ESPN Has Finally Realized This Whole Streaming Thing Has Legs

from the go-figure dept

ESPN has personified the cable and broadcast industry’s tone deafness to cord cutting and TV market evolution. Executives not only spent years downplaying the trend as something only poor people do, it sued companies that attempted to offer consumers greater flexibility in how video content was consumed. ESPN execs clearly believed cord cutting was little more than a fad that would simply stop once Millennials started procreating, and ignored surveys showing how 56% of consumers would ditch ESPN in a heartbeat if it meant saving the $8 per month subscribers pay for the channel.

As the data began to indicate the cord cutting trend was very real, ESPN’s first impulse was often to try and shoot the messenger. Meanwhile, execs doubled down on bloated sports licensing deals and SportsCenter set redesigns, pretty clearly unaware that the entire TV landscape was shifting beneath their feet.

By the time ESPN had lost 10 million viewers in just a few years, the company was busy pretending they saw cord cutting coming all the while. ESPN subsequently decided the only solution was to fire hundreds of longstanding sports journalists and support personnel, but not the executives like John Skipper (since resigned for other reasons) whose myopia made ESPN’s problems that much worse.

Ultimately, ESPN and Disney figured out that streaming was the future. In response, it launched a new direct-to consumer app dubbed ESPN+ that sort of gave users what they wanted, but not really. The $5 per month service basically took much of the fare available on ESPN’s lesser-watched channels and offered it over the internet. But there were caveats; such as the service didn’t really offer users what they really wanted (just a streaming version of ESPN’s core channel) unless you subscribe to traditional cable, part of the “TV Everywhere” mindset cable execs can’t seem to move past.

Even then, the service still managed to gobble up more than a million subscribers in just over five months, a fact ESPN was quick to highlight in a press statement about the milestone:

“Reaching one million paid subscribers is an important milestone for any video subscription service, but reaching this benchmark in such a short amount of time is an incredible testament to the teams from DTCI and ESPN who have worked tirelessly to bring this product to market and continually improve it since our April launch,? said Kevin Mayer, chairman, Direct-to-Consumer and International, The Walt Disney Company. ?We?re thrilled so many sports fans have quickly come to love the service. The future is bright and we believe growth will continue as we add features, distribution partners and more exclusive content in the coming months.”

While better late than never, you have to think ESPN would have far more than a million subscribers by now if execs had actually paid attention to the market they inhabit. And while ESPN+ is making progress, ESPN still finds itself between a rock and a hard place in terms of providing users what they actually want (again, just a streaming version of ESPN). In short, if ESPN offers a standalone version of ESPN, it only encourages customers to cut the cord and move to less expensive (and less profitable) alternatives. If ESPN doesn’t give customers what they want, they’ll cut the cord out of frustration.

That said, you’d rather be out ahead of a major paradigm shift than trailing behind, a lesson ESPN execs seem to be slowly but steadily learning.

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Companies: espn

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Comments on “ESPN Has Finally Realized This Whole Streaming Thing Has Legs”

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Anonymous Coward says:

ESPN has definitely been behind the times, but it still comes down to quality of contnt. They used to be my favorite channel until they lost nearly all of their prime content, except for the NBA. Now, nearly every show, even in the NBA off-season, is riddled with NBA news. Hey, some of us don’t give a shiz about the NBA! And we don’t want to see it 90% of the time on your channel. Sportcenter used to be novel and fun- that’s gone downhill fast. Their alternate channels used to have cool content but now it’s just a heaping load of BS.

You can put an ugly painting in a new shiny frame and it’s still an UGLY Painting!

Chris ODonnell (profile) says:

What ESPN + really did was take all the obscure stuff you got for free online with ESPN 3( if you had ESPN via cable) and add a $5 per month charge for anybody to get what a lot of people were getting as part of cable, while taking it away from the people that had it at no extra cost. So yes they got a lot of new subscribers, but I’ll be a lot of them are pissed off subscribers that are now paying $5 a month extra for something that didn’t cost them extra previously.

ECA (profile) says:

Consumer demand??

Consumer demand has gone to the dogs..Years ago..
Part of this problem is that All the movies are OWNED from the past..Few and FEWER are going to the public domain..
But even at that, a few channels have been created FOR/FROM those old movies/serials/…Supposedly they dont need to pay any royalties.. If that were so, do you think there would be MORE channels showing them LATE NIGHT??

Lets ask something interesting, with 1 understanding. How many fires have there been that destroyed repositories of films??(many) And None of this covers Collections and Private concerns..
Take 10 channels and all the shows created on Tape and film, esp those old theater shows..
Take those 1 time per week shows and show them Every day..and you will SHOW a whole series in a few months to 1 year… A series that last 10 years will be over in 1 year. 1 season will end in 1 month..

the odds are that you could show everything from the original creators in a few years..what was created over 50 years of time.
As TV and movies were created, more companies created, we get More every year..MANY movies never hit the theaters, Direct to DVD means they didnt think they had much chance to make extra money..(love the tremors series)..
Allot more people had access and could create a FAIR movies and publish it…
Even with all the extra movies/series and what ever created anew…the most you would cover would be around 5-7 years of TV time..

And now you know why you see the same CRAP on TV..

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Ground shifting beneath their feet

i liked it when all the companies Jumped in, and recorded the events, and you had every angle..and could swap back and forth While adverts were running..

Think about the money they spent, to kill ALL the others from having access to the events. Its F’ing stupid. We might as well be paying the $200 to get a seat.
WHICH is another stupid thing.

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