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The Almighty Buck The Internet Entertainment

ESPN's Play To Make ISPs Pay 355

lochii sends us to Wired for reporting on ESPN's game plan to extract royalties from all ISPs, for a "license" for their users to view ESPN video. Currently, according to ESPN, 40% of US Internet users connect through ISPs who are paying the (undisclosed) fees; others are unable to view the content. Quoting: "This is a reversal of the model pushed by some major broadband companies that would like to charge content companies for the right to use their pipes. If other full-length video providers like Hulu and HBO get in on the act, the time could be approaching when you'll choose your Internet service based on what selection of content it offers. Eventually, popular non-video websites might follow suit. Imagine a future water cooler conversation over broadband choice: 'I went with Comcast 'cause they get Yahoo.'"
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ESPN's Play To Make ISPs Pay

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  • by Jason daHaus ( 1419459 ) on Friday February 06, 2009 @11:27AM (#26752259)
    and it was called AOL.
    • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Friday February 06, 2009 @12:17PM (#26753295) Homepage

      EXACTLY. For those unfamiliar, let me explain why:

      AOL = What a non-neutral internet looks like. And it was why AOL died. AOL would partner with different companies, and those companies would provide content to AOL customers. Eventually, AOL couldn't keep up with the vast amount of content on the open internet, so they lost out. Prodigy and CompuServe used the same exact model.

      It kinda made sense back before there were standard protocols like HTTP for providing content, and before it was possible to bill users for the content they viewed.

      This is the worst-case scenario for a non-neutral internet. Every ISP that "partnered" with ESPN needs to cancel their deals, so that ESPN is forced to play the game the same way as everyone else.

      • Why could AOL not "keep up"? It's not like AOL members didnt have the same access to the internet as non-AOL internet users. People who used AOL had the regular internet PLUS exclusive AOL material.

        I would blame their demise on regulation (An attempt to keep is "PG 13"), Price, and Poor customer service.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          AOL was born circa 1985 as a service called "Quantum Link". It was originally aimed at Commodore computers, and was very graphical in orientation... like a primitive web. In order to attract users Q-Link had to develop its own content. Like news, weather, games, forums. In the early 90s they renamed themselves America Online/AOL.

          Then around 1994 people started downloading Mosaic for their Macs, IBMs, and Amigas. The web exploded, and people no longer needed BBSes like AOL to provide information. They

  • Error! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tei ( 520358 ) on Friday February 06, 2009 @11:28AM (#26752261) Journal

    Thats not how Internet work, and how we want internet to work.
    Go fuck yourselves

    • Re:Error! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Vectronic ( 1221470 ) on Friday February 06, 2009 @11:34AM (#26752397)


      This sounds like a TV version of the Internet, and I haven't watched TV in 2 years largely because of it's limitations.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        It doesn't really matter if they do manage to pull a stunt like this - random joe sixpack, meet open proxy.

        • First off a proxy will not help if you are being blocked by your ISP rather than the site. I'm pretty sure the list of proxy ISPs will make it near impossible to use a proxy within a week. Open proxies would be gone the day it released.
  • by Harmonious Botch ( 921977 ) * on Friday February 06, 2009 @11:29AM (#26752283) Homepage Journal

    My business requires that I travel. On a slow week I use two different ISPs. In a busy week, a dozen. And we're not even talking about vacations yet.
    If your site isn't available everywhere, I'll find something else. Nobody's content is that valuable.

    Although, if I'm wrong and this business model does take off, the back side is even uglier: there will be ISPs that offer their services based on what you can't get. It will cater to employers, libraries, schools and other places that don't want people accessing certain sites.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Nobody's content is that valuable.

      No one's? []
    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by ByOhTek ( 1181381 )

      The problem is, most of the sites that those groups would want to block are pay-by-user driven, and the pay-by-ISP model would probably not interest them. So the flipside is less likely.

      That being said, I don't want to pay an ESPN tax, I don't watch ESPN, I check ESPNs website, at most ONCE a year, for the OSU vs. Michigan game score. They aren't worth $0.02 to me.

      Really, I can check my local news for that, but ESPN happens to be the first I think of.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        Given the way the game has gone the last five years, you don't need to worry about the score. For that matter, given the rabid hatred that comes out of Columbus, you don't need to check the score either. Just mention that you're a Michigan fan and an OSU football fan will make damn sure you know it, and will remind you of it for weeks to come...

  • Wagon train. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ostracus ( 1354233 ) on Friday February 06, 2009 @11:29AM (#26752295) Journal

    "lochii sends us to Wired for reporting on ESPN's game plan to extract royalties from all ISPs, for a "license" for their users to view ESPN video. "

    And let's extend this to all the other content carried over broadband connections. See the problem now? Sheer bottom line will keep most ISPs from joining this bandwagon.

  • Net Neutrality (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FredFredrickson ( 1177871 ) * on Friday February 06, 2009 @11:29AM (#26752297) Homepage Journal
    Freakin idiots. ESPN, a content producer, is using their weight to ruin the internet.

    This is so bass ackwards to the way the internet works and will continue to work. My only hope is that this idea fails with gusto, so that it can be used as a warning shot to all others who think they can "OWN" the internet like they owned the captive audiences on cable TV.

    TV is a dead business model, and they need to get on the bandwagon. Ever since I got Hulu on my Xbox, I've discovered how much I just don't care, and don't need, cable/satelite tv.

    Net neutrality needs to specifically outlaw this sort of thing.

    Locking down information on the net is exactly how to ruin the net.

    All that being said, we'll just use a proxy and move on.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by canajin56 ( 660655 )
      Many websites have pay membership. But I guess that's only evil if you offer ISPs a group deal.
      • I'm happy to subscribe to services that I see fit. Not choose a service based on what bundles I can get.

        The upside to this, is of course, that smaller content producers can use this as an advantage- being accessible from ALL ISPs means more exposure. Maybe this will finally kill the giants!
    • TV is a dead business model, and they need to get on the bandwagon.

      You mean just like the RIAA and MPAA have understood that their industries are changing and are on the bandwagon?

      There is a shakeout in process and the folks whose oxen are being gored are fighting tooth and nail to keep their failed business models alive.

    • You called it. ESPN's model is cable/satellite TV. They certainly like that model. It's worked brilliantly for years. And if they can wedge the internet into the same model, it's a win for them.

      However, TV is not a dead business model. Dead to you, sure. Dead to Joe Sixpack and Sally Bag-o-donuts? No. Do you think your indignation counts for the masses of money-paying sheeples who have no problem with the cable model? No.

      Scarily, this access licensing pattern can work, because it uses a mental model consume

      • Re:Net Neutrality (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Midnight Thunder ( 17205 ) on Friday February 06, 2009 @11:46AM (#26752643) Homepage Journal

        Well the ISPs could band together and simply block ESPN, or simply charge ESPN for bandwidth corresponding to the dollar amount ESPN wants from the ISPs.

        Actually that is something that is very different with the internet, with regards to Cable/Satellite. In the former if its connected you have access, whereas in the latter your provider has to get explicit permission. I would rather switch news source than have to put up with having to pay ESPN.

    • by JCSoRocks ( 1142053 ) on Friday February 06, 2009 @11:44AM (#26752601)
      The Internet has officially been ruined. I thought AOL was bad. This is ridiculous. Now if only their was a way for us to senD Over a meSsage about how we feel...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo ( 153816 )

      Net neutrality needs to specifically outlaw this sort of thing.

      Does it? A provider should be able to deliver their content where and when they choose. As a customer, you have a choice. Do you buy media from people who pull these bullshit strongarm tactics or not? If you think what they are doing is wrong, then you have a choice; give up consuming their media, or admit that you have no conviction.

      On the other hand, as a consumer it's hard to know who's sucking off who in the back room, so I would argue that government's place here is to ensure transparency; you have a r

      • Does it? A provider should be able to deliver their content where and when they choose. As a customer, you have a choice. Do you buy media from people who pull these bullshit strongarm tactics or not? If you think what they are doing is wrong, then you have a choice; give up consuming their media, or admit that you have no conviction.

        Actually, I don't have a choice. Thanks to America's tax dollars going to work to create an infrastructure with legislated monopolies, I have exactly two options for internet: Cable or DSL. Two companies. Both bad. Comcast or Verizon. You choose.

        So, yes, it should be legislated. It's a network for the people, paid for by the people, and the companies running the show were given exclusive deals to keep it running. That exclusivity should come with a responsibility to stay neutral.

        In a free market, I'd agr

    • Re:Net Neutrality (Score:5, Interesting)

      by UnTdWrLdGv ( 575395 ) on Friday February 06, 2009 @12:08PM (#26753141)

      TV is a dead business model, and they need to get on the bandwagon. Ever since I got Hulu on my Xbox, I've discovered how much I just don't care, and don't need, cable/satelite tv.

      Does Hulu offer 5.1 Dolby Digital and 720p or better resolution with ZERO commercials and live sports? Once I can get that quickly and easily on the net without having to wait for someone to upload a torrent and then wait again for it to download AND live sports, I will be done with cable/satellite. But until that day I will bite the bullet and over pay because of the quality and convenience. I hate my cable company, but as a sports fan and an A/V nut, I'm stuck with them for now.

  • ...with booze, and hookers!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    so let me get this right, because I dont give a F#%K about ESPN, never gone there in my life and never plan too, I have to pay because they want to shake down my ISP for money?

  • by DarkFencer ( 260473 ) on Friday February 06, 2009 @11:33AM (#26752379)

    Its bad enough that I have to pay the freaking ESPN Tax added onto my cable bill when I don't even want it. Many I know are fleeing cable so they DO NOT have to pay for things like this.

    • Can I get Dish/Direct without ESPN?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by drinkypoo ( 153816 )

      Many I know are fleeing cable so they DO NOT have to pay for things like this.

      And why not? You can watch many if not most popular shows on the web, DVD sales are where the real money is so they release as soon as they can and you can get them from netflix or sometimes even stream them from them, and on the shady side you can get pretty much anything via torrent. Of course, cable internet customers are having problems there these days... But the point remains, there is little reason for anyone who can get cable to actually get television over it, if they can get internet access - unle

  • by dwheeler ( 321049 ) on Friday February 06, 2009 @11:35AM (#26752415) Homepage Journal
    If everyone could choose between hundreds of ISPs, this would be fine. But that's not the case; most people have only a very few rational options for ISPs (if you want reasonable bandwidth), i.e., monopolies, duopolies, etc. This is absurdly monopolistic.
    • I agree- there should be antitrust regulation against this, as the consumer has no choice. Content producers should be unable to make deals with the tax-money-created monopolies that exist. This is why people are pushing for net neutrality.
    • That's absolutely true for me. I live in an apartment complex with ONE available Internet provider... who is also the cable provider. Short of setting up a satellite or hijacking someone else's Wireless, I have no options but shitty 'Shentel NTC.'

      The bandwidth sucks and its always going on and off, but what am I gonna do? It's not worth it to move.
  • ESPN's on crack (Score:3, Informative)

    by Huntr ( 951770 ) on Friday February 06, 2009 @11:41AM (#26752537)

    They have in the past few years tried to push their website to be more video oriented, setting it up to be similar to their flagship Sports Center program, where the sports news isn't as much read, but delivered as on TV. They recently redesigned their website to make the video content an even more integral part of how they deliver sports news. What they don't understand is that some (many?) people don't want it that way. I quit watching their SC stuff on TV for the most part when the fluff really started to pile up. It simply takes too long to get to the point of the story.

    When I'm looking for news on the web, even sports news, I want the important stuff immediately. I can get that much faster skimming through a story than watching a few minutes of unimportant filler video. Their website is fine when I want to see a replay of an amazing play or something, but if I want the straight dope, I don't want to sit through a video; I want to read about it. So, I go to sports illustrated and other sites to get news, rarely visiting espn anymore. Its weird, because when I was 1st started really using the internet back in 96-97 or so, was one of the sites I visited most, but it hasn't been that way in a few years.

  • ..and they expect this to work because?
  • Do I pay twice (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ummon ( 15714 ) <> on Friday February 06, 2009 @11:44AM (#26752603)
    So what if my ISP is my cable provider (effing Comcast)? Am I effectively paying twice for this content?
  • If this becomes the standard system, and the cable companies are used to this kind of system with HBO, Cinamax, etc, then you'll find websites only available through subscription and your cable company will offer you packages. could shut off access to their site except through authorized ISPs. This looks very attractive to content providers that are losing revenue on broadcast TV and to the cable companies who also fear online content as being free.

    I suspect the fee for ESPN is low, just to start t

    • It's happening everywhere. Nobody is paying money to subscribe to a website. ESPN tried this and failed to get support because there are so many free things out there (you know, like the internet used to be). The problem for them is they also make money off of advertising and need eyeballs. They are trying to figure out ways to play both sides to maximize their profits, and individual users have already told them to go screw themselves.

      When I first saw the 360 message, I thought it might have been that Ver

  • I subscribe to Verizon DSL (FiOS not available yet) and receive access to ESPN360 [] this way. The university I work for also subscribes to this, so I can access the site from on-campus. Content wise, I am happy with the offerings -- they have a very good selection of college football and basketball games, and quite a few NBA games as well. There's also some other, less popular (at least in the USA) sports available, like soccer and such. Technology-wise, the service keeps up and provides a good quality signal
  • by Darth_brooks ( 180756 ) * < minus berry> on Friday February 06, 2009 @11:56AM (#26752871) Homepage

    While it's fun to sit back and yell "hur, hur, dumb jocks are ruining mah intarwebs!" it needs to be noted at ESPN's parent company is none other than that friend of the little guy, the copyright crusaders themselves, Disney. They are swinging ABC and ESPN around as their entertainment 'killer apps.' They've used their networks as tools like this before, anyone?

    I'd be thrilled if ESPN backed away from the amount of video they're using on their site. Call me crazy but I go to a website for an article I can read in peace, not for 30 seconds of commercials followed by whatever annoying, b-team anchor has gotten stuck doing web highlights. They've developed a handful of interesting and entertaining columnists, what they haven't developed are any decent anchors in the past five years.

  • Oh dear gawd, this couldn't be a worse idea if they tried. And they do seem to be trying... Yes, I know this model works with TV but the internet is not TV. People making decisions like this clearly do NOT understand the nature of the internet.
  • The more I hear about this kind of "monetizing" effort, the more I imagine the water cooler conversation like: "I used to use the internet before it became totally useless. Now I just get my news from the newspaper."

    ISPs and "content producers" are killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.
    • by unitron ( 5733 )

      So this whole "ISP subscription thingie" is really just a stealth plot to save print journalism?

  • by MojoRilla ( 591502 ) on Friday February 06, 2009 @12:01PM (#26752979)
    Big deal. This isn't for video clips available from, it is for their former premium product ESPN 360 [], which doesn't even show ESPN TV (due, I'm sure, to cable contracts), but various minor live sporting events (minor college football and basketball, MLS, NASCAR Nationwide series). The only difference between this and other products that have been selling versions to ISPs for years is that there is no pay version, you must get this through your ISP.
    • by tmosley ( 996283 ) on Friday February 06, 2009 @12:39PM (#26753713)
      You're missing the point. Imagine if your cable company FORCED you to buy HBO with their service. Now imagine that they forced you to buy Cinemax, Starz, and a bunch of others. Then, imagine that they forced you to buy all the pay-per-view items, whether or not you watch them.

      The point is that ISPs are using their monopoly power to force charges down their customer's throats with no recourse, except to severe the now VITAL service, or go to an unacceptably slow alternative (dial up).

      This is what happens when people let their governments grant monopolies. The people get screwed.
  • I have stopped visiting as much recently because for whatever reason if I accidentally leave it open in a tab it will randomly start playing a video five hours later when I am doing something else.
  • by name_already_taken ( 540581 ) on Friday February 06, 2009 @12:05PM (#26753061)

    This raises two issues for me:

    1. I am not a sports fan, and I expect ESPN to issue me a credit if my ISP is paying them for a service I do not use and do not want. Now that I think about it, if I could get a discount for having their channels removed from my TV service that would be great, too.

    2. ESPN has just eliminated a huge swath of the Internet-using public from viewing their content. If it's a subscription service, sell it as such. The way they are handling this seems like it would be bad for their business.

    If I was a sports fan, and I couldn't view ESPN's content because of my choice of ISP, I think I'd just look elsewhere (ie. another sports news site), rather than go through the hassle of changing ISPs.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dkleinsc ( 563838 )

      If I was a sports fan, and I couldn't view ESPN's content because of my choice of ISP, I think I'd just look elsewhere (ie. another sports news site), rather than go through the hassle of changing ISPs.

      You missed the point: the way ESPN wants to work things, by using your ISP you subscribe to their service whether you want it or not. And what's worse, the ISPs may well go for this because many ISPs are also cable providers so ESPN can say "sign this or we pull all our cable channels". And of course the deal doesn't cost the ISPs anything because they just pass the cost along to the captive customer base.

  • ...the time could be approaching when you'll choose your Internet service based on what selection of content it offers.

    Yep, it might, and I'll pick the nice, cheap, fast one that has no additional content along those lines and doesn't go "look customers, you can view videos 24/7 by paying us a bit extra" while ignoring the fact that their bandwidth will be drained in no-time when people try it.

    I'm not sure which would be worse - ISPs charging more because content providers add extra content, or the recent U

  • I have no problem with the content producers getting paid for their content, and no problem paying for what I use, but I do have a big problem subsidizing somebody else's habit. If ESPN can do this, then what's to stop MTV, Hulu, Playboy, Vivid, etc... If they need money for their internet content, it's the specific end-users who should carry the cost...

    I don't understand why existing well known business models cannot apply to internet TV: advertiser supported, like today's broadcast television, subscribe

  • by Dan667 ( 564390 ) on Friday February 06, 2009 @12:12PM (#26753193)
    The internet has been successful, because people just route around damage. I would consider this artificial damage by ESPN and it will fail.
  • Why are they pissing off a significant percentage of my target audience?

  • If you create a market niche, someone will fill it. By shutting themselves out from some providers, they present other content companies with the opportunity to become top dog for those providers. This would be like Microsoft telling PC manufacturers that "we won't let you put Internet Exploder on your Windows-based machines unless you pay us a surcharge".

  • Call Them (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fwr ( 69372 ) on Friday February 06, 2009 @12:58PM (#26754055)
    If you don't like this, call them at 888-549-3776, and go on their web site and write a complaint and ask for a refund if you ISP is paying them, and charging you, and you don't want their "service." If you really want to make a difference, pick a random day of the week and time and schedule a reminder to call them once a week on this topic. It does cost them, and they will take notice, if enough people call them enough times on a regular basis. A short-lived complaint blast that goes away after a day, or week, will either not be noticed, or ignored because it was a one-time event. You can also contact your congress critter and tell them you would like them to investigate such practices and put a stop to it. But again, it would be better if you regularly brought this to their attention rather than a one-time event.
  • Thank you Disney (Score:3, Interesting)

    by instantkarma1 ( 234104 ) on Friday February 06, 2009 @01:13PM (#26754359)

    ESPN is owned by Disney. If this works out for ESPN, you can bet your sweet ass Disney will be following suit in a big way (hello, ABC, etc).

    Here's to hoping Steve Jobs recovers quickly and uses his 8% of Disney stock to put a massive foot up somebody's ass to quickly end this.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DanWS6 ( 1248650 )
      Just wait till you get the "Your ISP doesn't have access to download music to iTunes" and "Your ISP doesn't have access to view trailers hosted by Apple"
  • by Dreadneck ( 982170 ) on Friday February 06, 2009 @01:24PM (#26754563)

    This is just another attempt, IMHO, by Corporate America to turn the internet into a whored-out media wasteland indistinguishable from print, radio, or television. They want to become the gatekeepers of the internet because it drives them batshit insane to know that people can freely access information that hasn't first been filtered by them for content and then distributed at a premium.

    Go fuck yourselves, ESPN.

  • Problem (for ESPN) (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Friday February 06, 2009 @01:58PM (#26755089)

    So, if an ISP doesn't pay, ESPN won't deliver their content through their system? That is going to bite ESPN in the ass, big time. During the course of a day, I use 3 or 4 different ISPs to access the Interweb. What happens if one of them signs up with ESPN's competitor? Its doubtful that an employer is going to sign up for a service package burdened with hidden costs from various content providers. So, no ESPN at work on my lunch hour. My residential 'broadband' is a municipal WiFi service. It'll be a cold day in hell before the city ever starts writing checks to ESPN/Disney for content.

    It appears that ESPN will be shooting themselves in the foot with this one. And you know what they say about the one-legged man at an ass-kicking contest.

Can anyone remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce?