ESPN Could Price Self Off System

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To the editor:

I read with interest the front page article "Ops Rip ESPN Hike" in the May 5 edition of Multichannel News. In particular my attention was drawn to the statement … "for some small and midsized operators the arrangement could push ESPN's rate near $2, a mark unprecedented for a nationally distributed basic network."

The small, rural distribution system (1,000 subs) for which I am responsible has been paying more than $2 per subscriber, per month for ESPN for the past year. The upcoming August 1st rate increase will push Southern Greenlee County TV Association's (SGCTVA) rate to a level approaching $3 per subscriber per month for the ESPN service.

The ESPN service fee accounts for nearly 57% of the programming costs at SGCTVA. Truly, the small operator that can afford it less has to pay more.

Three years ago, when Disney Channel was forcing all ops to put it on the basic tier or lose access to Disney programming, the SGCTVA Board of Directors had no choice but to drop Disney or affect a rate increase to all subscribers for programming which 75% of them did not want. Result: Disney Channel is no longer carried by SGCTVA.

I project that the same will happen with ESPN after another rate hike or two. The percentage of basic subscribers who do not like or want sports programming should have the choice to not pay for it. Since ESPN likely will not allow its programming to be tiered, at some future time ESPN will price itself off the SGCTVA system.

Milt Jensen, Manager, Technical Services, Southern Greenlee County TV Association

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