SBD/June 16, 2011/Media

TV Execs Talk Strengths, Challenges Of Sports Programming At The Cable Show

Burns says availability of 3D TVs will increase significantly in next coming months

Fox Networks President of Affiliate Sales & Marketing Mike Hopkins yesterday at The Cable Show in Chicago said sports content is "a good place to be" because it "busts the DVR," according to CABLEFAX DAILY. Turner Network Sales COO Coleman Breland "lauded the genre's promotion of multi-screen engagement by viewers, with immediacy the catalyst." But Time Warner Cable Exec VP & Chief Programming Officer Melinda Witmer said sports "doesn't have an afterlife." That means "limited monetization windows." And with sports pricing on a "hefty upswing it could become tricky for programmers to juggle the genre with original [entertainment] content, which also attracts viewers but could cut into the dollars reaped by sports." Less than 32-33% of cable subs "watch sports," and Charter Senior VP/Programming Allan Singer "wonders how long it will take before industry economics demand a la carte sports offerings." Still, NBCU TV Networks Distribution President Bridget Baker predicts the "cost of good content will not go down." Meanwhile, ESPN VP/Strategic Business Planning & Development Bryan Burns said, "The percentage of screens that will be on the shelves that are going to be 3D is going to go up quickly, very dramatically over the next 6, 7, 8 months. ... 14 months ago there were 19 3D sets out there; in March '11 the number was 68." He added, "Nearly 40% of consumers say they are confused by 3D technology ... so all is not totally well. But that was true at this stage with HD" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 6/16).

FUTURE SHOCK: Comcast Chair & CEO Brian Roberts today said The Cable Show in Chicago has given a “glimpse of the future" that appears to have a "lot of consistent themes." Viewers are going to have "a lot more choices," and it is "going to be more fun to make those choices." Roberts: "There are great navigational tools, which are some of things that we're unveiling today, and at the same time you're going to want it on every device that you have. So one subscription, hopefully, gets you lots and lots of content.” He noted one of the reasons Comcast is involved with NBC and Universal "is to have the position to both innovate and at the same time benefit from the changes that happen as new forms of distribution come along that can be sometimes complimentary and sometimes competitive." Roberts: "In this case right now, it appears to be a lot of complimentary additions. Not too many people have changed the way they’re getting their television but they are adding to it with all the new ways you can consume other devices and we want to be relevant in that space as well” (“Squawk Box,” CNBC, 6/16).

ALL ALONG THE WATCH TOWER: ESPN/ABC Sports President George Bodenheimer for the second straight day was promoting the "Watch ESPN" app at The Cable Show, and he said the network has a "great relationship with Apple for a variety of reasons, and (Apple Founder Steve Jobs) and his people are extremely supportive of what we’re doing.” Bloomberg TV's Jon Erlichman said this is “about getting those new products out to stay ahead of the competition.” Bodenheimer was asked if there is a point where users reach “app overload” with the amount of apps available. He replied, "I think you’ll see a bit of a shakeout there. I think you’ll see a little bit of a ‘less is more’ strategy going forward. You want to have the utmost in quality ... so we’re focused on quality and quantity” (“Inside Track,” Bloomberg TV, 6/16).

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