cable/sat/telco should form a coalition
The cable companies, satellite companies, and telco should all form a content negotiation coalition where they all collectively negotiate with the content companies at the same time. Networks would be less demanding if they knew all the carriers would drop them simultaneously. They might even be able to force the price of ESPN down because even though the networks can use the internet as a distribution means, they would lose a lot more for several reasons:
1) The vast majority of consumers still prefer the ease of watching TV versus sitting in front of a computer screen. Also computers limit the number of simultaneous viewers. Most consumers don't know/want to connect their PCs to the TV either.
2) If the networks put their offerings online for Free, they would be canabalizing their own revenue stream. If you have to pay to access it, few subscribers would actually pay a new separate bill to have content, most would learn to live without it.
3) Advertizers would seriously cut spending on those networks no longer being carried by the subscription TV providers.
4) Bandwidth caps and slow broadband speeds would hinder the online viewing experience for many.
In the end there might be a month long blackout or so, but the content companies would come back with their tails between their legs. Of course this will never work because the cable/sat/telcos hate each other too much to try working together on this and as long as the content companies have one way or another to get to your TV set there is no need for them to be reasonable in their pricing.