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Streaming Media East: Content Is King in Online Sports

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Content is king, Damon Phillips, ESPN’s vice president for ESNP3 and Watch ESPN, said in the opening day keynote for Streaming Media East 2013. But not just any content.

“Anyone can have content,” Phillips stated. What succeeds is more than that: “Live content is king, exclusive content is king, relevant content is king.”

Sports is uniquely suited for online video, since fans prefer watching sporting events live. “Sports is one of the few remaining genres of television that is DVR-proof,” Phillips said. When watching sports on a device or computer, viewers won’t settle for lower quality.

“People expect internet TV to work just like TV,” Phillips said. That means no buffering and no authentication: viewers want to open their video and simply have it play. ESPN works with Conviva and other companies to ensure it can deliver HD video with no buffering.

“We’re definitely leading the way in terms of video quality,” Phillips said.

Looking ahead, Phillips predicted that simpler online experiences were on the horizon, with improvements such as in-home authentication, cross-domain authentication, and cross-app authentication coming soon.

While viewers expect online video to work the same as television, they also expect it to be better than television, Phillips said. That means greater content personalization.

A five-year veteran of ESPN, Phillips explained how ESPN is moving ahead with online video. There’s more content available online today than ever before, he said, and people can watch almost anything instantly on almost any device. Consumers expect more. Responding to that, ESPN made two bets on internet TV: ESPN3, an online destination, and Watch ESPN, a mobile app.

ESPN3 has been around for 10 years, with several name changes along the way. It started life as ESPN Broadband, Phillips said, and was created as a way for affiliates to offer exclusive content to grow their high-speed data businesses. ESPN3 now offers exclusive live content, such as college football and basketball. It’s an outlet for sports that don’t get TV exposure, he said.

Watch ESPN, the network’s app, offers live TV streams 24/7, including feeds from ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, and ESPN U. Phillips offered stats on where people used the app: 33 percent of the time viewers use it in the living room, perhaps when other family members are watching the house’s main TV. Viewers use it in the bedroom 25 percent of the time and the bathroom 10 percent of the time.

In the audience question period, one attendee asked why he couldn’t pay ESPN directly for a subscription rather than needing a pay TV account. ESPN believes in the bundled channel approach, Phillips said. Responding to another question on when ESPN will be available on additional set-top boxes and mobile platforms, Phillips said that he couldn’t comment on particular devices, but that ESPN wanted to be available on all devices and platforms.

Scroll down to watch the full keynote:


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