ESPN: Give Us The Olympics And We'll Give You Live Coverage (DIS)

ESPN has taken out an ad in the New York Times, via an interview with reporter Richard Sandomir, where it begins campaigning for the rights to the 2014 and 2016 games. The pitch: We promise to show most (but not all) of the games live.

“Our DNA is different than theirs,” John Skipper, ESPN’s executive vice president for content said by telephone on Tuesday. “We serve sports fans. It’s hard in our culture to fathom tape-delaying in the same way they have. I’m not suggesting it wasn’t the smart thing for them to do, but it’s not our culture. We did Euro 2008 in the afternoon. We’ve done the World Cup in the middle of the morning. We have different audiences.”

In case you didn’t get the message, Skipper repeats it to The Hollywood Reporter:

“We would never put an event on tape delay,” Skipper said. “When we put ‘live’ on the screen, we mean ‘live right now.’ We don’t mean live three hours ago.”

Note that Skipper still isn’t promising to deliver all of the Olympics in real time. It’s a resonable bet that he will, but it’s still too early to make an iron-clad guarantee. For one thing, it’s going to be awfully hard to predict what the TV/Web landscape looks like in 2016. We imagine, for instance, that Web video may indeed be a robust ad market at that point — if so, it may be a whole lot easier for a network to put all of the games on the Internet in real time. Equally important is figuring out where the games are going to be held, which we won’t know until October ’09: If they’re in Chicago or Rio, it’s going to be much easier to show them in real time than it would be if they were in Tokyo.

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