I am almost surprised they aren't turning espn classic into espn 3 (what is watch espn now) make espn classic all Video On Demand and make all espn channels available streaming. They are almost doing that now it seems.
Almost. It will be interesting to see what happens to ESPN Classic on other carriers (DirecTV and cable) when it does become a VOD channel later this year on DISH. Will ESPN keep it alive until each contract expires the way some other channels have stuck around as a shell of their former selves?
Turning the streamed ESPN 3 into a satellite carried linear channel would be asking for more bandwidth, not less. Perhaps they can work out a way of satellite streaming the channels? If broadcast IPTV takes up a lot less space than a traditional HDTV channel simply stream ESPN to receivers over the satellite as an IP multicast instead of using the individual customer's broadband connections.
All ESPNs available via streaming will come as part of the DISH/Disney deal and their push for a satellite free personal subscription service. So yes, we're almost to the point where most of your post is already being done.