Most Consumers Would Dump ESPN to Save 8 Bucks

56 percent of respondents would rather save a couple venti lattes than subscribe to Disney’s family of sports networks, study shows


More than half of all consumers would drop ESPN and ESPN2 to lower their monthly bills, according to a new study.

A survey commissioned by BTIG Research found that 56 percent of customers would remove ESPN and ESPN2 from their cable subscriptions if it meant saving $8 per month. Among female respondents, 60 percent said they would drop the sports channels, with 49 percent of men saying they would do the same.

The survey also asked customers whether, if ESPN was available only as a standalone service like Netflix, they would pay $20 a month to subscribe to it. Just 6 percent said that they would — with 85 percent saying that they would not and 9 percent saying that they were unsure.

There is currently no a la carte option that would allow consumers to drop ESPN without canceling their cable subscriptions or to subscribe to the network without adding other, unrelated channels. Writing for BTIG, analyst Richard Greenfield estimated that if ESPN were to break away from the cable bundle and offer a standalone option, it “would likely have to charge dramatically more than $20/month/sub in a direct-to-consumer model.”

ESPN has lost 7 million cable subscribers in two years, down from 99 million in 2013 to 92 million in 2015.

Greenfield predicted that ESPN would not be able to compensate for continued subscriber losses by offering a standalone option.

“We do not believe ESPN would be able to replace half its subs with a [direct-to-consumer] offering,” Greenfield wrote. “Not to mention, once a DTC offering launches, it would be very easy for consumers to turn-on/off their ESPN subscription (as they are doing with HBO Now). This creates a continuity challenge for ESPN that does not exist in the current MVPD (multichannel video programming distributor) ecosystem, where consumers effectively take all basic cable channels or none.”

The BTIG study (which can be read here with registration) surveyed 1,582 consumers. The sample surveyed was not representative of the overall population, and Greenfield — not the polling company contracted to conduct the survey — formulated the questions.