Sports rights deals are out of control and threaten the future of the pay-television industry, a lobbyist for small and mid-size cable operators said Tuesday in reaction to Major League Baseball's signing new deals with ESPN, Fox and Turner Broadcasting that run eight years and are valued at $12.4 billion.
"The plain truth is that these MLB deals will send monthly pay-TV bills streaking skyward," charged Matthew Polka, president and chief executive of the American Cable Assn. The new baseball deal -- on top of what the NFL gets in rights fees from CBS, NBC, Fox and ESPN -- will "make life hard for families whose incomes, hammered by the recession, can’t keep pace with the greed of broadcasters, cable networks and sports leagues."
Polka fears that the amount of money pay-TV distributors must pay to carry channels that have heavy loads of sports programming will only increase. The most expensive national cable channel currently is Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN, which charges more than $5 per subscriber, per-month, according to industry consulting firm SNL Kagan. TNT, which has basketball, charges $1.18, which is on the high end. MTV, by comparison, charges about 41 cents per customer.
"Insane sports contracts are destroying a business model that once balanced the interests of consumers, pay-TV operators, programmers and advertisers," Polka said.