Jenkins: ESPN’s not doomed, just having to change with times

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ESPN (NYSE:DIS) is going to be all right, Holman Jenkins Jr. says, and never mind its recent Jemele Hill controversy or politics — subscriber losses are bound to slow and it still has its valuable ace in the hole, live sports.

With scores available on every smartphone, SportsCenter may not be as vital as it once was (and that may explain the network’s current talent roster, he says), but live sports are a last bastion of ad viewing in a Netflix world.

And while tech giants including Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN), Google (GOOG, GOOGL), Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) begin throwing billions of dollars at content to build out their video, they may have a rude awakening translating their streaming-program experience into the technical challenge of serving up a live football game to 13M eager viewers, while the traditional broadcast model is optimized for it.

“The digital revolution certainly is upending the traditional ‘linear’ TV channels,” Jenkins writes. “But it never followed that the cable bundle would go away, only that it would become increasingly a live news-and-sports bundle. In fact, it already has (think about your own viewing habits).”

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