Sports Fans Love It Live

High-priced national and regional sports networks are often blamed for viewer discontent over the continual rise in monthly cable bills, but a recent consumer survey shows that live sports content is actually keeping a lot of folks in the cable-TV subscription game.

Online retailer recently released a survey that claims nearly 50% of adults believe cable TV is a waste of money, with 11% saying they’ve dropped cable service altogether.

Only 15% of current cable subscribers said they would never drop their service, according to the survey. But when asked about the value of sports programming on their cable lineup, nearly half of consumers surveyed said that they couldn’t live without access to their favorite live sports content.

It’s no surprise, then, that ESPN — cable’s most-expensive basic network — finished as the top “mustkeep TV” brand on cable for the fifth year in a row in a separate survey by Toronto-based Solutions Research Group.

One only has to look at the ratings from the National Hockey League’s Boston Bruins-Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup finals and the Miami Heat-San Antonio Spurs National Basketball Association Finals, both in June, to see that live sports programming can be a ratings juggernaut that draws a cross-section of viewers and brings in millions of advertising dollars for networks and distributors.

Consumers also favored traditional big-screen TVs over other distribution platforms as the best way to view sports, according to the CouponCabin survey. Only 14% of current U.S. cable subscribers said they would cut the cord if they had alternative ways to watch live sports broadcasts.

The bottom line is that live sports, despite the relatively high cost, continues to drive viewers to cable and the big-screen TV.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.