Broadcast networks, ESPN are top must-haves for would-be cord-cutters – Yahoo! News

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Broadcast networks, ESPN are top must-haves for would-be cord-cutters – Yahoo! News

There are few things I’d like more than to be able to cut the pay-TV cord once and for all. What’s stopping me? Four letters: ESPN.

I could easily live without “The Closer” on TNT (which you can always download, anyway) or the three-hankie weepies on Lifetime Movies, or all those cooking shows on the Food Network. And as far as the major broadcast networks go, there’s always all those streaming episodes available on Hulu and Netflix.

But losing my ESPN — home of “Monday Night Football,” “SportsCenter” and the talking (or yelling) heads on “First Take” — well, that’s just not in the cards, or at least not for me. (Yes, there’s ESPN3 on the Web, as well as the new ESPN channel on Xbox Live, but you can’t watch a simulcast online stream of ESPN unless your cable ISP has inked a deal with ESPN parent Disney. Oh well.)

Turns out I’m not the only slave to ESPN. According to a recent survey of about 300 viewers by Needham & Co. analyst Laura Martin (as reported by paidContent), more than 20 percent of respondents named ESPN as a TV channel they couldn’t live without.

ESPN was the only basic-cable channel to break 20 percent in the survey. Topping the list of must-have channels (or, to be precise, the channels “you must have available online for you to turn off your TV subscription”) was CBS with 35 percent, followed by ABC at 34 percent, with Fox and NBC tied at 31 percent.

The most popular channels after ESPN in the survey included Discovery (19 percent), the History Channel (14 percent), HBO (11 percent) and Comedy Central and Food Network (tied at 10 percent). In the single digits were cable networks like Nickelodeon, TBS, CNN, HGTV, MTV, Lifetime and Bravo, along with a couple of broadcast networks: the CW and PBS. (If you noticed that the percentages add up to more than 100 percent, that’s because respondents were allowed to pick more than one must-have channel.)

Of course, the relative popularity of ESPN as reflected in Martin’s survey isn’t lost on ESPN parent Disney, which charges cable and satellite carriers $4 a month per subscriber to carry the legendary 24/7 sports network, compared with a modest 28 cents a month for Lifetime.

Anyway, back to the original point: the TV networks we’d absolutely, positively still want to be able to watch — online, over the air or elsewhere — before cutting the cord.

Some might have a hard time tuning out the continuous babble of headlines from CNN and Fox News, for example, although you could always go to their respective websites for plenty of online clips and streaming feeds. Or perhaps there are some old war documentaries on the History Channel that you simply can’t get on Hulu or Netflix. (Are there?)

I suspect that sports, however, remains the No. 1 reason that many of us are still reluctant to cut the cord, although the gap is closing. More and more sporting events (like NCAA March Madness, Wimbledon and “Sunday Night Football,” for example) are available for free online streaming, and you can always subscribe to paid online packages for out-of-market Major League Baseball or NBA games. And as for your home teams, you can always catch them on your local broadcast stations over the air.

So, here’s my question for those of you who want to cut the cord but haven’t quite yet: Is the prospect of losing your favorite TV network (or networks) holding you back? If so, which ones?

Related: Which TV Channels Can’t Cord-Cutters Live Without? [PaidContent.org]

— Ben Patterson is a technology writer for Yahoo! News.

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