If you're like millions of Americans, you watch ESPN on a daily basis. If that's the case, chances are you're paying for it too — dearly. Don't watch ESPN? You're not alone either, but unfortunately for you, you're still paying for it whether you want to or not.
TV tracking firm Nielson found only four percent of households watch sports, not including the NFL, according to the Wall Street Journal. Even so, cable providers pay huge sums of money to carry popular networks such as ESPN, NBC Sports Network, and coming soon, Fox Sports 1. Those channels aren't cheap, and it's the customers that float the bill.
AT&T is now thinking ahead of the curve. Instead of lumping CSN Houston, a regional sports network, with it's standard programming, AT&T is able to lower their costs, making them a more attractive provider than other cable providers who have not chosen to drop pricey sports networks such as CSN Houston. AT&T has been able to justify the move by using such statistics as the one provided above. With so few people actually watching sports, why carry such networks?
In a perfect world, AT&T would like to offer such networks a la carte, but CSN Houston isn't interested in such a deal, and neither will other such networks if the move becomes a trend. Networks get a small fee for every subscriber making it much more lucrative to be packaged with standard programming, according to the Journal.
While AT&T's move isn't going to affect your ability to watch ESPN right now, changes could be coming down the pipe for many cable providers. Networks such as ESPN would likely be far pricier if the current model of being part of providers' standard packages is tossed away.
If such a move is successful, cable providers will also be able to leverage smaller deals with sports leagues for networks such as the NFL Network.
Sports are great, but if you're banking on your ability to watch ESPN or NFLN, you may have to be kicking in a little more down the road to keep those channels. Cable providers are interested in appealing to the masses, and four percent is far from a massive segment, even if that's not including NFL viewership. The simple fact of the matter is that sports don't matter to too many people, and they're driving up prices for everyone.