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ESPN President John Skipper yesterday noted several broadcast networks in the last couple years have "decided that there might be something to this 24-hour sports channel thing,” but he said ESPN execs "like competition," according to Mike Reynolds of MULTICHANNEL NEWS. He said, "They are going to be in the business. We don’t expect this to be over and done, but what we do expect is to compete vigorously. What Fox does have is more live rights. Fox has more to start with, but again, in any comparison between our collection of assets and their collection of assets, we have a significantly broader, and better, portfolio." Reynolds reported ESPN at its upfront presentation yesterday announced that it would debut next year a "new, 10,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art digital studio" for "SportsCenter." The studio will "showcase some 350 video display units, some as high as 15-feet that will not only aid in the customization of myriad content presentations, but serve to boost the context for advertisers’ messaging as well." The show also will "go mobile in the old-fashioned sense with a sponsorable, 'SportsCenter on the Scene' bus that will roll to big events throughout the year." In addition, the company is "converting the top sports app, ScoreCenter, to the SportsCenter app in time for the kickoff" of the '13 NFL and college football seasons. It will include "such current features as personalized scores from users’ favorite teams and leagues to feeds of latest breaking news, articles, video clips and tweets from ESPN talent" (MULTICHANNEL.com, 5/14). AD AGE's Jeanine Poggi noted ESPN yesterday used its upfront to "suggest, essentially, that advertisers don't need to worry about time-shifted viewing -- because sports still gets audiences to watch live." ESPN President of Global Customer Marketing & Sales Ed Erhardt: "There's no genre performing better than sports in this fragmented, cluttered marketplace" (ADAGE.com, 5/14).
INSIDE INFORMATION: ESPN yesterday announced plans to launch "NFL Insiders" on Aug. 5, an hour-long show that will replace "NFL32." Suzy Kolber will host the new program, with Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter being featured prominently. Other NFL analysts -- both from ESPN as well as other news outlets -- will also appear on the show (ESPN). Blogger Ed Sherman noted the new show will not “feature former players or coaches.” ESPN NFL Senior Coordinating Producer Seth Markman said, “We have one rule: If you played in the league, you’re not going to be on the show.” ESPN figures there are “plenty of Xs and Os shows on the various networks,” and it wants a program “strictly dedicated to information about the NFL.” Markman: “It’s going to be different from anything else currently on TV. The thirst for information about the NFL is at an all-time high.” He added that Mortensen and Schefter “won’t sit on scoops so they can break them on the show,” as they still will be “posted and tweeted immediately.” But he said that he “doesn’t expect them to stop reporting while the show is being aired” (SHERMANREPORT.com, 5/14).
REALLY? REALLY! THE BIG LEAD's Jason McIntyre cited sources as saying that Skipper "privately attempted to woo" SNL writer and comedian Seth Meyers to ESPN this year to "host a late night sports talk show" before he was announced as the future host of NBC's "Late Night." Skipper said, "We had some preliminary conversations with Seth Meyers' representation because they were thinking about what he was going to do after this year. Clearly, the opportunity to work with ['SNL' Exec Producer Lorne Michaels] who he has known forever, and the opportunity to follow into Jimmy Fallon's late night spot, there was never going to be any serious consideration (for us)." However, McIntyre cited a source as saying that Skipper was "so smitten with" Meyers, he was "willing to make a lengthy, lucrative investment." Skipper acknowledged the net is "interested in the late night spot." Skipper: "We've got all these lead-in games and ... leading into what? But there is nothing imminent." McIntyre noted one name "floating around ESPN has been" Craig Kilborn, the former host of CBS' "Late Late Show" who was a "SportsCenter" anchor from '93-96. However, Skipper said that the net has had "no talks with Kilborn" (THEBIGLEAD.com, 5/14).
U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) yesterday told a Senate subcommittee that "Americans are at a 'tipping point' as it regards their monthly pay-TV bill and should be given the option of purchasing channels individually instead of as a bundle with hundreds of channels," according to Bob Fernandez of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. McCain said, "I truly believe that a lot of Americans are fed up with their cable TV bills." McCain was trying to "rally support for the Television Consumer Freedom Act of 2013 that he proposed last week." McCain, who has "publicly supported a la carte for years, cited the soaring cost of sports programming and cable-bill inflation since the mid-1990s for the legislation." Former FCC Chair Michael Powell said that cable companies had "invested heavily in their networks and that the bundling of channels allows a diversity of programming that might not be supported if channels were sold individually" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 5/15).
SKIPPER FIRMLY AGAINST A LA CARTE: ESPN President John Skipper yesterday said that he "isn’t too worried" about McCain's proposed legislation. Skipper after the network's upfront presentation in N.Y. said, "We don't think the bill has any momentum." In L.A., Joe Flint notes Skipper's view that the legislation is a "long shot is shared by many television industry insiders." Skipper said that ESPN is priced "appropriately given the popularity of the channel." He added McCain is "dead wrong" on the issue. Skipper said that the cost for a family of four to go to dinner and a movie is "as much if not more than the cost of a monthly cable bill" (L.A. TIMES, 5/15). Skipper added, "ESPN is not a niche network and I'd like to meet some of these people who don't like ESPN. We have 115 million people a week who engage with ESPN Media … and we think we provide great value." He added the current cable package "provides great value." Skipper: "The average hour of television consumed in a pay television package is $0.23. That's a great value and a great story." A la carte programming "will not provide consumers with better choice or with better economics." The popularity of ESPN and other big networks "allows there to be a huge ecosystem of niche networks with diverse points of view and diverse product and those networks simply will not be able to exist in an a la carte universe" ("Bloomberg West," Bloomberg TV, 5/14).