Cable and satellite television have turned sport into big business — and we’re paying for it.
On August 28, 2012, ESPN extended its contract with Major League Baseball through the year 2021. The deal, which begins in 2014, will pay MLB $5.6 billion over 8 seasons, or $700 million a year. (1) The previous contract was worth just over half that.
This is far from the biggest contract ESPN pays a major sports league in America. The Disney-owned network currently pays the National Football League $1.1 billion a year for the rights to broadcast Monday Night Football and other NFL programming — and starting in 2014, that number will jump to $1.9 billion a year. (2) The National Basketball Association’s TV contracts with ESPN and Turner Broadcasting will pay that league $930 million a year through 2016. (3) The National Hockey League isn’t on ESPN, which suits NBC Sports Network just fine. That network pay the NHL $200 million a year for TV rights through 2021. (4)
Professional sports aren’t alone in raking in huge amounts of TV money. College sports rake in millions as well. The Bowl Championship Series, that largely reviled kludge of traditional college football bowl games-turned-massive events, receives $610 million a year from ESPN. (5) CBS and Turner also give the NCAA $771 million a year for the broadcast rights to the NCAA Basketball Tournament. (6) What’s more, five major conferences receive more than $150 million each from the networks that show their football and basketball games.
How do these TV networks manage to foot these bills for pro and college sports? Where does all this money come from?
Simply put, it comes from you.
If you subscribe to cable or satellite TV, you pay subscriber fees for every channel you receive, including all the channels you don’t watch. In the case of ESPN, those subscriber fees are huge — $5.73 per subscriber for ESPN and ESPN2 combined, which are both in approximately 100 million homes. (7) TNT, the 2nd-highest cable network, receives $1.16 per subscriber, while the Comcast-owned NBC Sports Network makes do with $0.31 per subscriber. For now. (8)
For ESPN, the math is tremendous. 100 million subscribers, each paying $5.76 a month for 12 months, brings the self-proclaimed “Worldwide Leader In Sports” more than $7 BILLION A YEAR. That money pays for those all enormous TV contracts. If you pay for cable or satellite TV, that money comes from your pocket.
What You Pay For Sports aims to show you how much of your money gets funneled into major pro and college sports through these TV deals. This site will also explore how your money is being distributed after it leaves your hands.
You might not watch sports. You might not even like sports. Chances are, though, you’re still footing the bill for sports. What You Pay For Sports will break it all down for you. After all, you should know how your money is being spent.
About The Author
Dave Warner is the founder of Dave’s Football Blog, which ran from 2004 to 2011, and covered the NFL and international soccer for the AOL Sports Blog FanHouse from 2006 to 2008. Dave has also contributed to Deadspin, EPL Talk, and The Run of Play. You can contact Dave by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.