EconSports: Q&A With John Skipper, EVP Content, ESPN

On Digital Content:
Nov 11 we’ll launch a new web series called Mayne Street, we have 15 episodes done in various stages of editing, we’ll debut it after Monday Night football, my expectation is it can generate millions of viewers. It’s between 2-3 minutes. We have 15 second clips, we have a website we’ll put up.

We bought hoopgurlz, and what do we like about hoopgurlz? It’s a great audience, I don’t need people to show an economic model, if they have great content we’ll buy it and put it in our economic model. In the current economy, we like it because we can get great content cheap. There is great opportunity to acquire things at a discount.

How do you Gage financial success of the 1.1 billion per year spent on rights to MNF?
If you’re putting those games on a broadcast network you buy the rights, you produce it you get advertising. Our business is very different. We don’t view this as a 3 hour game, we view it as an entire week, it’s web, it’s sportscenter highlights, it’s a much more complicated financial process. We’re very happy with that deal.

On ESPN 360
We have done 3 football games live on ESPN360, we think that’s valuable. We think the way to get paid for it right now is we think this can provide you a marketing advantage, in terms of the advertising to date no, we’re still working out the technology. Many are being produced for television, we’re pretty close to figuring out how to do ads on it, it’s still an audience in tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands and we’re very confident over time we’ll return value on that.

How does ESPN avoid being victimized economy?
It would be short sited to suggest that we are in any way immune. Our fiscal year closed Sep 30, it was easily the most viewed most read most listened to year that we ever had so I think we’re in a pretty good position to do very well in any conditions. We also believe in operating efficiently, we don’t believe in taking money lightly or underworking people, our costs are in a great relationship to our revenue and we feel very good about where we are.

On Future Digital Plans
We think of live events as our main priority, we surround that by news and information we’re going to introduce on ESPN.com a new site design in January, I think one of the things that’s very important is video on the internet. We have more video than anybody because we have deals with all leagues except the NFL.

On Audience Measurement:
We’ll generate 2 billion video views we believe next year online. Bob [Bowman] talked about panels, I agree with him completely in the following sense: We think that it’s astonishing that on the internet, you know how many people are watching, we care about the number of people who come and how much time they spend and what they do and what’s important to them. We think they undervalue the relationship between content creation and the engagement that generates. We think that’s just part and parcel how we reach consumers and we in some ways don’t care where they get it we’re just sending content across screens and that’s what we care about.