ESPN engages in talks over internet-based TV

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Walt Disney-owned ESPN is reportedly looking to bring its content to the new wave of web-based TVs; a trend that is being propelled by the likes of Apple, Sony, Intel and Google. Rather than selling individual channels, ESPN wants to offload its entire catalog of products, and for no small price, either. Such a package would cost internet TV providers considerably more than what is currently being offered to satellite and cable providers, mentioned President John Skipper yesterday at the ESPN campus in Bristol, Connecticut.

According to Bloomberg, the channel package will include their primary channel, ESPN 2, as well as ESPN News. Not surprisingly, these programs are a top priority for emerging internet-based TV providers. ESPN attracts the highest subscriber fees of any other cable channel, sporting an impressive 98 million people who are signed up for the service. And for many cable TV users, professional sports are the sole reason why they haven’t yet cut the cord.

Skipper declined to say which companies ESPN has already begun talks with, although any interested parties must adhere to a strict set of rules set by the sports network. New providers must guarantee a minimum number of subscribers, and if these figures aren’t met, they will still have to pay it in full.  David Bank, an analyst for RBC Capital, added, “They have to be ‘take’ or ‘pay’ contracts. If you can’t sign that many up, you still have to pay.”

As tech giants engage in a frantic land grab to sign up as many programmers as possible, ESPN is in a pretty comfortable position. They recently signed a deal with Apple TV, restricting their content to existing cable subscribers. ESPN also made an aggressive move when they announced their intentions to subsidize mobile data fees, allowing smartphone viewers to watch their sports programs without having to worry about reaching any limits.

Perhaps the biggest winner of an ESPN deal is the sports leagues themselves. They “all love to float the idea because there will be more competition for rights,” explained Skipper.

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