It’s no secret that Disney (NYSE: DIS) would like to get another crack at the Olympics and plans to bid for rights to the 2014 and 2016 games.The last time ABC had rights to the Olympics was 1988 — before e-mail was ubiquitous, broadband was even a possibility and ESPN was a sports powerhouse. So what would an ESPN-ABC Olympics look like in the age of high-speed internet and video-centric handsets? How would it compare to the coverage of current rights holder NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) John Skipper’s four-letter answer: Live. I caught up with Skipper, ESPN’s EVP of content, and cohort John Walsh, EVP and executive editor, during the NBA All-Star Weekend on opening night of the Winter Olympics for a wide-ranging conversation in, of all places, the bar at the Dallas Ritz-Carlton.
How much of the Olympics would be on ESPN’s broadband net ESPN360.com (soon to be rebranded ESPN3)? No commitment to showing all events live online but “a ton of it because, remember on 3, you have infinite screens.” Would he tape delay ski runs for prime time, as NBC has been criticized for doing? “We believe in live. We believe in live. We just think at this point with technology and people’s expectations and the ability to get instant information, we believe in live.”
Skipper quarrels with the mantra that west coast viewers are willing to have events delayed to get them in prime time. “Every time I hear the discussion about how on the west coast want to watch in prime time, I