Why SportsCenter Won't Be On Hulu


Disney’s (DIS) joining Hulu means that ABC broadcast network shows like Lost and Grey’s Anatomy will show up on the site. But don’t expect to see anything important from Disney’s cable networks… such as ESPN’s flagship SportsCenter.

Why not? Because as MediaMemo points out, while the rest of the media industry is bleeding, Disney’s cable business is actually doing well.

Sales at Disney’s cable networks division increased 4% and operating income increased 5% to $1.1 billion during the March quarter, “due to growth at ESPN, ABC Family and the domestic Disney Channel,” the company said today. Specifically, that’s due to higher affiliate revenue from cable and other pay TV providers — paid on a per-subscriber basis — offset by lower ad revenues.

Translation: There’s no way Disney is going to risk offending cable companies — which already have enough to worry about with Web video — by giving away even more content for free on Hulu that’s still locked up on cable. (Like SportsCenter or Baseball Tonight — much of which ESPN may not have the rights to stream online anyway.)

Broadcast shows — mostly funded by advertising — are a different story, and Disney’s broadcast results paint an appropriately different picture: Broadcast network sales were down 2% and operating income was down 38% during the March quarter.

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