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Volume 26 No. 26
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Pitaro Talks Growth Of ESPN+, Says Cable TV Not Going Anywhere Soon

The way fans watch sports is "changing fast, [as] cable TV isn’t the cash cow it once was" while subscription streaming services are proliferating, and ESPN is at the "center of that transition," according to Amol Sharma of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. ESPN+ "offers a mix of sports events and original programming meant to complement -- but not duplicate -- what’s on TV." But ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro said cable TV subscriptions provide "great value for a broad cross section of consumers," along with the "ability to reach fans with quality content at scale." Pitaro: "I don’t see that changing. We continue to invest in content that lives in that ecosystem. We are running parallel paths here. We’re investing aggressively in the (direct-to-consumer streaming space with ESPN+)." Pitaro added, "I don’t think anyone knows how many streaming services can scale to a mass audience. For someone to be successful in this space, in our opinion, they’re going to need a few things. First off, a wide array of high-quality content that’s exclusive to the platform. A well regarded brand that resonates with the audience. You need the ability to market effectively. You need pricing savvy and technology expertise at scale." Pitaro noted ESPN is "experimenting on the alternative broadcast side with feeds available on ESPN+," such as when cameras followed three Duke star freshmen in a game last season against Virginia. Pitaro: "That felt smart -- it felt unique" (WSJ.com, 5/15).

EVER-EVOLVING: Ten months after launch, ESPN+ has 2 million paid subscribers, and ESPN Exec VP/Programming & Scheduling Burke Magnus said, “We’re learning every day. We’re starting to get into the second cycle for a lot of things. And so the content will continue to evolve from a live event perspective.” ESPN Exec VP/Content Connor Schell "mentioned that content integration between ESPN+ and the linear ESPN has improved," with "SportsCenter" and the crawls "touting Plus shows like Kobe Bryant’s and Peyton Manning’s 'Detail' in an organic way." Magnus said, “When you can run a Warriors highlight and tell people at the end that Kobe’s talking to Draymond Green as part of the latest episode of 'Detail,' that to me is pretty cool. 'Detail' to me is probably a show that would be difficult to schedule in a linear environment." AWFUL ANNOUNCING's Shlomo Sprung noted ESPN+ "remains interested in purchasing additional soccer rights for its platform." Magnus: “We’re looking at all territories of the world. We could probably do more in Latin America, South America, Central America and Mexico. I think that’s the next place we’re gonna look" (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 5/15).