SBJ/February 27-March 5, 2017/Media

Skipper: New CEO a ‘cultural fit’ for BAMTech

MLB Advanced Media looked to the tech world to pick the new BAMTech CEO Michael Paull, but it didn’t look for a tech guy to fill that role. Rather, ESPN President John Skipper, who is on BAMTech’s board of directors, said they plucked Paull from Amazon because of the way he complemented the group’s existing executives. Skipper spoke with SportsBusiness Journal’s John Ourand last week about why BAMTech’s board chose Paull, who has spent his career with media companies like Amazon, Sony Music, Sony Pictures, Fox Entertainment and Time Warner. Skipper also spoke of the ESPN-branded over-the-top service that is expected to launch later this year.

Why did you choose Paull?
PAULL
SKIPPER: He’s a cultural fit. He’s a big-time sports fan. He’s got the right experiences. We wanted somebody from the digital world, and we wanted somebody who has consumer experience. We preferred to have somebody with real product experience, marketing experience and video experience. We have an extremely good CTO in Joe Inzerillo, so we didn’t have to have a completely technological guy. We also think he’ll be a good complement to Kenny Gersh, who’s running business development. We all liked him.

What’s your grand vision for BAMTech?
SKIPPER:
BAMTech splits into two services. As people talk to the minority owner, ESPN, about it, they forget that its core business is video platform
SKIPPER
services. BAMTech did the Super Bowl for Fox, signed deals to do video streaming for Eurosport, the NHL and PGA.

The other piece of the business is subscription sports services. That’s why we bought a minority interest because they’ve got the technology and they’ve already got some experience in marketing those subscribers. We believe together that they bring a bunch of rights and we bring a bunch of rights. We’ll buy other rights, which will allow us to bring a number of sports subscription products to market. There probably will continue to be multiple products that will come to market. One of them will be a multisport, aggregated, ESPN-branded product.

When?
SKIPPER:
We expect to launch a multisport ESPN-branded product in calendar year 2017. Michael starts March 1. We’re going to allow the new CEO a fair amount of leeway to succeed, as opposed to having him come into a pre-existing conception of “Here’s what it’s going to be, and here’s when we’re going to launch it. So just do it.” I have every expectation that the board will hear from Michael at some point saying, “I’ve been here for 45 days, here’s my plan.”

Only 45 days? You’re a tough boss!
SKIPPER:
I’m not his boss. I want to be a little careful. He doesn’t report to me. He reports to the board.

Why do you need to launch an OTT service?
SKIPPER:
People who are interested in what they care about really care about it. It’s not like the cult audience for some ridiculous 352nd most popular drama series made this year. The people who care about Big South football or A-10 basketball really care. We’re looking to serve that. We think it’s pretty clear that we need to have direct relationships with customers and sports fans. This is a way to do that. Think of continuing the evolution from broadcast TV to cable TV to internet to smartphones to apps. This is just another way with the new over-the-top capability of providing sports content to sports fans. It’s one of the places sports media is going. We’ll see a lot of people moving toward that. Our goal here at BAMTech is to be a leader in that space. Our goal at ESPN is to have a branded service in that space that is the leader.

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