Friday, March 10, 2023, 10:17 AM ET|Posted by Will Richmond
Pay-TV providers lost another 7 million subscribers (approximately) in 2022 as losses accelerated from 2021. The losses span those actually cutting the cord, plus those that simply don’t take on a pay-TV subscription in the first place.
On this week’s podcast Colin and I discuss pay-TV’s melting iceberg, and among its consequences, what’s it mean for sports teams’ valuations and players’ salaries. Since cord-cutting came along, there’s always been a notion of sports providing a “firewall” bottom on pay-TV subscribers. But with so many sports rights now leaking into the streaming domain - having been snapped up by Big Tech - the paradigm-busting question looms larger.
Another, related consequence of pay-TV’s implosion is the demise of regional sports networks (RSNs). They’re also experiencing financial turmoil due to bad deal-making, disconnects with audiences and sub-par demand. Even mighty ESPN has been the subject of M&A rumormongering as newly restored CEO Bob Iger has to pick his priorities.
All of this is to say that the economics of the sports business are changing in front of our eyes. If sports networks’ financial viability is impaired, rendering them unable to competitively bid for rights, then the question becomes, will Big Tech step in as a backstop, building on their current commitment? As I assert in the podcast, I think their commitment to becoming a viable backstop will only become known as the ultimate CTV ad monetization opportunity crystallizes. Specifically, if CTV can legitimately become full/lower funnel - bringing in buckets of cash with it - then backstop viability is far more likely. Absent that it’s jump ball. We’ll see.
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