Could it be that the networks might be setting themselves up to create the service that becomes cable TV? Would it be so silly to think that, in an environment where the FCC loses regulatory powers, the networks might try to push more customers to the TV service THEY own, rather than the one the cable companies own? And would it be silly to think that a company partially owned by Comcast could set the price for being zero-rated by Comcast, which would then force Netflix, Amazon, Google, and other video services -- who suddenly have no recourse with the FCC -- to pay the same rates, possibly recovering at least some of the lost costs of those expensive cable box rentals?
Broadcasters aren't blind to these shifts -- Disney is reminded constantly of how many customers ESPN is losing every month. I think this is all part of a broader plan to allow broadcasters to become cable TV themselves. Two years from now, we're going to wonder why so many people didn't see this coming.
I know the creators of this project set it up as a fan film, but if this were my project, instead of fighting CBS on this, I might take this money, hire a lawyer, re-write the script to remove the Trek elements but keeping the basic themes in the story, and create something that actually could make money.
Who knows? Maybe it'll create a new universe that sci-fi fans might enjoy as much as Trek. It's not like there's a copyright on the concept of space combat.
Not only would it get the film made that s many people kickstarted, but it's as good a middle finger to flip at CBS as anything else, no?
How many companies actually own those 194 channels?
1.) Comcast/NBCU 2.) Disney 3.) Fox 4.) Time Warner 5.) CBS 6.) Viacom 7.) Scripps 8.) Discovery 9.) Hearst
And... who else?
Everyone talks about the excess channels in the cable bundle, but nobody talks about how few companies actually control it. That seems to be the biggest problem here. None of these companies are willing to shut down even the smallest of their channels as long as 90 million+ people are still tied to the bundle.
It's easy to look at that subscriber loss of 7 million over two years and think the sky is falling at ESPN, but there are a lot of other numbers missing from the equation here.
According to Nielsen, from October 2013 to October 2014, ESPN and ESPN2 lost 3,635,000 homes, or roughly 3.67% of its subscriber base.
Then, from October 2014 to October 2015, ESPN and ESPN2 lost 3,484,000 homes, or roughly 3.66% of its subscriber base.
However, ESPN's contract with Time Warner Cable has an annual carriage fee escalator of 6.5%. Chances are good that they have similar terms with every other pay TV carrier in the U.S. The increase in those carriage fees is outpacing the decrease in subscribers. That's very likely to continue through 2016, even though the rate at which ESPN is losing subscribers has clearly increased over the last three months.
What's more, ESPN and ESPN2 still collected nearly $8.3 billion in carriage fees during the last fiscal year. Add in ESPNU, ESPNEWS, and SEC Network, and ESPN easily collected more than $9 billion carriage fees in FY2015 -- to say nothing of advertising revenue, which must be good, because ESPN's overall viewership ratings were up in 2014 and might actually be higher this year.
Of course, the subscriber loss for ESPN and ESPN2 over FY2016 still made about $150 million disappear from ESPN's bottom line. This is why Bill Simmons, Keith Olbermann, and Colin Cowherd didn't get their contracts renewed, why Grantland was shut down, and why 300+ ESPN employees got laid off. It's also why Disney has ordered ESPN to cut about $350 million in costs over the next two years.
The point is that ESPN still has a long way to go before it's done milking this pay TV cash cow. Yes, more consumers are waking up to how they're getting ripped off, but cord-cutting and cord-shaving is still happening at a slow-enough pace that ESPN has time to figure out how it can adapt to the changing market -- and it will. Eventually. In the meantime, sports fans are still tuning in, and that doesn't look like it's going to change anytime soon.
All five major pro sports leagues in the U.S. (and that one in the UK) have TV rights deals in place with major networks through the end of this decade.
Four of the five major college conferences have TV rights deals in place well into the next decade, and the fifth has its own cable network and is expected to remain entrenched with the big cable networks.
Many teams that have deals in place with regional sports networks have them in place into the 2030s, and this deal doesn't necessarily mean those MLB teams that have deals with Fox will be available locally to MLB.tv subscribers, even for a nominal extra fee. Fox still wants to keep those baseball fans tied to the cable bundle to help pay for Fox News, Fox Sports 1 & 2, FX, FXX, Fox Business, and whatever other Fox channels people pay for without ever watching.
So tell me again when sports streaming REALLY gets going, because I'm not seeing it anytime soon.
1.) Disney has ordered ESPN to cut $100 million from its 2016 budget and $250 million from its 2017 budget. (Source: Washington Post) This might explain to some why the million-dollar contracts of Bill Simmons and Keith Olbermann are not being renewed.
2.) Based on current Nielsen estimates, ESPN is currently losing 300,000 homes per month. Last I checked, SNL Kagan reported that ESPN's carriage fee is $6.61/month, and ESPN2's carriage fee is $0.83/month. That means ESPN's total carriage fee income for those two channels decreases by $2,232,000 every month. Assuming a steady decline through the end of 2015, ESPN will be down to 91.4 million homes by Christmas and will have missed out on $174 million in carriage fees thanks to cord cutting and cord shaving.
3.) With ESPN on the hook for nearly $14 billion of the NBA's shiny new $24 billion TV deal, we could see a number of leagues moving back to broadcast networks in the coming years, simply because ESPN can't afford them anymore. The Big Ten is up for grabs in 2017, and TV deals for the NFL, MLB, NHL, and MLS all expire between 2020 and 2022. Who knows how many subs ESPN will have lost by 2022?
This piece explains why I think broadcast networks could take the upper hand on ESPN when it comes to televised sports in the future:
Guys, if Verizon is violating a contractual agreement, then they're violating a contractual agreement. Verizon can pull this stunt on individual customers who can't afford to fight back, but against Disney? They'll lose.
Whatever new TV paradigm Verizon is trying to create here, worthwhile or otherwise, is irrelevant. This is going to come down to contract law, and if the contract specifically states that Verizon cannot offer ESPN in a separate sports tier, Disney will force Verizon to honor the contract -- something Verizon probably does to enough of its wireless customers to deserve that.
In the meantime, ESPN has lost 6 million customers in the last 4 years. No matter -- they can still demand the terms they want, including that 6.5% annual carriage fee increase, because they have 20 of the top 21 highest-rated cable TV broadcasts of all time. (I believe the Kentucky-Wisconsin college basketball semifinal on TBS a few weeks ago cracked ESPN's complete hold on the top 20.) They won't really feel the pinch unless they lose another 20 million subs within the next five years or so, and even then, they can probably remain profitable and let sweetheart carriage deals with Sling TV and Apple TV pick up the slack.
Disney is not a huge fan of Comcast getting more control over the TV space, because Comcast can use that control to keep ESPN's ever-growing carriage fees in check. There's a reason Disney was first to strike a deal with Dish Network to put channels on Sling TV, which happened within weeks of Comcast announcing it was buying out Time Warner Cable.
So it's entirely possible that at least one giant media company is getting something it wants out of all this.
Roku cracked 10 million in total units sold last September. Apple is up to 25 million Apple TV units sold, and more than half of those are the current 3rd-gen model. I would hardly call that "roundly trounced".
Plus, Netflix + Hulu Plus + HBO Now + AirPlay will be compelling enough for plenty of people over the next 3 months. (Might be a different case come the holidays, though.)
The people interested in GoT and nothing else will probably continue pirating. HBO is counting on that group being very, very small -- especially given the sheer number of shows (True Detective, The Wire, Treme, Boardwalk Empire, etc.) that many will likely find binge-worthy. That's HBO Now's value proposal.
And it's only a hassle to sign up and then cancel if you're dealing with a cable company. It wasn't nearly as bad when I did it with DishWorld and Hulu Plus.
It's also a blatant supply chain-emptying move by Tim Cook. He's trying to clear out Apple TVs, possibly to introduce a new product later this year. That said, it's a move that seems likely to work out for Apple.
I feel a strange urge to play devil's advocate on this one -- which I know is usually a bad idea on this site, but follow me on this...
Yes, people who just want to watch Game of Thrones and either refuse to pay or don't want to watch any other HBO shows will continue seeding torrents. That's not going away.
1.) Apple TV has already sold 25 million Apple TV units to date, and based loosely on the sales figures listed on Wikipedia, more than half those units appear to be the 3rd-generation model, which has not been jailbroken. That's a pretty big installed base, and lowering the price on Apple TV ensures that base will grow. (It's a blatant supply chain-emptying move by Tim Cook, yes, but most potential buyers won't care that much.)
2.) Having more than one set-top box connected to a TV isn't so far-fetched these days. I have both an Apple TV and a Roku 3. They do have some different uses -- the Roku has Amazon Prime, Sling TV, and DIAL streaming, while the Apple TV has a superior podcast interface and AirPlay for certain iPad apps I like to use. I used to have a Chromecast as well. Given how cheap all these STBs and streaming sticks are now, it's not so odd for cord-cutters to buy and use more than one.
3.) HBO Now's value proposal goes beyond GoT. Think of all those other HBO series and movies that people might not have seen yet -- The Wire, True Detective, Veep, Treme, Boardwalk Empire, etc. That's a lot of binge-watching for not that much money. Sure, you can pirate all of them, but for $15/month, you can stream the whole kit and caboodle and not have to look at those soul-sucking porn ads. (Or maybe I'm the only guy who's grown weary of computer-animated tits. You tell me.) Netflix streaming traffic overtook torrent traffic FOUR YEARS AGO. That proved people will pay for convenience. This is what HBO Now is offering, and it *will* be compelling to many who only use torrents because HBO hadn't otherwise made it convenient. Does Apple exclusivity lessen that convenience for a few months? Sure, but the installed Apple TV base and the relatively low cost of entry *will* attract customers.
4.) This is a long play for HBO, and for its parent company, Time Warner, which licensed its Turner Broadcasting channels to Sling TV. By Labor Day, *all* those channels will be available on a *lot* of STBs and streaming sticks. Apple exclusivity is just a temporary move to help keep Comcast off its back for a while.
Also, apropos of nothing:
5.) At least one market research group (Parks Associates) has predicted that as many as 7 million people will get rid of cable TV once HBO Now becomes available. I don't think it will be quite that high all at once, but let's revisit that figure a year from now and see how close they got.
6.) None of this takes into account HBO Go password-sharing, which is also likely to rise with the premier of GoT season 5 -- especially if cable companies still try to offer customers 3 months of free HBO. That might already be putting a dent in piracy without anyone examining it too closely. It's certainly a reason why HBO Now exists in any form. If the market wasn't there, HBO wouldn't bother.