SBD/September 25, 2013/Media

Skipper Says De-Bundling Cable Unlikely, ESPN Not Threatened By A La Carte Bill

Skipper rejected the notion that marketplace changes are eroding cable
ESPN President John Skipper yesterday said that cable is in "no danger of de-bundling or significant decline -- and ESPN has no incentive to go a la carte," according to Josh Dickey of THE WRAP. Skipper, speaking at TheGrill -- The Wrap’s fourth annual Media Leadership Conference -- suggested that a "proliferation of video does not necessarily portend a cable erosion." Skipper: "It’s the best value in entertainment, and it’s not in a precipitous decline. Paid TV has for many years held almost all the good video. Now there are places where quality video exists outside this system. I think it will grow. The question is, Will it grow to the detriment of pay TV? So far, it hasn’t had any significant effects." He also was "quick to dismiss the media chatter -- fueled by Arizona Sen. John McCain’s bill proposal -- that an a la carte system is on the horizon." Skipper acknowledged that the marketplace "is rapidly shifting, but rejected that those changes are eroding cable." He said, "In the current environment, when you say there’s fragmentation -- what we’re really talking about is proliferation. I’m not dismissing that things are happening. There are new sources of video." However, the "appetite for content -- and sports content, in particular -- is essentially keeping pace." Skipper: "ESPN has pushed at the boundaries of how much sports content is relevant … there doesn’t seem to be any lack of appetite for more stuff" (THEWRAP.com, 9/24).

TOMORROWLAND: The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Georg Szalai noted new TV deals "start kicking in for ESPN in 2014, drawing a question about the network's margin outlook." Disney Chair & CEO Bob Iger said that ESPN "will not rest on its laurels and sees opportunities of growth despite increased competition." He "concluded that ESPN's 'best times' are still ahead of it." Iger, discussing int'l opportunities, said ESPN was "less likely to grow its brand outside of Latin America." The company recently "withdrew from Europe in what Iger called a 'near-exit.'" He explained that it "was 'really difficult' to grow ESPN internationally as many markets feature established pay TV platforms that acquire sports rights as a loss leader" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 9/24).
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