Taking aim at ESPN, ACA president and CEO Matt Polka said small cable operators have a right to be concerned over content providers that block consumer access to their Web sites until broadband access providers agree to pay wholesale fees.
Speaking during a keynote address July 26 at the Independent Show here, Polka said that broadband service ESPN360.com requires broadband access providers to pay fees based on their total subscriber base, even though a majority of customers will not watch sports programming on their computers.
"Here we have drawn a line in the sand. ACA will fight ESPN360.com and its business model clones because all they do is drive up the retail cost of broadband for everyone, especially for those who have absolutely no interest in viewing sports on a computer screen," Polka said.
Instead, ACA believes that consumers should be able to access all legal Web content on their own and that access to services like ESPN360.com should not be predicated on whether their access provider has a deal with The Walt Disney Co.
"With video exploding on the Internet, big media companies are experimenting with business models that are far from friendly toward ACA members. Disney is demanding fees from small cable to ensure their broadband subscribers can click on ESPN360.com on the Internet," Polka said. "In our view, ESPN360.com needs to have a direct relationship with the consumer and not use broadband providers as toll collectors on the information superhighway."
An ESPN spokesman responded Tuesday by saying: "Contrary to the ACA's recent comments, ESPN does not force distributors -- large or small -- to carry any of our products. ESPN distributes content on the Internet through various models. We offer more sports news and short form sports video online through ESPN.com than anybody (accounting for nearly 50 percent of all minutes spent with sports video online). ESPN360.com is available to any and all ISP's, is currently available to almost 70 percent of high speed data subscribers in the U.S., and provides fans with access to thousands of live, full game telecasts."
The Independent Show is organized by ACA and the National Cable Television Cooperative, which purchases programming and equipment for U.S. cable operators.