Years ago, I used to dream of a day when I could buy each cable channel I wanted, instead of having to subscribe to an expensive monthly package that included dozens of channels I never watched. The industry is moving that direction with options such as Sling TV and standalone packages such as HBO Now, but it’s not completely there.
There aren’t enough standalone channels and, among what’s available, the fees are still too expensive for my tastes. The Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger reflected on the trend on CNBC recently, and discussed the future of ESPN.
Iger said the company is open to launching a standalone subscription to ESPN, one that doesn’t require a cable package to view, but it won’t happen for a while (CNBC said at least 5 years.) Iger argued that Disney, which owns ESPN, still makes plenty from ESPN as a bundled cable deal.
“While the business model may face challenges over the next few years, long term for ESPN… they’ll be fine,” he told CNBC. “If you want to use HBO as a model, what ESPN would be looking for is much larger penetration of the market.”
“There are bigger numbers that are watching today,” Iger said of the cable TV market. “You can look at it two ways, you can look at the number of subscribers or the number of viewers. The number of viewers is pretty significant.” Iger said ratings are already substantially up even though “people are cutting the cord.”
Iger couldn’t comment on how much he thinks ESPN would cost viewers each month.