How does the decline of the number of cable TV subscribers affect fantasy leagues?

Welcome to the start of a brand-New Year everyone!

Before I begin though I need to do some house cleaning. It feels odd to inform you that this will be my last column.

No, I did not win the lottery but it is all good. My fulltime job is changing, which means more projects and more hours, which I am very happy about. Yet it also means that I have to end my run as the Contrarian. It is a simple matter: There is only so much time in a day, and something had to give.

I loved doing this, and were it not for this column, I would not have been given the opportunity with my full-time position.

Like so many of you, I came to this site searching for information and assistance, “Help me Obi-Wan [Dobber] you’re my only hope.”

Especially early on, I gleamed information from Dobber, the writers, and from the larger community of fellow fantasy hockey players. There are a lot of smart and intelligent people here.

One day I noticed that Dobber was looking for writers and I decided to apply. Luckily for me I was given a chance, a new hope. Then I started expressing my opinions and views for the larger community to reflect on and hopefully be entertained by.

The Contrarian was not everyone’s cup of tea but I understood why "[many] of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view."

I hope that I have helped or provoked your curiosity to search for answers through sometimes unlikely means, and that it is okay to challenge the common view, if only to reinforce its validity.

Whether you agreed or disagreed with my thoughts, I did and still do appreciate that you took the time to read what I wrote. Thank you!

To all the other writers/editors, and Dobber – It has been a pleasure, and I wish you all great success!

On with the article…

The National Post had a piece looking into the decline of sports channel subscribers, specifically ESPN. Scott Stinson, the author, goes into the history of how ESPN got so big and he identifies that one factor, the rising cost of keeping it part of your television package, is influencing many from purchasing the product.

He writes, “ESPN has lost more than one million cable subscribers in just the past two months. Although it still has a massive customer base of more than 88 million subscriptions, a sustained rate of decline like anything it has seen in recent weeks would cause major problems in short order,” and “ESPN and its competitors use live sports rights to boost the fees they charge to distributors; it’s now up to $7 monthly on average for the Worldwide Leader.”

Cost is only one part of the equation though.

Continuing with the article, Stinson goes into other theories posed by Greg O’Brien, who is the editor and publisher of It starts with the quick analysis that the early season games were awful and the US presidential election puller viewership away from NFL games.

“[There] is evidence that NFL fans don’t really need to watch games anymore. Between social media and various apps, one can follow their team — or their fantasy team — solely on their phone,” pens Stinson.

O’Brien comments that, “They put so much stuff online, I don’t know how many people are left who want to paint their faces and spend three hours watching a game.”

The column also identifies that in “A recent U.S. study of respondents aged 13-24 found two-thirds said YouTube was indispensable and more than half said the same of Netflix. Just over a third felt the same way about cable television.”

Additionally, Stinson reports that “In late October, the CRTC reported that the amount Canadians spent on Internet services had exceeded the amount spent on television subscriptions for the first time in history. It was also the first time in a decade that television providers had seen revenue drop year-to-year.”

At the same time we also faced declining numbers for special events like the World Cup of Hockey, the Centennial Classic and the IIHF World Junior Championships.

This problem is more than the cost of television. I am not saying that $7 a month is cheap, but the cost for a subscription to Netflix is comparable. Why does appear to be too much for one but reasonable for the other?

What about the argument that kids do not watch sports? Well just a few days ago, I was in a restaurant and observed two teens watching sporting events on their phones. One had a basketball game on; the other a football game. They may or may not have been live events. I could not tell.

Maybe these kids were the outliers. Maybe they were not. My first question, however, is how many of the sports channel subscribers are actually kids under the age of 18? The second one is what percentage of the historical viewership does the 13-24 demographic really hold?

Can it really be that those under the age of 24 are watching less sports or stopping to view games completely and this particular demographic is the reason for the lower ratings?

When sports betting is reportedly increasing, why would the television viewership be declining and why would fewer people go see games live? Should we not be more focused and attentive? After all, we our putting our bets and fantasy teams at risk.

Case in point: I remember going to an AHL game on March 9, 2005 in Hamilton, Ontario. The game was between the hometown Bulldogs (Montreal farm team) and the Albany River Rats (New Jersey).

From what I can remember the tickets cost $35. I was excited to go and see the game because two of my fantasy players were involved, Zach Parise and Andrei Kostitsyn. I drafted Parise the summer before and picked up Kostitsyn a few days before the game, before I even knew I was going to the game.

The match itself was nothing special. I had to look it up to confirm that Hamilton beat Albany 3 to 2 in a shootout, but what is still stuck in my head was that I saw firsthand how fiery Parise and how quiet Kostitsyn were. This is not to say that Kostitsyn was not talented, because he was, but he was not a presence on the ice.

Even having read all sorts of things at the time about both players, this knowledge helped me later on because I traded Kostitsyn after his first and only 50-point season. I knew that this was a player that I wanted to move as soon as the market was good. Luckily for me it came at a time that propelled me to a first-place finish that year.

Seeing their play made a huge impact on me and was very instrumental in my decision making. I was fortunate enough to watch the game live, but the next best thing would have been to watch it on television if it were available. No box score or highlight reel could have provided that experience to me.

Recent sports lottery commercials in Ontario show crowds of people in stadiums, at bars, in their homes clinging on to their tickets while they watch the game that they have bet on.

I feel that the reality though is sports gamblers and fantasy pool enthusiasts focus too much on the live stats. We gear up to monitor the ticker tape changes like we were following the stock market. We have our fantasy rosters on our devices and we check to see minute-by-minute if we have improved against our opponents. It is possible that we view the highlights at the end of the night or the next morning so we have something to discuss with our friends, but that is not the same as seeing the full game.

Everyone can view the box scores and game sheets after the final buzzer. That part is easy, so why do we spend most of our time monitoring the stats? Because we confuse knowledge with statistics.

In our effort to “watch” everything we end up watching nothing. How can we see every game though? There are not enough hours in a day. We still have to sleep, eat, work/study, play and socialize with others because we are human.

Well that where sites like Dobber Hockey help us fill in the blanks. This community is made up of many fans in many time zones spanning the globe. Each of us has different access to content, we follow different favorite teams, and it comes to no one’s surprise that we have different opinions. Draw from their experience and knowledge.

For this to work, though, you have to do your part. Religiously viewing every game of your home team is not necessary, but when you have the time to watch a game, put the stats aside and actually watch the players. Only then can you validate the varying opinions with what you see unfolding in front of you.

Your time is limited. Use it wisely. You can look at stats all you want, but wouldn’t you rather go see the game. Possibly with a friend like Bobbi?


Again, Happy New Year and I wish everyone continued success in your fantasy pools!