Doc Searls zooms in on ESPN as the biggest impediment to New TV:
Doc Searls - How Apple will turn the Net’s top into TV’s bottom
The main thing that keeps cable in charge of TV content is not the carriers, but ESPN, which represents up to 40% of your cable bill, whether you like sports or not. ESPN isn’t going to bypass cable — they’ve got that distribution system locked in, and vice versa. The whole pro sports system, right down to those overpaid athletes in baseball and the NBA, depend on TV revenues, which in turn rest on advertising to eyeballs over a system made to hold those eyeballs still in real time. “There are a lot of entrenched interests,” says Peter Kafka in this On the Media segment. The only thing that will de-entrench them is serious leverage from somebody who can make go-to-market, UI, quality, and money-flow work. Can Apple do that without Steve? Maybe not. But it’s still the way to bet.
Doc doesn’t make the analogy to the old music system, where the labels owned the talent, the distribution systems, and were in tight with Tower Records and all the rest of it, but it’s very similar.
Sports programming is one of the few areas where TV is growing. So making a deal with ESPN and others (like the World Cup and other soccer leagues, as was rumored earlier in the year) could be turn out to the Gordian Knot. And who more likely than Apple?