Mon. May 20th, 2019
John Skipper

John Skipper Calls Out Traditional Sports Television

Former ESPN President and Executive Chairman of the Perform Group, which owns streaming giant DAZN took the stage at the Web Summit in Lisbon on Tuesday to be interviewed by his former employee about his new venture. Jemele Hill did not touch on either her or Skipper’s exit from ESPN in their conversation. Instead, they focused on Skipper’s current employer and how it reflects a changing sports media.

Skipper said that streaming services like DAZN have more information about who is using their product and how it is being used than traditional television does. He said that allows the company to make more focused changes to their presentation when necessary. Broadcasting and cable rely on what he called an “anachronistic” ratings system.

If you’re watching on cable or broadcast television, it is so anachronistic that it still relies upon Nielsen ratings, which are done on a sampling technology so that it infers that X number of people watched. They don’t really know how many people watched, and they don’t have any idea who in the house is watching. They have no idea, really. They know when the television set was cut on. They know when it was cut off. And maybe someone’s watching, or maybe they’re in the back yard gardening while the TV set is on. We know when someone’s engaged. We can then do things to make that experience better.

He also promised that DAZN and other streaming services will change the way in-game advertising is done during live events.

We do not have advertising in our subscription service right now, but we will. And what we will do is just as we will disrupt the way that we acquire the ability to watch sports through an app, we will disrupt the way that advertising works. We really will follow the Facebook/Google model — we will understand things about you that will allow us to target ads.

We will not run 30-second ads in pods of 5-6 of those so they see the same car ad 14 times in a 3-hour game. We will not interrupt games in a way that are unnatural, the way they do on television. I know this because I negotiated it: We had the rights to run 78 commercials during the average American football game. That is a lot of commercials to watch. What we will do is figure out a way to integrate content into the production.

In the United States, DAZN is largely focused on combat sports, but it does have the streaming rights to a number of American sports leagues for international distribution. Skipper has a history of betting big on live events. You can cite the deal he made with the NBA while at ESPN or the nine-figure deal between DAZN and boxer Canelo Alvarez that he just shepherded.

It will be interesting to see how Skipper’s vision pays off for DAZN. Is a streaming service buoyed by combat sports capable of pulling off such a grand vision, or will we see DAZN put together more mega-deals in the future to acquire streaming rights to major professional leagues?