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ESPNMedia Monster

How ESPN Is Making Your Monthly Cable Bill More And More Expensive


It’s obvious to anyone who follows sports in the least that ESPN is a massive enterprise, but the nuts and bolts that allow it to be as massive as it is – i.e. cable subscriber fees – aren’t as widely known. That, however, could be changing. Just a few days ago, Frank Deford did a story for NPR calling cable subscribers (non-sports fans in particular) “hostage[s] of sports.” He does that because sports channels – of which ESPN is by far the biggest, of course – take in way more per subscriber than any other network. The Worldwide Leader’s current per-household subscription fee: $4.69. The next-closest national cable network? TNT, at…$1.16.

That’s a huge difference…one that helped spur on another “Is ESPN’s power out of control?” story, this one today in Newsweek, by Nick Summers. ESPN has to shell out big bucks of its own to carry live events – costs it passes on to cable companies, which are then passed on to cable subscribers. And Summers quotes Matt Polka, CEO of the American Cable Association (which “represents nearly 900 small and medium sized operators“), as wondering how much longer people will put up with it:

Ultimately, there’s going to be a revolt over the cost. Or policymakers will get involved, because the costs of these things are so out of line with cost of living that someone’s going to put up a stop sign.

This isn’t strictly an ESPN phenomenon, by the way: Summers notes that some regional sports networks charge up to $3.36 per household. ESPN’s merely the biggest by a longshot, and therefore their costs have the most impact. And with two stories in a week highlighting those costs, more and more people can’t help but take notice. We’re not sure if anything as dramatic as Polka’s “revolt” will happen, but once enough people get wind of the fact that ESPN is four times more expensive than any other major cable network, we don’t think the status quo (i.e. higher and higher rates for every subscriber, including those with no interest in watching ESPN) can continue much longer, either.


  • Anonymous

    Oh, so this is what they mean by ”Worldwide Leader”.

  • Anonymous

     I really hope for the day when you could just pick and choose which channels you get

  • BC

    If it weren’t for ESPN, I wouldn’t have my cable package.  Would like it much better if I could just pay that $4.69 to them instead of paying my whole bill.  So just as non-sports fans are subsidizing ESPN, us ESPN fans are also subsidizing the rest of the programming others are watching.

  • Anonymous

    Cable fees are way too high overall. 
    ESPN gets a portion, but they deliver a great product.
    Have you tried to buy a ticket to a major event?  The 99% can’t afford that.
    Can you afford pay per view events?  Geesh!

    Cable and satellite hold us hostage to their package of programs.  That’s all.

  • Anonymous

    “ESPN recently re-upped its contract with the National Football League,
    increasing payments by 70 percent, to $1.9 billion per season, through
    2021.”

    Costs get passed on to viewers.  See Nick Summers article above.  Interesting.
    270 staffers from ESPN were required fro the 49′ers game.  Wow!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OHMZVV3PCZZLF2EZNBJ57BBXLI Timothy R

    It’s important to note that $4.69/household is what ESPN charges your service provider for ESPN (this figure was less than $1.50 10 years ago).  Your service provider then adds their operating costs and margin to your package.  In other words, consumers are actually paying upwards of $10/month per month for ESPN. 

    The day of a la carte channel picking is anything but imminent, but the ‘basic cable’ package of 70+ channels will no question be bucketed into several tiers (i.e. sports, kids, entertainment, news, etc) once service providers can successfully unbundle Disney from ESPN and Fox Sports from Fox News, etc.

  • Ftheaclu

    It is amazing to me that the people who run ESPN, who are clearly liberals, run their business like the criminal Republican Party. While I am not saying what ESPN does is equivalent to starting two illegal wars that led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people, policies that destroy the economy and the financial well-being of millions, especially women, children, gays, and minorities, they nevertheless force things that people don’t want on them just like the criminal Republican scumbags, soothe analogy holds. Obama needs to take a hard look at ESPN’s profits and determine what is a fair amount to charge people for ESPN, because this is a free country where people have a right to not be gouged by corporate greed. Instead, all we get this year is told by Fox News is we should vote out Obama because he is black. Why can’t the government ban Fox News for its lying right wing propaganda once and for all.

  • Observer Guy

    you’re nuts

  • not biff

    sounds like espn wants a monopoly, sounds like they are well on their way


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