ESPN adapts to tech first, then finalizes business model

NEW YORK: ESPN's first goal in adopting new media and platforms for its content is to reach sports fans, then it worries later about making money from those ventures, network President John Skipper said Wednesday.

NEW YORK: ESPN's first goal in adopting new media and platforms for its content is to reach sports fans, then it worries later about making money from those ventures, network President John Skipper said Wednesday. 

Speaking at PRWeek's Power to the People Conference in New York, Skipper said the sports network's “biggest challenge, given our position, is to adjust to changing technologies and changing ad models.”

“[The network asks] is it a good thing for sports fans? If it is, we want to do it,” he said during a Q&A session at the event. “We try to adjust to the technology, then figure out where to make money later.”

Skipper, who also serves as co-chairman of Disney Media Networks, was named to his current role at the beginning of this year. Previously, he was EVP of content at ESPN since October 2005. Disney is the parent company of Bristol, CT-based ESPN.

Skipper said that even ESPN's venture into mobile hardware, which he said was “widely viewed as a business failure,” benefitted the company in the long run as mobile content became more common. ESPN shut down its phone and mobile service in 2006 after only seven months on the market.

“We got talent in the door, and we understood how to create content for a small screen,” he explained.

Skipper also dismissed the idea that non-media companies are creating content that can compete with ESPN and other media brands. Companies such as Coca-Cola have recently begun pushing consumer friendly content to the public in greater numbers.

“I think content is harder than people think,” he said. “I don't spend a lot of time tossing and turning at night worried that a consumer good company or a technology company is creating content.”

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