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ESPN exec John Skipper thinking big

Cabler plans to acquire as many games, events possible

At a time of heightened competition for TV sports rights, ESPN’s content boss is reluctant to say his network will be telecasting the Super Bowl in the near future but any other major championship event could likely find a home at the sports behemoth.

“While (the Super Bowl) isn’t going on cable anytime soon, almost everything else is fair game,” John Skipper, ESPN exec veep of content, told Variety.

Skipper, who was behind the net’s recent charge in scooping up exclusive Wimbledon coverage that left NBC without the tourney for the first time in 43 years, said the network’s mission is to acquire as many games and events as possible.

The reason is twofold: Live events are practically DVR-proof — meaning viewers can’t pass over ads, which makes them a premium buy for Madison Avenue — and the more ESPN has to air, the less its competitors can have.ESPN and ABC made a big play for the 2014 and 2018 Olympics rights earlier this year but were outbid by NBCUniversal, which is focused on building up Versus as a national all-sports rival to ESPN. But NBCU isn’t the only competitor ESPN is keeping tabs on.

“We see our competition in a number of places,” Skipper explained. “There is competition for eyeballs on television, for buying rights, on the Internet from social media companies and on videogames. We still think the way to break through all that competition is to own live rights and then build studio content around those live rights.”

For the full Q&A with John Skipper, visit Variety’s On the Air blog.

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