Freelancer Cari Lynn is contributing to Deadline’s coverage.
ESPN execs must grow tired of defending the value of pay TV’s most expensive basic channel. But President John Skipper did so again today at a conference sponsored by All Things D. The estimated $4.69 monthly fee that cable and satellite companies pay for each customer who receives ESPN is justified because “we’re bringing great value and getting paid for that value.” And he says it makes sense to charge people for a bundle of channels that includes ESPN instead of paying for just the ones that they watch. “If people pay a la carte they will end up paying as much or more” than they do now. Skipper says that ESPN is prepared for the growth of digital platforms. Since 2005 it decided that when it bought broadcast rights for games “we would acquire all rights for content on any devices.” But the sports channel doesn’t want to use digital platforms to take viewers away from cable and satellite. Distributors “pay us money for that. We’re not going to undermine (that) by giving it away to anyone else.” Still, the digital rights could give ESPN an edge over potentially muscular new competitors such as NBCUniversal’s NBC Sports Network. Over the next year ESPN will face “more competition than ever and new competition,” Skipper says. “Our advantage is we’re in all these platforms” with mobile alerts and opportunities to play fantasy games. He adds that the company sees its espnW web site, devoted to women’s sports, “becoming a TV channel.”