewhere in the ballpark, conservatively, of $70 a year for events you will never watch, making cutting the cord a viable option.
Compare this to a market research survey published by Variety this week compiled by Digitalsmiths, which, as the Variety article notes is owned by TiVo and recently acquired a potential streaming service, so keep that in mind.
According to its findings only 35.7 percent of the 3,144 people polled would add ESPN if they could pick and chose their channels a la carte. ABC came in as the No. 1 choice at 66.7 percent. PBS and The Weather Channel (39.9) both came in ahead of ESPN, which did finish among the Top 20 choices.
A high-res version of the graphic can be found here. ESPN did about 15 percent more than Fox Sports 1 and NBCSN — which were next to each other around 20+ percent. NFL Network checked in under the 20 percent threshold, while MLB Network just over the 10 percent.
At first glance it is surprising that more people would pay for the Weather Channel than ESPN. Granted the Weather Channel has evolved from simply telling the weather forecast — which you can get in a click or two from your smart phone — to different programming that apparently Americans want to watch. I’d feel confident guessing that although more people would theoretically add TWC to their dream a la carte bundle, odds are the people who pick ESPN are going to watch it considerably more than those who watch the weather.
Unbundling and cord-cutting appear to be the way of the future. As it stands ESPN boasts over 90+ million subscribers. Add up those $6 fees per month and its a lot of money. ESPN has evolved and has its tentacles all over the sports landscape in America, it’s power is unquestioned. For all the Bill Simmons drama and everything else ESPN compasses, the Worldwide Leader’s No. 1 asset is live sports programming. Consumers aren’t putting up with $6+ charges every month to watch a simulcast of Mike & Mike.