Most Cable Subscribers Would Dump ESPN to Save $8 a Month

Pay TV bundles that force you to pay for channels and shows you never watch has long been one reason people say they hate their cable companies. Now a new survey says that more than half of us would give up ESPN—the single biggest programming cost on your bill—if they could save $8 on their bill every month.

In a blog post on its website, BTIG Research cited a recent survey by Civic Science, which polled 1,582 consumers, 87 percent of whom currently subscribe to a multichannel pay TV service.  

What the survey found was that 56 percent of them would give up ESPN/ESPN2 if they could shave $8 off their bill every month. A larger number of female respondent—60 percent—than males—49 percent—were willing to trim ESPN to save money.

It's long been speculated that it would cost as much as $30 a month to get ESPN by itself if it became untethered from a pay TV bundle. In what is surely a bad sign for the company and its parent Disney—which reported last summer that the sports network had lost about 7 million subscribers over the last two years—only 6 percent of the respondents said they'd pay $20 a month for ESPN as a standalone channel. (About 85 percent of the respondents said they wouldn't pay, while 9 percent said they weren't sure.) Based the estimates that we've seen, we think the monthly cost of a standalone ESPN service would be $30 or more to compensate for the lower number of subscribers.

Last year, a few new TV services, including Sling TV and Verizon's Custom TV, offered ESPN as part of slimmed-down packages. But it was still part of what is essentially a programming bundle combined with other channels, not an a la carte service.

If you're a pay TV subscriber who has been paying for, but not watching, ESPN, then BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield probably summed up your feelings in this comment about the survey in his blog post:

"Simply put, ESPN has been the largest beneficiary of the 'Big' cable bundle for decades and is now dramatically overearning, with consumers the biggest losers."

If you're a pay TV customer, let us know in the comments section below if you'd be willing to give up ESPN/ESPN2 to save $8 each month on your cable bill.

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