SBJ/November 21-27, 2011/Idea Innovators

John Pacino, ESPN

Photo: ESPN

Define innovation: Innovation for ESPN is creating a product or solution that is unexpected by sports fans, while also adding value to our business and industry.

What’s the innovation you’re most proud of? I’m most proud of the ESPN3 World Cup experience we created, which included six alternative languages, first-of-its-kind live closed captioning, multiscreen viewing, dynamic ad insertion and record-breaking traffic levels. The U.S. vs. Algeria match was the highlight.

What’s the future of your industry? The future is in personalizing the sports viewing experience. For my group, that means displaying the content that is relevant to a fan and his or her circle of friends, while providing the best viewing experience with ancillary data.

What inspires you? I’m inspired by the knowledge that the products we create are enjoyed by millions of sports fans worldwide.


John Pacino

Senior Manager, Product Development
ESPN

In 2007, ESPN360.com was not working as well as company executives had hoped. Cable and satellite operators were not excited to carry a service that they thought depended too much on archived product.

ESPN executives believed the site would perform better if its focus switched from library programming to live events, and the company called on John Pacino to oversee that switch. The move has been an unqualified success. Distributors cut deals to access the site, now called ESPN3. The site set usage records during the 2010 World Cup.

“John hasn’t met a challenge that he is not willing to take on,” said Damon Phillips, ESPN3 vice president. “He has the unique ability to take complex business issues and create simple technical solutions. He is then able to articulate those solutions in terms that non-technical people can understand.”

Pacino said the experience was a typical one for him at ESPN: collaborative and forward-thinking.

“Collectively, we all come up with ideas and help make the products grow,” he said.
Pacino has helped stream ESPNNetworks.com, which streams ESPN’s linear TV channels to broadband. He also helped bring ESPN’s mobile apps to reality, including WatchESPN.

Currently, he’s working on figuring out how to guide users through ESPN3’s content.

“You’re going to see a more personalized experience as our content grows on ESPN3,” he said. “It’s getting unruly to navigate through 20 college football games that are playing all at once.”

— John Ourand

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