SBD/June 15, 2011/Media

George Bodenheimer Discusses ESPN's Olympics Bid, Future Of Industry In Q&A

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Bodenheimer sees potential for growth in ESPN's digital operations
ESPN/ABC Sports President George Bodenheimer participated in a Q&A with Jon Lafayette as part of a cover story for BROADCASTING & CABLE. Bodenheimer discussed the "future of sports, the effect of technology on television and where the industry is going," and he "remains extremely positive about ESPN's prospects going forward." Below are excerpts from the interview.

Q: How disappointing was this Olympics outcome?
Bodenheimer: We were very comfortable with what we bid, and those were the terms upon which we would have been happy to get it, so conversely, we're not disappointed in the least.

Q: How does this affect ESPN's momentum going forward?
Bodenheimer: We put our best foot forward and we're comfortable with that, so not getting (the Olympics) will have zero impact on ESPN going forward.

Q: Where is ESPN's business and the business of sports heading? Where is the growth?
Bodenheimer: I see growth in all things digital, whether it be our traditional online ESPN.com types of businesses -- we have many now. But beyond that, from a distribution standpoint obviously mobile communications are continuing to grow.

Q: What would be your biggest worry about where the business is heading?
Bodenheimer: I think we obviously can't control -- nobody can -- the overall economic factors. I would say those are probably the biggest worry.

Q: At this point, can you measure whether or not your iPad app is cannibalizing ESPN on TV? How would that affect revenue?
Bodenheimer: The beautiful facts about all things digital is that when it comes to sports they are making the entire pie grow. All of the new products that have been created by ESPN over the last few years have done nothing but support the growth of the traditional television business (BROADCASTING & CABLE, 6/13 issue).

HOPING FOR AN NFL SEASON: Bodenheimer spoke with Fox Business’ Liz Claman at The Cable Show in Chicago yesterday and said “we're optimistic” there will be an NFL season. Bodenheimer: “There will be a deal. The only question is when, of course, and we're certainly hopeful that they will be playing this fall as scheduled. If they're not, we'll figure out how to program successfully without it. We got tons of college football that we can rely on, and we'll make the best of it if we have to.” Bodenheimer demonstrated the new “Watch ESPN” app which has a “great picture” and is a “live stream of ESPN” on mobile devices. The app has already been downloaded more than 2 million times since it was launched in April. Bodenheimer: “It's like having a portable TV. I mean, this device is a game-changer.” He also said he has read the recent book on ESPN, “Those Guys Have All the Fun,” and noted that it “tells an excellent story, or it tells the story of how ESPN grew from nothing into the business that it is today, and that's what the authors set out to do and told us they were going to do. I believe in large part they’ve effectively succeeded” (“Countdown to the Closing Bell,” Fox Business, 6/14).
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