According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, about 50 percent of the programming costs in your monthly cable TV bill go to sports. Whether you’re a sports fan or not, whether you’re tuned into ESPN all day every day or never, you’re paying for your cable or satellite TV carrier to carry sports, because the audience for sports is vast and insatiable, and media companies are spending billions more each year for the broadcast rights to keep fans glued to their TVs.
Cable companies are unlikely to stop charging all of their customers for sports channels, because they sell channels bundled together rather than individually, and sports are the bread and butter of the cable industry, because they are one of the few types of programming that people prefer to watch live, rather than recording with a DVR and watching later to skip commercials, or watching later on a streaming service like Hulu or Netflix. That means sports ad dollars are very important to the industry, and helping to keep it afloat. This results in problems, though, as quoted in the Inquirer article.
“Here is a little old lady who wants to watch CNN,” said Ralph Morrow, owner of Catalina Cable TV Co. in Avalon, Calif., a 1,200-subscriber system. “But I can’t give it to her without $21 a month in sports.”
Threatened by Internet streaming services and a fragmenting TV audience, Comcast/NBC, ESPN, Fox Sports, Turner, and CBS have agreed over the last 20 months to spend $72 billion for the TV rights to professional, Olympic, and college sports well into the next decade.
Billions of additional dollars will be paid for sports rights on about 50 regional cable networks, such as Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia, and college championship bowl games.
The total in national and regional sports rights could reach $100 billion over the next dozen years.
The situation is unlikely to change.