Sports TV rights costs likely to keep rising: executives

BOSTON Wed May 23, 2012 12:15pm EDT

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BOSTON (Reuters) - The cost of much coveted television rights for top sports programming will continue to rise, a panel of top U.S. TV sports executives predicted on Wednesday.

"We will make a bet that the value of sports rights will continue to appreciate," said John Skipper, president of ESPN.

"Sports rights are going up because the value of sports rights are going up it's not some free-floating abstract."

Skipper was speaking on a panel at the Cable Industry show.

"Sports rights are the purest example of supply and demand that there can be in the economy," said David Hill, president of Fox Sports, which is owned by News Corp.

All the executives said they have seen great rewards with rising advertising dollars as marketers seek to get their brands in front of young men.

In a TV market that has faced uncertainty because of changes in the business as more viewers watch their shows hours later on digital video recorders, executives said the value of live programming has grown strongly.

"It will be in a very short amount of time the last home of appointment viewing on television, you have to watch sports live," Turner Sports chief David Levy. "No one watches the Super Bowl on Monday."

The rising cost of sports programming has been blamed for the wider inflation in cable fees paid by consumers.

ESPN, which is owned by Walt Disney Co, is by far the highest paid network in any cable package, collecting an estimated $5 per home, per month on average according to research firm SNL Kagan.

Panelists at the cable show, which included National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern, argued that the value that sports brings to their pay-TV distributors could justify the reason deals continue to be done for higher and higher prices.

"If you want to want to engage the world in a single conversation, sports is the place, Olympics, baseball, basketball," said Stern.

(Reporting By Yinka Adegoke; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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