The World Cup is just under a year away, and John Skipper, president of ESPN, Inc., could barely contain his excitement for the global TV property. He said the passion of the host nation, Brazil, coupled with mostly favorable (for U.S. viewers) kickoff times, will have Americans buzzing about soccer and tuning in to matches on ESPN in substantial numbers. "We think it's going to dominate what sports fans in this country are talking about," he said. "I think it's going to be monumental, and it's our intention to leave the bar for doing the World Cup very, very high."
Skipper keynoted the Sports Business & Technology Summit in Manhattan, taking questions from Mike Reynolds, Multichannel news editor. Skipper was effusive about ESPN's future, including its stunning 190,000-square-foot SportsCenter digital center pegged to open in spring 2014.
"It's the largest studio, I think, in the universe," he said with a smile. "That's kind of the way we roll."
Skipper said there'd be more playful "stunts" out of the studio, as opposed to staid anchors at the desk.
He welcomes the challenge from a new Fox sports cable net, saying it will make ESPN "smarter," and will raise the overall viewer demand for sports.
ESPN has no plans to launch a channel dedicated to women's sports, noted Skipper, saying they're already well represented on the various ESPN channels. He said the network's recent decision to shutter its 3D television efforts stemmed from the fact that not enough people opted to don the glasses for regular sports contests. 4K-resolution TV, on the other hand, is more like HD years ago, he said - the viewer simply flips the switch and enjoys a sharper picture.
TV Everywhere, Skipper added, is an ideal fit for ESPN's mostly DVR-proof live contests.
"We are happy to sell our networks to anybody," he said. "[But] you cannot get anything from ESPN networks for free. It should not be free when someone else is paying for it."