Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Fragmentation Of TV Sports Networks

No doubt that the cost of monthly cable service is becoming a major concern for households.  For some, it is becoming expensive to the point where consumers are cutting the cord and relying on the web for their video entertainment.  One of the biggest contributors to the cost of cable is sports programming.  License fees for sports networks are among the highest expenses for the cable operator.  And of course those fees get passed on to the consumer.

Sports programming also attracts an audience that offers more advertising opportunities. So where once sports was only found on broadcast channels, programming has pushed down to national and regional cable networks, as well as to the college and high school level.  And from a few sports networks, now we have many.  ABC has the leader in national sports with ESPN while NBC and CBS has been pushing forward their networks as well.  Now comes Fox Networks trying to build out their own national sports net.  "Fox has spent months working to convert Speed, a motorsports-centric network with 81 million subscribers, to Fox Sports 1. A companion service, Fox Sports 2, will replace another niche channel, Fuel."

But it is more than just national sports networks, the regional nets demand their monthly fees as well. NY has YES and MSG, Philly has Comcast Sportsnet, Boston has NESN.  And don't forget the rise of networks from the professional leagues as well, including the NFL Network, MLB, And NHL.  Even TBS and Turner get higher fees for their carriage of basketball and baseball.  College sport fans can also enjoy watching their teams on the Big Ten and Pacific-12 Networks.  And MSG has a network devoted to high school sports.  Is their fragmentation?  No doubt. 

Ultimately the costs of fragmenting can only lead to trouble. As costs of carriage rise, consumers will have a hard time paying for all these channels. At some point consolidation must occur as larger segmentation returns.  But that might take some time.  

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