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SBD/October 28, 2015/SMT Conference
John Skipper Defends ESPN's Audience, Talent Development, Journalistic Standards
Published October 28, 2015
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THOUGHTS ON DAILY FANTASY: Skipper said he remains “very happy” with ESPN’s current advertising-based relationships in daily fantasy sports, despite recent turmoil in that industry. While he expressed relief that a potential equity investment by the Walt Disney Co. into DraftKings instead turned into a marketing-based deal across ESPN platforms, Skipper affirmed that ESPN’s current level of activity in daily fantasy will continue and, like NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, reiterated his support of daily fantasy. “I know (FanDuel CEO) Nigel Eccles and (DraftKings CEO) Jason Robins well, and I am confident they will navigate the current level of noise,” he said. “I’m convinced this is a game of skill ... but I’m not positive that really matters.”
* Skipper shot back at IAC Chair Barry Diller, who has accused of ESPN of operating in a “false economy.” “That is an inaccurate, inappropriate, woefully uninformed narrative, one I would submit is willfully so,” Skipper said. “I would ask that he stop flapping his lips.”
* Despite having, to many observers, a far weaker slate of NFL games than any other NFL broadcaster, Skipper claimed the network is the most financially successful with its rights. “We monetize every bit of our NFL spend,” he said. “Our ROI is higher than anyone else’s.”
* Skipper said criticism of ESPN’s reporting of “Deflategate” was “ridiculous,” and particularly cited the quality of work by reporters Don Van Natta Jr. and Seth Wickersham on the story.
* He expressed no fear of newer broadcast and media technologies, such as virtual reality and Meerkat. “We are not afraid of disruptive technology. We work hard to adapt to it and use it to better serve our fans,” he said.