We have seen the rise of regional and national cable sports nets, we have watched more and more sporting events move from free TV to cable. Our NBA Playoff games are now on TNT, our Monday Night Football on ESPN, and boxing on HBO and Showtime. Broadcast networks have let the cable networks rule the sports programming niche. And so it should come to no surprise for anyone that the US Open Tennis final matches will move off CBS to ESPN. Already weekday matches are found on ESPN and Tennis Channel, so this move only brings all the matches to one network.
Moving high profile sports events off broadcast to cable also helps cable operators and the cable networks. These events are not likely to available to non-cable customers on the web and so it encourages consumers to stay subscribed to cable. Sports may be a niche, yet there always seems to be a sports fan in every household. Adding another signature sports event to cable only makes it harder to cut the cable cord. Of course, the high costs of these programming events causes licenses fees to rise and subscriber fees to rise with it. So at some point, the cost to view will become too costly for a larger and larger audience.
And so where does that take this trend? Well don't be surprised if within the decade, a major sporting event is available as a subscribed PPV event. It logically follows as the next way to capture a higher revenue stream. As costs for rights skyrocket and old media outlets unable or unwilling to buy, new sources emerge; regardless, ultimately, the consumer will end up paying more.