ESPN's top content executive said the company continues to negotiate with the NFL on an extension of its rights deal, but indicated any agreement will have to include multiplatform streaming rights. Distribution will be on "a wider, deeper basis," said John Skipper.
ESPN offers "Monday Night Football," but the games remain its only top-tier property where it does not have the ability to offer them on its online ESPN3 site.
Still, regarding rights acquisition, Skipper acknowledged investor concern about escalating fees hindering ESPN's growth. "Let me be overt ... we will continue to make thoughtful decisions on what rights we can afford," he said.
ESPN has expressed an interest in acquiring rights to the Olympics.
Skipper spoke Thursday along with ESPN CEO George Bodenheimer during Disney's investor conference.
Both touted ESPN's multiplatform expansion and experimentation. ESPN3, which can stream up to 20 live events simultaneously, falls near the top of that list. "Not sure exactly where it's going, but it's growing," Bodenheimer said.
In general, he said ESPN's increasing distribution options don't hurt on-air consumption; rather, they bring more consumers in. "We don't believe in cannibalization -- it doesn't exist," he said.
Bodenheimer also addressed the potential threat of cord-cutting -- something ESPN3 might contribute to -- but said ESPN research shows almost zero evidence of it. ESPN is taking the matter "seriously," but "the good news is today this is a non-issue."
The CEO referenced Disney's recent distribution deal with Time Warner Cable, which tweaked the business model with ESPN3 requiring customers to pay for ESPN on TV to have access to it. He said that deal in general "sets a template for (ESPN) rates going forward."