ESPN has been talking to Dish and other companies about launching new online streaming services that could include ESPN as part of their online TV bundle, revealed the sportscaster’s president John Skipper at Recode’s Code Media conference in Southern California Wednesday.
Skipper didn’t want to comment on potential negotiations with Apple or Amazon, but said that ESPN has been talking to Dish and others “about creating other multi-stream products.”
However, ESPN isn’t looking to sell directly to consumers. “We do not believe that right now to be good business,” Skipper said. Instead, ESPN is betting on preserving the traditional pay TV bundle. “We have no intention of changing that proposition. That is excellent business for us,” he said.
Still, the realities of cord cutting haven’t been lost on Skipper. ESPN saw its subscribers decline last year, which contributed to a sell-off in media stock. “There have been some losses due to cord cutting,” Skipper acknowledged. ESPN has been hit doubly hard by this trend because some consumers have been trading down to smaller packages that don’t include ESPN, he said.
On the flip side, some of these smaller packages can also be a boon for ESPN, Skipper argued. He reiterated that his cooperation with Sling has been doing very well, thanks in large parts to including ESPN into its base package. “ESPN is the driver of that package,” he said.
Skipper didn’t spell it out like that, but ESPN’s negotiations with Dish may well be about a premium version of Sling. The streaming service currently limits its customers to accessing just one stream at a time due to the fact that ESPN has made this a condition of its contract with the service. Sling TV CEO Roger Lynch told Variety earlier this year that his company is exploring the launch of multiple streams.