• ESPN Boss Trashes Cable Choice Bill

    by  • May 16, 2013 • Cable Choice • 1 Comment

    Millions of Americans will be enthused about Senator McCain’s Cable Choice bill…but ESPN President John Skipper isn’t.

    ESPN is far and away the most expensive of the basic cable channels. Dishonestly attempting to shrug off McCain’s bill, Skipper recently opined that “the cost for a family of four to go to dinner and a movie is as much than the cost of a monthly cable bill.” But this is hardly a defense. Anyone who’s been to a theater recently knows that dinner and a first-run movie for a family of four can cost almost $100…if the family eats at McDonalds. No one – other than a network mogul – would consider $100 a month just to watch TV a “reasonable cost.”

    espnprofitsIn his push for Cable Choice, Senator McCain pointed to ESPN specifically, noting that millions of consumers who don’t watch sports are nevertheless forced to pay for ESPN. Indeed, ESPN makes up 20% of the cost of cable programming, yet comprises only 2% of cable’s viewership. “I truly believe a lot of Americans are fed up with the size of their cable bill,” said Senator McCain, and he’s right. But as far as ESPN’s president is concerned,




    Christopher Gildemeister is the PTC’s Head of Research Operations. He began as an Entertainment Analyst at the PTC in 2005. From 2007-2016, he was Senior Writer/Editor, responsible for communicating the PTC’s message to the public through newsletters, columns, and the PTC Watchdog blog. Dr. Gildemeister holds a Ph.D. from The Catholic University of America.

    One Response to ESPN Boss Trashes Cable Choice Bill

    1. Christopher Gildemeister
      May 30, 2013 at 10:00 am

      Thanks for your comment, William.

      We agree that all too many commercials contain content inappropriate for children. As you say, this is particularly a problem during times when many children are in the audience.

      Unfortunately, the commercials are not made by the networks themselves, but by outside ad agencies. While the current system of TV networks rating their own programs is an unmitigated disaster (see the PTC’s study of the TV ratings system), the networks likely would not even be permitted to extend TV ratings to the commercials, as this would mean the network was “rating” the advertisers who are paying them money for airtime. The advertisers likely would not stand for such a situation. And the networks have shown insensitivity in their own commercials, as well — for example, airing ads for The Following during American Idol. It is unrealistic to expect them to be more stringent with advertisers’ commercials than they are with their own.

      The problem with the V-Chip and any ratings system, whether of commercials or programming, is that it puts the burden on parents and viewers, rather than requiring broadcasters to exercise responsibility and act “in the public interest,” as their FCC licenses require. That said, if a ratings system is considered the answer, then the ratings process must be far more transparent and independent of the control of those being rated.

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