The Confidential

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Unlimited ESPN on your Smartphone/Tablet?

Several months ago, there was a discussion in the comments of the Confidential regarding the profitability of broadcasting sports over the internet. Specifically that conferences who rely solely on airing sports content on TV via cable subscriptions, cough**B1G**cough, may be selling themselves short as more-and-more viewers are ditching the big screen for their handheld devices.

It seems that ESPN may be exploring the same topic. ESPN has been at the forefront for developing the infrastructure for watching content over the internet, with the creation of ESPN3 (nee ESPN360) as well as the development of the ESPN App which allows you to watch live games on your handheld device.

But, this becomes problematic as more-and-more carriers are no longer allowing unlimited data packages on your phone.


Last week the Wall Street Journal reported that ESPN is in talks with a major carrier (Verizon) to subsidize unlimited ESPN content on your phone/tablet. So, you can watch a 6-OT game (Hi, UConn!) on your phone and not have to worry about going over your allowable data for the month.

This paves the way for additional revenue for ESPN from advertisers that want to know more-and-more about individual user preferences, and ultimately back to the conferences they support such as the ACC.

So what do you think? Do you like the idea of ESPN subsidizing data? Do you think this model will ultimately replace the cable-subscription model that is currently lining the pockets of the other conferences? Leave your thoughts and comments below.

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4 thoughts on “Unlimited ESPN on your Smartphone/Tablet?

  1. Now THIS is interesting. Have limits on use, but allow content providers to subsidize exceptions. While ESPN’s payments take away from what it can give to the SEC/ACC/JohnsHopkins, if it gives those schools an advantage in the media marketplace, that is kind of cool too. If ESPN can get an ACC network off and running, then ESPN is truly fighting back in the battle here.

    • M. Caffrey on said:

      My guess is that if ACC gets a network, it will either be in some combination with the SEC, or will be exclusively available online…which would be available worldwide and not just in big metropolitan areas.

      I wonder about the long-term viability of TV advertising. In today’s DVR-centric world, it’s so easier to skip through commercials completely. Also, when advertising on TV, you are assuming that all viewers have similar tastes/preferences.

      By contrast, ESPN can collect information on that individual’s preferences based on their use while watching a game – which ESPN can collect and sell directly to advertisers.

      To that end, I don’t think that ESPN sees BTN as a competitor; instead I think they were much more worried about NBC/Comcast since they have the infrastructure in place to really capitalize on online viewing/advertising.

  2. I’m sure the profitability is there but from someone who isn’t up on all the latest technology, like me, will have concerns. They would need an easy way to put the game on their big screens, I wouldn’t want to watch it on a small tablet or phone screen, and the buffering issues would have to be addressed.

    • M. Caffrey on said:

      Don’t worry, I imagine that the games with the greatest appeal will wind up on ABC or ESPN, so Louisville should be fine. Meanwhile there will probably be a run on cell phone/HDMI adapters in Winston-Salem.

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