MediaFile

ESPN’s John Skipper doesn’t see any benefits in new TV models – yet.

ESPN chief John Skipper is happy to talk to any of the so-called new over-the-top Web video players surfing around the fringes of the cable TV business. But he doesn’t see any major deals happening soon — if ever.

In a conversation with Reuters at this year’s cable show, Skipper was blunt about his skepticism over the idea his network –  the best paid in the business according to SNL Kagan data — could work with a new Web partner, a tie-up that may in some way threaten the cozy $100 billion a year cable programmer-distributor relationship which feeds the entire industry.

“We have a significant stake in maintaining the current model. There’s no advantage to us in new models that undercut what we have today,” said Skipper, speaking from the NCTA Cable Show in Boston.

ESPN pays tens of billions of dollars every year in sports rights fees to major sports and college leagues — much of which is live programming that doesn’t lend itself naturally to the subscription video-on-demand model popularized by the likes of Netflix and Amazon, he points out.

The Disney-owned sports network is the envy of the cable television business, and several major rivals, like News Corp and Comcast Corp’s NBC Universal, would love to replicate its model.

Content everywhere? More like content nowhere

Will Big Media and Big Tech companies ever stop punishing their biggest fans?

Like many people, I woke up yesterday and reached for my iPad for my morning hit of news, entertainment and information, so I could start my day. (And like many, I’m embarrassed to admit it.) Padding to the front door to get a newspaper still sounds more respectable, but my iPad gives me a far more current, rich and satisfying media experience than a still-warm printed Times could ever produce.

Except, lately, it doesn’t. Yesterday morning, I saw the exciting news that Bill Simmons, ESPN’s most popular, profane and controversial writer, had secured an interview with President Obama. Simmons published his interview in podcast, text and video form on Grantland, a longform sports journalism website he founded last year under the ESPN umbrella. I clicked over to the story from my Twitter feed and saw three YouTube excerpts of Simmons with Obama. And that’s all I saw. When I hit play on the videos, I discovered ESPN had set them to be “unavailable” on mobile devices.

Moving on, I tried to read a New York Post headline that also found its way into my Twitter feed. But when I tapped in, the Post webpage that loaded was not the story I wanted to read. Instead it was a notice, which I took as an admonition, that to read New York Post content on an iPad, I would have to download the app, which retails for $1.99.

ESPN’s new Skipper comes out fighting

We had the pleasure of incoming ESPN President John Skipper’s company on Monday at the Reuters Media Summit in New York. Skipper, whose promotion was announced just ahead of Thanksgiving Day, had been the No.2  to George Bodenheimer, now promoted to executive chairman.


In the last few years ESPN has become the 800-pound gorilla in the pay-TV industry through its mix of exclusive sporting licenses with many of the top sporting leagues and events. But those deals cost money — like the eight-year NFL TV rights that cost $15.2 billion. Even Skipper, in his first interview since his appointment was announced, acknowledged the deal as “expensive” but added the caveat that ESPN generates great value from NFL rights.


The high cost of sports programming is one reason ESPN is the most expensive cable network in the US at around $4 per subscriber. Most cable networks charge a lot less than $1.


But Skipper is adamant that ESPN is worth every penny and pushed back strongly at any suggestion that cable companies could create new tiers to help customers pay less if their package don’t include ESPN.



“It’s demonstrably true that ESPN provides more value to our distributors than any other network — by far, there’s not a close second. If you survey cable, telco and satellite customers they believe ESPN provides the most value. The distributors themselves believe we provide the most value.


I reject the notion (that ESPN high cost should see it placed on higher priced tiers). I  think the current package of pay-TV products that comes through on basic cable is a high value proposition to the consumer I don’t think breaking them up is going to provide the consumer better option. If they become broken up in an a la carte world the individual channels are going to more expensive. Consumers would get less channels and pay more money.


Every distributor will do deals with us because they believe the best protection I have against cord-cutting is having ESPN.”


 


 

No NBA games on TV? American Chopper still rolling

The NBA season should have begun last night. The big match-up was supposed to be between the Dallas Mavericks and the Chicago Bulls. But of course that never materialized.

It’s unfortunately nearing the point where the league will be hard-pressed to play a full season, even if an agreement is reached soon. Only so many games can be squeezed into January, February and March.

So what is a fan to do? Look around for other entertainment, probably, whether that’s NCAA basketball or ice hockey. Or Storm Chasers. Or American Chopper.

When it comes to NFL, TV executives put on brave face

NFL players association members arrive for negotiations with NFL in Washington Mar 11 2011

Shrewd? Prescient? Delusional? Tough to know, but top TV executives this week all seemed relatively confident — even off the record — when asked about the chances that NFL games would be played this fall.

The background, of course, is that NFL team owners and players are at odds over salary caps and other issues, raising the possibility of a lockout and the cancellation of some or all of the 2011 football season. Very bad news, if you’re a fan or a network executive.

Time Warner Cable’s unique ESPN Web deal

Many media business journalists let out a collective sigh of relief at the news that Time Warner Cable had finally inked its deal WorldCupwith Walt Disney to keep carrying its programming, including ABC, Disney channels and various ESPN networks.  The programming fee negotiations had gone late into the night past their Wednesday midnight deadline and hacks, who had seen this movie before, were just starting to tire of waiting for another midnight watch.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the deal is that Time Warner Cable’s ESPN customers will now have access to ESPN3.com, a website ESPN uses to show more than 3,500 live events, including  matches from the World Cup this summer.

This is unlike other ESPN3 deals which have typically been tied to the cable operator’s Internet service provider. In those cases, ESPN3 would only be accessible to ISP customers of the cable operator.

from Summit Notebook:

ESPN: We all live in sports towns (And tell great jokes)

ESPN President George Bodenheimer has been at the business of TV sports, one way or another, for nearly three decades, starting in the mailroom and working his way up.

It's the classic media story -- and this one even involved a stint driving through nearly every little town in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Mississippi to sell this odd new 24-hour sports network to cable distributors.

Here's one thing he's learned: Every town thinks it's a sports town. Sort of like everybody thinks they have a good sense of humor.

Tuesday media highlights

Here are some of the day’s stories about the media industry:

Amazon Patents Detail Kindle Advertising Model (Mediapost)
Laurie Sullivan writes: “The patents clearly note that Amazon would insert advertisements throughout the ebooks, from the beginning to the end, between chapters or following every 10 pages, as well as in the margins.”

> In-Book Ads Coming to the Amazon Kindle? (Fast Company)
> 6 Reasons Why Ads On The Kindle Don’t Work (Business Insider)

Deadline for Globe bids postponed (Boston Globe)
“The New York Times Co. has postponed tomorrow’s deadline for prospective buyers of The Boston Globe to submit preliminary bids for the newspaper, people briefed on the sales process said. No new date has been set for the bids,” writes Robert Weisman.

Baseball makes its pitch in new ad campaign

Ah spring. Opening day. Stolen bases. Hot dogs. Rain delays. Fresh baseball commercials flashing across your TV set.

Major League Baseball has just taken the wraps off its new 2009 campaign, “The is Beyond Baseball,” supported by 20 TV spots running through the World Series.The spots will run on ESPN, Fox, TBS, MLB Network and MLB.com.

The idea, developed by McCann Erickson, is that baseball is more than just a game; it’s part of the fabric of our culture. In trying to get that message across, the spots will play up the stories behind star players like Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants and Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Now showing: The cable show

The big story in the media for the rest of the week is the annual National Cable Telecommunications Association Show, or “the cable show,” as its commonly called.

This year’s primary topic looks like it will be how the big, traditional operators in the business will adapt to an age when the Internet is giving people more options to watch shows, and not always in a way that feeds the bank.

Here is our own take on the show from the Reuters wire:

Both sets of companies will be brainstorming on how to cope with or benefit from disintermediation: consumers can now watch decent-quality video online whenever they want, and often for free.