An open letter to ESPN
Sports fans are a long-suffering crowd. We’ve endured rising ticket prices, wayward basketballs and players emerging from the fields of play, and even the ultimate ignominy of the $6 hot dog. But now we have to deal with being told we don’t matter.
Here’s what I’m talking about. ESPN, the sports channel and empire which proclaims itself to be a ‘leader’ in the sports world, recently debuted an online version of their TV service, called ESPN360.com. With ESPN 360.com, the lucky sports fans who subscribe to a limited list of cable providers (such as Adelphia) are automatically granted instant free access to this cornucopia of multimedia sports excitement. Everyone else gets a message suggesting they email their ISP to request that it add the ESPN360.com service to its list of offerings so that you, the sports fan, can get it for free.
Now, I understand that ESPN would not want just anyone to connect and start streaming video for free from a cable channel that normally requires a paid subscription. But I do have that subscription–I’ve been a loyal ESPN viewer through Comcast, DISH Network, and now Metrocast Cable of Belmont, NH. Hear that, ESPN? I pay just as much as the people 10 miles north of me who have Adelphia, but I simply can’t get access, because I need to petition my podunk provider to pay you guys.
And that’s what really gets me angry. The fact that I simply can’t get access to ESPN360.com, no matter what. There’s no option to create a subscription account for a standalone service, as in the case of Major League Baseball’s well-designed, well-executed, and fan-centric MLB.TV. Instead, I get a pithy request to petition my ISP. In other words, if ESPN can’t sell this service in huge contracts to large-scale ISPs, it’s not worth selling. ESPN, it appears, is above even selling a product to the fans themselves–they’re out for the big fish.
It wouldn’t be hard to correct this problem–many fans, I’m sure, would be willing to pay for the service on a monthly basis, so that they can watch it on the road in hotel rooms, at the workplace, and anywhere they might be that happens not to be on one of a few ISPs. If you let us buy it, we will come. MLB.TV proves that every day. But being forced to convince my cable provider to pay an extra cost to ESPN makes me feel about as unimportant as could be, and it sure doesn’t make me feel very good about what interests ESPN has at its corporate heart. I know money’s a huge part of sports, but so are fans, and you shouldn’t forget that.
NB:So please, if you agree with this standpoint, and you’re frustrated by ESPN’s attempt to use you as a marketing tool to cable providers and other ISPs, comment below or share this article with others. It seems pretty clear that ESPN will only respond to large groups with significant market shares, so let’s become a large group.
People who looked at this item also looked at…