A report from IHS Media & Technology says that some well-established cable channels are facing a “perfect storm” from the twin threats of cord-cutting and ever-rising sports rights costs.
IHS says that case in point is sports giant ESPN, which has seen overall subscriber numbers crash from 99 million in September 2013 to 88 million in September 2017.
IHS adds that the move to online delivery is currently modest as broadcasters grapple with going direct-to-consumers, and as they examine the revenue benefits and impact of changes over the next 5 years. Besides, cable channels seeking a direct-to-consumer route have also to avoid alienating their operator partners.
IHS suggests that ESPN’s offer – revised earlier this year -has launched its ‘TV Everywhere’ bundle with its core linear channels, as well as ESPN+, a new direct-to-consumer online package. The third package allows users to subscribe to the online offerings of some key sports leagues including MLB.tv and UFC provided they also subscriber to ESPN+.
Nevertheless, IHS admits that offering these packages into international markets may be much more difficult, not least because the sports rights enjoyed by ESPN may not be available outside the US.