Monday Breitbart News reported that TV viewers are dropping cable subscriptions in droves for cheaper internet platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, posing an existential threat to ESPN.This trend has already prompted some networks to offer their programs in an a la carte service online, and more may surely follow. A primary example of this could be ESPN, which already offers its WatchESPN app to cable subscribers and makes part of it -- ESPN3 -- available to some non-TV subscribers, including Charter broadband customers like me who pay for internet but not TV. ESPN3 shows thousands of live feeds of sporting events. It may be the most innovative thing the network has done since launching ESPN itself.
Tuesday an online rating service spelled out exactly how disastrous that fallout is just in the last month. According to SportsTVRatings.com, the world’s premier global cable and satellite sports television channel, ESPN, lost a stunning 422,000 viewing homes between February and March 2017. Fox Sports 1 didn’t fare very well either losing 77,000 homes.
Overall, 390,000 homes canceled their cable TV subscriptions in that same period of time.
I could see ESPN offering several tiers of online programming by subscription, ranging from ESPN3 only to everything. I think it would save the network and allow them to rival Netflix and Hulu in revenue in a short time. But trying to appeal to individual subscribers couldn't help but to make them more responsive to viewers and less willing to tick them off, which is what we as consumers want.