ESPN CEO John Skipper ripped IAC media mogul Barry Diller at the Sports Business Journal conference on Wednesday morning.
Diller has been critical of ESPN lately, calling it a “false economy” and suggested that millions of pay-TV viewers are paying billions of dollars to effectively not watch the channel.
“I will respectfully ask Barry Diller to acquaint himself with the facts before he flaps his lips in public about this,” an animated Skipper said at the end of a minute-long response to a question about Diller’s false economy comments.
Diller’s name came midway through the half-hour conversation, and upon hearing it Skipper seemed at once to dial things up a notch.
“Did you bring up Barry Diller because you were just trying to rile me up?” the ESPN CEO asked, smiling wryly and shaking his head.
“Barry Diller has put us in an inappropriate, inaccurate narrative for a long time. He suggests that ESPN exists in a false economy. He says, and I’ve memorized this so that I’ll get it right, that a small number of people view ESPN, and he tries to propagate a narrative that there are universal pay television households and this group over here watches ESPN and everybody else subsidizes it. That is inaccurate. That is wrong. And I believe at this point it is wilfully inaccurate.”
After pausing for a moment, Skipper continued to speak specifically about Diller’s words and cited some impressive college football numbers from early October to disprove the false economy notion.
“Let me tell you a couple of important numbers,” Skipper said. “On October the third, during a twelve hour period, 63 million people watched college football on ESPN. In the first six weeks of the college football season, 147 million people watched ESPN. That is 57% of the entire pay television universe. In the last quarter, 80% of everybody in the entire pay television universe watched ESPN. So any suggestion that ESPN has a false economy or is subsidized by this is inaccurate. We bring more value to this pay television system than anybody else else and we receive a fair return.”