Those of us who didn’t grow up during the age of rabbit ears and three television channels often don’t appreciate the difference between network television and cable television.
But, indeed, there’s still a difference.
Last month, quarterback Brett Favre’s first career game against the Green Bay Packers set an all-time cable record, with an audience of 15 million households tuning in for the ESPN event.
Sunday’s rematch at Lambeau, televised by FOX, averaged nearly 30 million viewers and peaked after 7:00 p.m. ET with 39 million average viewers.
So why is ESPN paying $1.1 billion per year for the NFL? Because the presence of Monday Night Football and other major-league sports makes ESPN a must-have property for every cable provider — and it allows ESPN to justify imposing higher rates.