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Cable Technology Feature Article

December 28, 2012

Shocking Call for Government Intervention on Sports Programming Costs

By Gary Kim, Contributing Editor

Sometimes things that are said are important because of what was said, where it was said, how it was said, when it was said, why it was said or who said it. In that regard, it is notable that a recent comment made by Liberty Media Chair John Malone (News - Alert) is key on a number of fronts. 

Speaking about the problem of sports programming costs, Malone said it “might be time for the Federal Communications Commission or Congress to step in.” 

If you know anything about Malone, you know what a truly astonishing statement that is. Lots of observers think video subscription costs, and especially sports network costs, are out of control

But when a legendary industry executive and notable opponent of government regulation says something like that, you know something profoundly disturbing has happened. 

“The only way it is going to change in the short run is for government to intervene,” Malone added. One solution that could avert direct regulation, Malone suggested, is that more expensive services such as ESPN (News - Alert) or regional sports networks be offered to consumers on an a la carte basis. 

Long term, a shift to some form of “on demand” business, using a la carte mechanisms, will fix the problem, he suggested.

"People will watch and pay for what they want, it is kind of inevitable," he said. Without suggesting Malone always is right, and without a firm timetable, you might argue those views tell you all you need to know about the ultimate future of much of today’s video entertainment business.

Edited by Jamie Epstein

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