By: Charlie Lott, Staff Writer
The unquestioned leader in streaming sports content, Disney-owned ESPN, has launched a new app, ESPN+, that will feature all of the games deemed unworthy to be shown on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN Classic or any number of the company’s other channels. For a monthly fee of $4.99, subscribers can watch any number of lower-tier international and collegiate games, including the majority of Furman’s sporting events for the upcoming year.
First of all, what exactly is ESPN+? The new channel is Disney’s attempt to sell content directly to customers instead of selling through a third party. On TV, sports networks rent games from pro sports leagues at an exorbitant fee. Then, cable providers pay networks a part of their consumers’ monthly bill in exchange for access to those networks. After the game has aired, it is once again the property of the NFL, NBA, MLB or NCAA.
Direct-to-customer sales is the name of the game these days for a number of different entertainment models. People buy their movies and shows straight from Netflix instead of going to theaters and stream music from Spotify for a monthly fee instead of buying songs through iTunes. There is even a growing market for direct-billing in doctor’s offices, where third-party insurance providers have long reigned supreme.
Netflix has been able to grow exponentially by not only cutting out the cable providers, but also the content creators, by producing their own shows and movies and airing them without a rental fee. ESPN can not follow suit, because they can not create their own sports content. What they can do is cut out Comcast and DirecTV, at least for some of the less popular games, by providing their content directly to consumers rather than as part of a cable package.
This would be great if you did not already have to pay for cable to get all of the basic channels you want to watch. It would also be great if you, like millions of Americans, did not’t care at all about any of the sporting events airing on ESPN+. Sub-par English Premier League Matchups and NCAA tennis and lacrosse do not generally attract a massive viewership. But, alas, you are a Furman student, and as such are forced to spend the $4.99 to get through the paywall to watch almost all Paladin sports.
This begs the question: will Furman students pay to watch games? Athletics already struggles to sell tickets and gain student support, and an additional $4.99 monthly cost can do nothing but hurt matters. The forty-odd people polled while hanging out in the Trone Center atrium gave a resounding answer. Their responses ranged from “Probably not,” to “No.”
According to sophomore Graham Sanders, students already pay for enough to watch sports on TV.
“I definitely wouldn’t pay for that,” Sanders said. “I already pay enough for cable. Plus, I can see all of the home games for free.” It’s a sentiment shared by most Furman students, who did not go out of their way to watch free games and certainly will not pay a surcharge for the same thing.
In the long run, when ESPN separates from cable providers entirely, and you can pay the same charge for both the Super Bowl and Furman v. Wofford. Then, ESPN+ will be great for viewers to maximize entertainment while minimizing costs. But for now, fans of lesser-known sports and teams are going to have to struggle through paying both ESPN and cable for all of their sporting need and wants.