Hot Topics: Stern, Levy, Skipper on social media, cord cutting and the NY marathon

ESPN's John Skipper talks about losing soccer rights and his network's commitment to the sport.
With the presidential election top of mind as the ’12 Sports Media & Technology conference got under way today in New York, NBA Commissioner David Stern commented on how social media has influenced athletes. Stern: “I went over some of the tweets of our players this morning. It’s a new day. You wouldn’t hear players talking about or tweeting about voting and outcomes a decade ago. I think social media has changed that. It has made them more publicly aware, more socially aware.”

Stern was a panelist in the event’s opening session, titled “From The Top: Insights On Sports Media.” He was joined by ESPN President John Skipper and Turner Broadcasting President of Sales, Distribution & Sports David Levy.

Among other topics during the panel:

Skipper commented on discussions between the network and league partners with regard to on-air talent: “When we’re doing games, we of course consult with our partners. We’re licensing their product to put on our air. I will state categorically that the decision not to hire Stan Van Gundy was my decision and only my decision. We looked at a number of people to put on our studio show. I wanted to bring in Bill Simmons, which we did. Simmons had a relationship with Jalen Rose. We brought Stan Van Gundy in to audition. He did very well. We did proceed with a discussion with him about potentially hiring him and then I decided not to. The only time I had a discussion with David [Stern] was when I told him, ‘This is what we’re going to do.’”Regarding TV Everywhere and cord cutting, Levy said, “The industry has done a poor job in saying what the value has been for the cable business. It’s good value for $80. And, by the way, TV Everywhere will make it even more valuable. Ultimately, you have to come up with opportunities to make sure that they don’t cut the cord. … 25% of the country now owns a tablet, 94% own a phone and 70% of those phones have video capabilities. If you allow these devices to have this content, and all you have to do is authenticate to get it, that’s giving huge value to all these technologies that people are buying.”

Skipper also discussed the decision to postpone the ING N.Y. Marathon, which was set to be aired on live TV (ESPN2) for the first time since ‘93. Skipper said, “We were not involved. Nobody asked our opinion. … I think ultimately they made the right decision, although I think the judgment about their decision-making process has been a little harsh. I think there is a point in time when a marathon would have been a spectacular rallying event for the city. That time is clearly not when you have limited resources and you’re having to decide where generators go and where police go. The main thing that matters is that they got to the right decision. But we were uninvolved.”
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