SBD/July 22, 2011/Media

ESPN's John Skipper Discusses Sports TV Landscape, Rival Networks

Skipper says Super Bowl is unlikely to end up on cable in the near to medium future
ESPN Exec VP/Content John Skipper recently sat down with VARIETY's Stuart Levine to "talk about all things ESPN, the TV sports landscape, the chances of the Super Bowl ending up on cable and what demographic the network sees as an untapped viewer base." The following is a portion of the Q&A:

Q: In broad strokes, how do you see [the] TV sports landscape right now?
Skipper: I actually see sports as a very attractive segment in entertainment because it’s live. That’s why things are so active in sports right now, why ratings generally are up and why there’s generally more competition than ever for rights.

Q: Years ago it was assumed a Super Bowl would never come to cable. Yet now, with ESPN holding the rights to the BCS Championship Game, could you see that happening?
Skipper: I could certainly envision it. It makes me happy, but I don’t see it happening in the near to medium term. The NFL has been very clear that they don’t see putting the Super Bowl in the perceivable future on cable.

Q: ESPN has made a big international push lately, especially with acquisition of the Premier League. How do you see that push going forward? Is that a major objective for the network?
Skipper: The world’s getting smaller, of course, and we’re finding that people here care about sports that have traditionally been international. ... Changing demographic patterns mean people care about other sports.

Q: Do you see Versus as your main competition right now and in gathering more sports rights, such as Wimbledon, is that part of the objective in trying to keep your distance ahead of them?
Skipper: Anybody’s who’s bidding against us is a competitor. In terms of resources, Fox has enormous resources, NBC Comcast has big resources, Turner does. The thing about Versus is, right now, it’s the only other 24/7, 365, multisports network. So I think that’s why people sort of go, “They more look like you than anybody else.” But lots of people are competing (VARIETY.com, 7/20).
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