According to The Wall Street Journal, ESPN has been having discussions with at least one major U.S. wireless carrier about the possibility of having the sports cable channel subsidize any portion of data that’s used to stream content generated from ESPN. Reportedly, ESPN would either pay the carriers outright or give them a portion of advertising revenue.
ESPN has been following an aggressive plan of pursuing mobile streaming capabilities since smartphones and tablets have gained in popularity. The network’s WatchESPN application gives cable subscribers the ability to stream live sporting events from any of the ESPN channels, however smartphone and tablet users might be reluctant to use the app due to the restrictive mobile data plans that they have.
Unlimited data plans, once a common option among the major U.S. carriers is no longer available for customers of Verizon or AT&T, both of which have introduced data caps in recent years to generate additional revenue as users increasingly download or stream video files. Those subscribers who go over their monthly data plan typically have to pay hefty overage charges (about $15 per gig). To give you an idea of how that adds up, a low quality streaming video for one hour uses about 200 megabytes, while a high-definition video for the same amount of time would use double the bandwidth according to data compiled by GigaOm.