ESPN President John Skipper was one of the featured guests at the Code/Media conference in California on Wednesday and he broached quite a few topics. One was the inclusion of black writers at ESPN and Skipper in essence scolded other media outlets for their failure to hire African-Americans.
“There is not enough black media in this country. There is not enough black-owned media in this country. There are not enough sites run by people of color.”
And it led into Skipper discussing the launch of The Undefeated, the one-time vehicle for Jason Whitlock, that will start operation later this year. “We are going to have a site run by people of color, by black Americans who are going to curate the site. They’re going to create the content for that site.”
Skipper pointed out that of the 85 women or African-Americans hired by national outlets, ESPN has 74 under its employ.
He said it was important to cater to the African-American community because they watch sports too:
“African-Americans are a very important part of our constituency. They watch a lot of sports. And I believe that we have to be their home, and they have to believe that we represent their interests.”
As for streaming, Skipper said it was important for ESPN to be part of various streaming services such as Dish’s Sling TV which began last year. “A number of people have expressed interest and we’re in discussions with a large number of people,” Skipper said.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that ESPN would be offered as a standalone channel on a streaming service such as Apple’s, if and when it gets off the ground, but as a bundle with other Disney channels like Disney Channel or Freeform (formerly ABC Family).
Skipper wants to find other ways to grow to offset the cord cutters who have shucked cable and watching TV in other ways. But Skipper’s main mission is to grow ESPN and to ensure it gives a voice to its fans whether they watch on TV or online.