Cable trade group blasts ESPN for new NFL deal


The trade organization for smaller cable system owners is railing against ESPN for its new, more expensive deal with the NFL to keep “Monday Night Football” on the sports cable network through 2021. The American Cable Association (ACA) calls it “reckless deal making” by what is already the most-expensive cable network.

“ESPN has struck a bad bargain for consumers. The sports network’s financially wanton deal will push the cost of pay-TV service into the stratosphere, making the product less and less affordable during a time of severe economic stress and high unemployment. Evidently, ESPN is pleased to be known as the worldwide leader of hyper-inflationary price hikes. Pardon the interruption but that’s just not cricket, said ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka of the ESPN deal with the NFL which he estimated at $14 billion. Other estimates have put it over $15 billion. 

“Consumers need to understand that programmers like ESPN are responsible for the rising cost of cable and satellite TV. ESPN protects its ability to engage in reckless deal making by forcing pay-TV providers to carry the channel on the most basic programming tier that all subscribers must purchase, which means that consumers with no interest in sports are required to subsidize the sports fan. The pay-TV business model is broken because ESPN, the most expensive basic channel on cable and satellite, stubbornly refuses to give consumers the ability to opt out of costly programming they don’t care to watch. Loyal pay-TV customers should resent ESPN’s high-handed and inflexible business strategy,” said Polka.

The cable system owners aren’t the only ones angered by the higher price tag that ESPN expects to pass along to them. Satellite provider Dish Network is reported to be considering the drastic step of dropping ESPN or offer it only on an extra-cost sports tier. ESPN has historically resisted being placed anywhere other than a basic tier.