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ESPN begins its march away from cable and the ramifications are huge for combat sports

By Zach Arnold | August 8, 2017

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The bundling model that propped up so many televison properties on cable in America is dying fast. Disney picked up a shovel today and started digging the proverbial grave with its announcement of pulling all programming from Netflix and ESPN moving to a streaming platform in 2018.

ESPN was the biggest cash cow on American cable. It’s taking a beating because of horrific television rights deals with the NFL and NBA. With television consumers cutting the cord, ESPN is suffering a death by a thousand paper cuts. CBS added onto the pile today by announcing it would create a 24/7 streaming sports news channel that would directly compete against ESPN. Sportscenter, which had been ESPN’s marquee property for four decades, is losing relevancy by the day.

I shed no tears for any of the parties involved. ESPN is still the giant behemoth in sports programming. With a move to streaming platforms, expect big wigs in Bristol to get the axe because Burbank will be more in control of calling the shots moving forward. Cable companies will simply shift into pure internet pipeline plays and make just as much profit as they had been serving as distributors. As long as the big cable companies can build new PPV platforms, they will do just fine.

The real impact is now on the major sports leagues and American sports properties. WWE beat everybody to the punch but they are treading water with 1.5 million subscriptions. UFC Fight Pass, at this point, is an albatross for the venture capitalists and would likely be transferred for management to a media conglomerate (e.g. FOX).

The biggest question of all for promoters like UFC: do you do your own thing or do you work with the big boys and piggyback on their risk consumption? WWE went on its own path and smartly so. UFC is heading in the opposite direction by wanting to increase its rights fee three-fold or even more. At that point, your options are limited and Fox is the major player in town.

Conventional television is not dying any time soon. If anything, the new ATSC 3.0 standard coming in a couple of years to American television sets via rabbit ears (antenna) will offer 4K picture quality with streaming options to pay for addition content. Betting on broadcast television is a solid choice.

Topics: Media, Zach Arnold | 1 Comment » | Permalink | Trackback |

One Response to “ESPN begins its march away from cable and the ramifications are huge for combat sports”

  1. […] PPV buys are tanking. UFC needs Fox Sports to help manage UFC Fight Pass. And, most importantly, the new ATSC 4k over-the-air TV format will provide streaming options alongside Ultra HD content. That is the smart play. It would be the […]


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