Former ESPN president John Skipper left the company amid controversy last year, later claiming he was the victim of an extortion attempt over his admitted cocaine usage. Disney and ESPN quickly moved on to Jimmy Pitaro, and Skipper moved on as well, joining Perform Sports Group, the company responsible for bringing streaming subscription service DAZN to the United States.
That’s now coming to fruition, and on Tuesday at a DAZN promotional event in New York, Skipper spoke to Newsday’s Neil Best about the new venture as well as his personal health and happiness. DAZN will focus exclusively on combat sports in the United States at first, via deals with Bellator and Matchroom Boxing. According to Skipper, there’s a simple reason for that:
“Because most of the marquee sports in this country, rights are tied up for a long time,” Skipper said. “We’re simply going to get in the game now because we can build our brand in this country, expose the quality of our technology and start to meet people.
“It would be hard the first time rights came up if people couldn’t see the product and know it worked and know it’s credible.”
Having a veteran, well-connected sports-rights-dealmaker such as Skipper should help.
“I have never been as excited in my career as I am about the opportunity that we have now before us with DAZN,” he said. “The status quo is changing and no one is more poised to take advantage of that change than DAZN.”
Of course, the streaming game is a full one right now, with ESPN itself jumping into the over-the-top market via their own ESPN+ product. Skipper, perhaps more than anyone, knows the difficulty in competing with ESPN, but he seems ready for the challenge:
“I love doing something that’s nimble and fun,” Skipper said. “At this point I like being disruptive, and I like to compete, so I’m thrilled.”
Asked how he is doing personally, he said, “I’m in a great place. I am excellent, quite healthy. I think you can tell that. I have a level of acceptance and enthusiasm going forward.”