ESPN taking a hard look at a la carte ... for cricket

Giving serious thought to a la carte models that won't disrupt its existing U.S. pay-TV business, ESPN is examining the possible launch of an OTT service for the upcoming Cricket World Cup.

According to Re/code, Russell Wolff, executive VP and managing director for ESPN International, is spearheading the plan for the February tournament, which has not been finalized.

Wolff estimates the U.S. cricket fan base to total around 30 million. It is hard to know how much of that audience would be rabid enough about the game to subscribe to an a la carte service. But it is also hard to imagine cricket being a catalyst for wholesale migration in the U.S. from existing pay-TV services.

ESPN acquired rights to the Cricket World Cup in 2011. It initially thought about putting the games on ESPN3, a channel now available only in the authenticated Watch ESPN TV Everywhere universe. However, the tournament seems to be in the sweet spot ESPN is seeking as it looks to maximize its audience and take exploit niche audiences resting outside the pay-TV realm.

"We think about, are there sports events we could offer where the consumer would pay us directly--not the content on our current linear networks. This has to be new [content], and it would create a third revenue stream for us," ESPN president John Skipper told Re/code in September.

For more:
- read this Re/code report
- read this GigaOm report

Related links:
Disney's Iger: ESPN not going a la carte
NBA deal will raise average pay-TV bill 'couple of dollars a month,' report says
Cord maybes: Pay-TV chases millennials with OTT services, but success is hardly guaranteed

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