American Cable Association President Matt Polka Friday
slammed ESPN's new 8-year, approximately $15 billion deal to renew Monday Night Football, saying it will
push cost of pay-TV "into the stratosphere."
ACA has long opined about the impact of ESPN's cost on
the rising price of cable and satellite. "Evidently, ESPN is pleased to be
known as the worldwide leader of hyper-inflationary price hikes. Pardon the interruption,
but that's just not cricket," said Polka.
Separately, Bernstein Research analyst Craig Moffett also
talked Friday about the possible impact of a deal whose cost he said was 70%
higher than the current ESPN MNF
contract. Moffett said that while ESPN and ESPN2 account for almost 20% of the
wholesale cost of pay-TV, they account for less than 2.5% of viewership.
He says the figure for sports' percentage of cable bills
is closer to 40% when other nets like Golf Channel, NBC Sports, NFL Net and
regional sports nets are figured in, and over 50% when allocating sports to the
price of some nets like TNT and USA that carry some sports, or a portion of
retrans fees for broadcast affiliates whose network sports programming is
"We've all heard the rationalizations for why sports
programming is so pricey," he writes in an advisory to
investors."It's real time (no ad skipping!). Its fan base is incredibly
passionate. It supports a huge ad load. It attracts the elusive 18-25 year old
male audience. And, of course, it's not available on Netflix. Still, sports
programming doesn't come close to representing half of all viewership. In
short, sports fans are overwhelmingly being subsidized by non-sports fans."
Moffett said the cost for ESPN could push that percentage
higher if DISH balked at the increase, dropped the channel and ESPN's cost was
spread over 14 million fewer subs.
"As we've stated, there is no NFL surcharge in our affiliation
agreements," said ESPN in response. "We have long-term deals with our
operators and ESPN does not set retail pricing. No one does more to
drive our affiliate's business than
ESPN. ACA's statement does nothing to support the extraordinary value
that the industry affords consumers."