Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The cable guy screwed up!

I hadn’t been so excited since I was 13 and I realized the family TV got ESPN.

“The cable guy screwed up,” I said then, in a shocked whisper; “The cable guy screwed up!” I shouted with intense glee.

Yes, the screen was snowy: Dan Patrick looked like a troll; okay, Dan looked normal, but the rest of the screen was really tough to make out.

It didn’t matter. I was getting ESPN for free!

That same excitement raced through me Wednesday when I clicked on and discovered that I could watch the USA World Cup qualifier against Trinidad and Tobago streaming on line for free (through my expensive broadband connection).

“The cable guy screwed up,” I gasped, just moments before Ricardo Clark’s thunder strike put USA up for good 1-0.

But the cable guy hadn’t screwed up – he had cut a deal.

I had tried to watch before but couldn’t because Comcast, my bastard Internet provider, refused to pay ESPN for the right to broadcast its content. But unbeknownst to me, in July, Comcast agreed to start paying and began offering ESPN360 to its customers.

ESPN has become such a dominant player in the sports marketplace that it can bend cable companies to its knees. Now I and 43 million other American households get ESPN360, because various Internet providers have agreed to pay an estimated $25 million to deliver content over the next year.

This is a revolutionary business model on the Internet where content is paid for often by advertising, occasionally by consumers, and sometimes by no one at all.

What’s next, some newspaper with cojones the size of Kent telling Google that its search engine will have to pay to link to the paper’s Website?

Well, ESPN, remember, “Power corrupts. Absolute power is kind of fun.”

So good luck and bring me more free soccer!

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