ESPN Chief John Skipper on Digital: Make Love, Not War

The sports titan has benefited from embracing the digital transition, ESPN’s John Skipper says, even when it hasn’t worked out

While content companies and technology companies duke it out over intellectual property and digital dollars, new ESPN president John Skipper is boasting a fat wad of cash — and he says it's because the “Worldwide Leader in Sports” embraced Silicon Valley.

When it comes to the tech world, Skipper said Tuesday at the AllThingsD’s Dive Into Media Conference, "we don’t feel a disconnect.

“We adopt aggressively. We don’t wait for winners. We get in, create a great product, get share and figure out money later.”

Also read: 132 million consume World Cup on ESPN platforms

While ESPN is in a prime position to do so – it gets a constant influx of money from its cable business – Skipper appeared confused by the various content companies who were at war with their technological counterparts.

He name-checked Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, who spoke Monday night, several times and extolled ESPN’s multi-platform approach.

Technology is enabling consumers to get their content “wherever you want at whatever time on whatever device.” Skipper said.

He cited the 2010 World Cup as a leading example, since one-third of the audience watched broadcasts on something other than a television. ESPN offers streaming video and written content on the web, on tablets, on the phone and so on.

Then again, ESPN can be so flexible and take chances because it still makes sure to charge for everything – and charge quite a bit.

Ina Fried’s interview with Skipper was punctuated by several references to ESPN’s profitability, and its refusal to give anything away for free. When the question and answer session with the audience began, Skipper joked that he’d be charging for each answer.

One technological area where ESPN has stumbled is mobile, where the company released its own phone — and lost millions in the process.

Skipper acknowledge the losses but argued this was an area where ESPN’s willingness to experiment paid off. The gambit , while initially a failure, enabled ESPN to become a major player in the mobile space, where it now controls 70 percent of sports market share.

“We didn’t execute well,” Skipper said. “But we created expertise on mobile."