In case you had forgotten how much pull televised sports has on the American public, consider this cable television survey from CouponCabin.com and Harris Interactive, which reveals just how many Americans remain tied to their cable and satellite TV services to watch the game.
More than four-in-ten (43 percent) U.S. adults report they won’t cancel cable TV services because then they can’t watch live sports programming. On the flip side, 14 percent of current U.S. cable subscribers said they would cut their cable cord if there were alternative ways to watch live sports broadcasts.
That number might give you some indication as to why Fox Sports Media Group COO Randy Freer suggested that televised sports is actually undervalued, even though ESPN is the most expensive channel in every pay TV subscription. Clearly, there is belief in big media that the amount people are willing to pay for sports on TV hasn’t come close to hitting its ceiling yet.
This suits big media conglomerates just fine, of course. As we covered not too long ago, the five corporations that control nearly all the major sports on TV also own dozens of other channels on the cable dial, including all the major news channels and many of the most popular entertainment channels. Just as everyone who subscribes to pay TV subsidizes modern sports, the 43% of adults who keep pay TV because of sports end up subsidizing all the other channels. That explains why those five corporations want to keep sports channels tied to the larger cable bundle. Any channel that loses 43% of its income would either disappear from the dial very quickly or be forced into severe cuts to survive.
The survey also revealed that 56% of pay TV subscribers would cut the cord “if there were other, less costly, alternatives.” What might be more interesting, though, is how much overlap there is between that group and the 43% that keep pay TV because of sports. That number might offer some insight into what might happen if sports channels became a separate bundle within the pay TV ecosystem, something that Cablevision v. Viacom might make possible. If a pay TV service could offer a package of 20-25 sports channels, including regional sports networks, without any other channels, how much would sports fans for it? That number might be of interest to a lot of people.