Survey: 56% of pay-TV customers would ditch ESPN in order to save $8 every month

More than half of pay-TV subscribers surveyed -- 56 percent -- said they'd ditch ESPN in order to save $8 every month on their multichannel bill.

Further, only 6 percent of respondents said they'd pay $20 a month for a direct-to-consumer ESPN platform.

The data comes courtesy of research firm Civic Science, which interviewed 1,582 consumers last week, of which 1,370 (87 percent) currently subscribed to pay-TV. BTIG Research analyst Richard Greenfield unearthed the report while continuing to express dire concern about ESPN's ongoing business model. 

"We continue to believe ESPN is in serious trouble as they spent far too heavily on long-term sports rights contracts, given the deteriorating state of the multichannel video bundle and accelerating shift of TV ad dollars to mobile," said Greenfield while introducing the Civic Science data. "Simply put, ESPN has been the largest beneficiary of the 'BIG' cable bundle for decades and is now dramatically over-earning, with consumers the biggest losers." 

The most expensive channel in the pay-TV bundle, ESPN has been the subject of much analyst hand-wringing since it was revealed last summer that the national sports programming conglomerate had lost about 7 million subscribers over the last two years.

Earlier this week, another little recognized research company, Beta Research, released the results of an ad agency survey, indicating that an industry-leading 63 percent of ad purchasing executives planned to spend even more money on ESPN this year.

However, the Civic Science data does seem troubling to the Disney-owned sports media conglomerate. As Greenfield notes, ESPN will find it challenging to launch a direct-to-consumer streaming platform to recapture former customers who leave the pay-TV ecosystem, or never join. Launching such a service would remove contractual protections with pay-TV operators to keep ESPN and ESPN 2 in top programming tiers, forcing subscribers who don't watch the channels to pay for them anyway.

As the Civic Science data seems to point out, without that protection, a major portion of pay-TV subscribers -- 60 percent of female customers -- would ditch ESPN to save money. 

For more:
- read this BTIG Research blog post

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