Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

October 1, 2013

JEFFREY McCALL: TV sports costs blitz consumers

Price spikes 20% higher than on other premium channels.

It’s a great time of year to be a sports fan. Football has kicked off. Baseball pennant races are going down to the wire. NASCAR’s Chase is gearing up. Sports fans can settle into their chairs with a beverage and the remote, and pass away countless hours. Hope they enjoy the experience, because it’s costing them big money.

Moderation is not a concept that appeals to most Americans, and so it is with sports television. Sports fans can’t get enough of games on the tube, and media corporations are happy to feed the dependence. The average cable television subscriber has access to more than 20 sports channels. In addition to multiple ESPN channels, there are channels for every pro sports league.

Americans pay huge dollars for this television sports gluttony. Some estimates are 40 percent of a consumer’s cable bill goes to pay for sports channels. ESPN collects more than $5.50 from every cable subscriber and expects an increase to $7 within three years. That will generate $8 billion for ESPN, and the figure doesn’t include money made from on-air commercials. There are additional charges for ESPN2, ESPNU and so on. Sports channel price increases are 20 percent higher than the increases for other channels. The costs are expensive enough for sports viewers, but outrageous for the half of all Americans not interested in sports.

Sports television is great for the mega-media corporations. Live game broadcasts are virtually DVR-proof, meaning fans watch the games as they happen. Thus, viewers can’t skip the commercials, as they often do when they view recorded sitcoms or dramas. Games take a long time and fill hours of air time, especially when considering the pre- and post-game shows. Advertisers find sports viewers are great targets for products that lend themselves to slick commercial appeals, such as beer, soda, cars, restaurants and sports equipment. The valued male viewer can be reached through sports, and women often watch sports, too. On the other hand, shows that appeal to women seldom have men watching.

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