SBD/February 8, 2011/Media

ESPN Digital Boss Kosner Talks ESPN.com's Future, Competition From Yahoo

ESPN Digital Media Senior VP & GM John Kosner chatted with Nicholas Carlson of BUSINESS INSIDER about "where ESPN.com will be in 5 years ... and what he makes of Yahoo and all its turmoil." The following is a portion of the interview:

Q: What does ESPN and ESPN.com look like 5 years from now?
Kosner: You're going to have the content you want delivered on any device you can imagine, customized to the screen and the context of that screen. Using the Australian Open as an example, you'll be able to watch that on any screen, call up replays, talk to your friends about it, share clips. All of these things are coming and more, and there appears to be a fairly insatiable demand.

Q: Yahoo's gone through lots of turmoil over the past maybe five or six years. They were once the biggest sports site on the Internet. Are they still? What's the state of that competition?
Kosner: They continue to be the biggest in terms of uniques. I think for the last month of December they had 52 million uniques and we had about 40. The metric that we think matters is more of a television metric, computed through multiplying the total minutes we have against our total number of uniques and then looking at our share of category. And under that metric, ESPN had, I think, about 29% of the sports audience in December and was clearly bigger than Yahoo. ... They are worthy competition, but there's no other ESPN. And if you take a look at any sort of fan surveys about other top sports sites, if you look at the surveys that other sports websites do, ESPN is clearly number one. And one of the reasons I believe is that all the different media that ESPN brings including TV, radio, print, the quality of that brand, and sports is just one thing that Yahoo focuses on. I'm actually more concerned with the guy and the gal in the garage and what startups can bring out than some of the traditional competition, which while formidable, is almost more predictable.

Q: In sports right now you have all these collective bargaining agreements between the leagues, the owners, and players. How is ESPN Digital planning for either contingency? Is it bad news, or is it good news because it means lots more stories?
Kosner: Well, it's bad news if the games aren't played or if there's a bunch of time and attention focused on off the field negotiations, because no matter what anyone says, fans in general don't care about that. They just want to see the games (BUSINESSINSIDER.com, 2/4).
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