Bloomberg reports that Walt Disney Co. and Altice USA Inc. have “reached a preliminary programming agreement” which will put the SEC Network and yet-to-launch ACC Network into the homes of Altice’s 2.4 million cable subscribers. Carriage of SEC and ACC networks were part of a sweeping arrangement between the two heavyweights which also included ESPN, ABC and the Disney Channel.
This is great news for the sports industry on a variety of fronts.
For starters, with 2+ million more homes now subscribing to the SEC Network – whether they know Aubie from Big Al or not – the revenue generated by that property, and funneled back to the member institutions, will grow. It’s also a major shot in the arm and confidence booster for the ACC Network which is scheduled to launch in 2019. Doing so with substantial clearance in New York City is a big deal tangibly and perceptually.
Taking a step back, it also proves that cable companies, despite their protests about high carriage fees, which are merited, and the number of customers fleeing cable, which is true, many of whom are doing so because they don’t want to pay for sports channels they don’t watch, also true, still recognize the value and power of live sports as the top audience and revenue driver for cable television. As great as Netflix and Hulu and YouTube and on-demand content and all the other digital providers are, they don’t have “Monday Night Football.” They don’t have the Texas A&M-Alabama football game. They don’t have Duke vs. North Carolina basketball.
ESPN charges an exorbitant amount of money for cable providers to offer its channel. By far the most in the industry. It charges more to carry ESPN 2, ESPN U, SEC Network, ACC Network and the like. Consumers are fleeing cable TV in droves for a suite of digital video offerings both cheaper and more tailored to their tastes.
But live sports remains the king of television. Nothing can match it and nothing appears on the horizon to replace it. As long as that’s the case, discussion of the sports TV “bubble” bursting remain premature alarmism.
(You can follow Chadd Scott on Twitter @ChaddScott)
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