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SXSW ’14: ESPN ‘Frustrated and Disappointed’ by TV Everywhere

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“The process of authenticating is too clunky,” stated John Skipper, president of ESPN, Inc. and co-chairman of Disney Media Networks. “I’m slightly frustrated and disappointed that it’s taken as long as it has.”

The comments came during the South by Southwest panel “TV or Not TV: Defining Networks in the Digital Age.” TV Everywhere isn’t living up to its name, and Skipper is angry about it. Viewers go online to watch a program and get hit with a password request, he said. When they don’t know their password, they give up and go do something else.

“We need a single system and we need a system that is automatic,” railed Skipper. The technology is here, he said, so why are people still asked for passwords?

The industry has been talking about TV Everywhere for five years, Skipper added, yet barriers to simple authentication still remain.

“We want it to be as seamless and easy as possible,” Skipper stated.

The good news is that Skipper sees easy authentication as inevitable. Comcast having more scale, with the acquisition of Time Warner Cable, will likely be a good thing, he noted, as Comcast has been a proponent of seamless authentication and will be able to get the various necessary parties working together.

Addressing Disney’s recent deal with Dish, Skipper said that the satellite provider had made a landmark agreement with Disney as the first step in creating smaller online-only bundles of channels. This type of service is designed to appeal to millennials who don’t want a large pay TV subscription and may not even have a big screen television. It’s a response to a changing world, Skipper said. When creating bundles, Dish is required to include channels from other providers so there’s not bundle of all-Disney content.

The TV world has changed profoundly from only five years back, Skipper said. Not long ago, TV stations provided nearly all the video content that viewers could watch. Now, there’s a large amount of content that people can get in other places, mostly online. A tipping point will come, he said, and TV viewing will be dramatically different in the future. Still, he believes that pay TV will continue to be the most efficient way to find the content people care about.

“I hear that somewhere, somebody’s making some money,” Skipper joked.


John Skipper, president ESPN, Inc. and co-chairman of Disney Media Networks; Kevin Conroy, president of Univision; and Paula Kerger, president and CEO of PBS.

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