This week John Skipper, the president of ESPN, sat down with the Wall Street Journal to talk about ESPN. The conversation quickly turned to all things cord cutting from the new Apple TV to their deal with Sling TV and then to the state of ESPN overall.
The Apple TV and Apple streaming service came up early in the conversation and in response to a WSJ question about whether Apple could be a player in the TV industry John Skipper said, “We have ongoing conversations. They have been frustrated by their ability to construct something which works for them with programmers. We continue to try to work with them.”
So for the second time in two months we hear from a major president of a content company that Apple’s much-hoped-for streaming service is still struggling to find backers.
Part of this may be because of how successful Sling TV has been and the fact that ESPN does not need to agree to Apple’s wished for terms as long as they have Sling TV as a way to bring in cord cutters and cord nevers.
When asked about how Sling TV was doing John Skipper said, “We see the Sling TV numbers, which are significant.”
Later he was asked if there was any truth to the rumors that ESPN had an out if Sling TV started to draw away a ton of cable subscribers. John said, “I’m not going to contradict that. Our concern was: there is no financial benefit to us if people trade down [pay TV packages for Sling], but there is financial benefit to us if new entrants come in. We’ve had meetings with Dish. They, to our complete satisfaction, have showed us their research. We are highly satisfied that the overwhelming majority of Sling TV subscribers are new entrants.”
So it sounds like networks are seeing Sling TV and maybe the many new streaming packages as a way to negotiate from a standpoint of strength against Apple’s desired streaming service, forcing Apple to either back down or meet their expectations of what they want from Apple’s new streaming service.
Right now all we know for sure is Apple is still far from having a deal in place for a streaming service.