Believed to be an effort to compete with the likes of Google TV and Sony but with a more specialised range of content, such a platform would be designed to run through web-based services as part of a package, although ESPN’s president John Skipper claimed that internet service providers planning to offer such content would need to pay the sports broadcaster ‘as much or more than’ traditional pay-tv (cable and satellite) providers in order to acquire the content rights.
Skipper claimed that some providers had already been in contact for ‘preliminary talks’ on such a service (without naming names), but warned that ESPN online services would not be offered as a standalone product, designed purely as part of an ISP package deal in which the consumer can enjoy ‘the whole suite of products’.
Independent analysts appear to agree with ESPN’s strict measures on who should be able to enjoy content, as RBC Capital’s David Bank said of the need to ensure that providers can guarantee a ‘minimum number of subscribers’ and are good for paying the fees expected: “They have to be ‘take or pay’ contracts. If you can’t sign that many up, you still have to pay.”
Skipper summarised his company’s stance, simply stating: “We’re not going to offer one-offs.”
While ESPN seem clear on what they want to launch (even if they haven’t entirely explained that to the public yet), an internet sports service will definitely have the potential to go down well with ISP customers, but will anyone feel like they are missing out without the option to take the broadcaster’s streaming platform on its own?