ESPN is the cable network that commands the highest subscriber fees in the U.S., so it has every reason to want to maintain the traditional cable package model. But when cheap Internet TV packages start popping up, ESPN wants to be included. One big reason: It thinks the millennials attracted to them will eventually graduate to more expensive cable packages.

“We suspect they will trade up,” ESPN President John Skipper explained at Thursday’s Code/Media Series: New York being held at the Steelcase WorkLife Center in Manhattan.

Not surprisingly then, some ESPN channels will be included in Dish’s Internet TV service, which Skipper said he was told would launch later this year. In the short term for ESPN, getting its channels included in cheaper Web TV packages could help it attract a new, younger subscriber base.

“We want to figure out products to get those people to buy something,” he said.

It also positions the sports network as a first-mover in the event that Web TV packages take off.

ESPN is seriously contemplating new revenue streams in a search for growth, Skipper said. One idea is selling newly acquired sports content directly to viewers on the Web. ESPN may, for example, offer a Major League Soccer game package that would allow viewers to pay for it and watch it on the Web without subscribing to ESPN.

If ESPN gets more aggressive in offering exclusive video online, it may begin to butt heads with the giant Internet businesses such as Google and Amazon that could have their eyes on live sports programming. Skipper, for his part, isn’t acknowledging that they could be a real threat. Or if he is, he isn’t saying so.

“Name all the technology companies that became great media companies,” he said.

Skipper said he’s “not a big believer” that tech companies like Google will be successful at attracting large audiences for live events. “I’m not sure you’re going to go to Google to watch the Rose Bowl,” he said.

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Skipper sounds like big blue back in the day, out of touch and unaware.  

Cable is broken, big expensive packages full of a lot of crap WE DON'T WANT is the past.  He may dream of us "trading up" but that's all it is, a fantasy.

I wager HBO will be the first to uncouple from the stranglehold of cable, but once they do I guarantee ESPN will be one of the first to follow.


"We suspect they will trade up..."

He is assuming that his service is considered of higher quality or value. Good luck understanding your potential customers when you start from that big of a presumption.


“I’m not sure you’re going to go to Google to watch the Rose Bowl” - sounds like a newspaper exec in 1988.  Anyone who thinks they have a monopoly eventually gets disrupted.  He does realize Google owns YouTube, right? 


I'm the oldest of the millennials and I teach the youngest of the millenials... Cable is blah. We'd rather be social and see the espn sporting events live, or at bar. I personally will never buy a cable plan again. It's the subscription age, spotify and netflix don't cost as much but offer a much larger library to browse and hand pick. Millennials know and love the internet, the ability to search for what you want and consume just that. Every time I see something on cable, the content is boring and irrelevant to my interest. Cable offers a limited set of programs which very few are live feeds, thus negating the need for this currently flawed method of delivery. All the user interfaces I've seen on cable boxes suck. This guy and espn are old, just sayin.


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