Game on: Pay-TV operators and broadcasters to clash in 2014

|By:, SA News Editor

2014 could be the year that Pay-TV operators (DISH, DTV, TWC, CHTR, CVC) decide to take a stand against higher sports programming costs with subscriber growth stagnant and consumers rebelling against higher monthly fees.

The most contentious battle could be in Los Angeles where Time Warner Cable's regional sports network, which includes L.A. Dodgers games, is behind in adding distribution channels.

In a clash of titans, Disney (DIS) is still in negotiations with Dish Network over an ESPN contract to replace the one that expired in October. The carriage fee for ESPN already averages an industry-high $5.54/subscriber, but Wells Fargo thinks that rate will go to $7.65/subscriber by 2018. If there is an exec in the sector with the moxie to go toe-to-toe with ESPN, analysts think Charlie Ergen fits the bill.

New sports stations from Fox (FOXA) and NBC (CMCSA) don't have the leverage that ESPN carries around, but are still forecast to command higher rates.

A rising moat could also help lift CBS (CBS) and Madison Square Garden (MSG).