Despite increased competition from
"I can't say we sense they are taking dollars from us in particular," said Ed Erhardt, ESPN's president of sales when asked about the impact of
ESPN, a unit of
Erhardt, who has headed ad sales for ESPN for 15 years, said the sports pie overall is growing because advertisers are willing to pay a premium for live viewing. Unlike entertainment programming, most sports viewing is still done live and not recorded for later consumption.
"The whole category has exploded," Erhardt said.
ESPN is banking on that trend continuing. It is constantly adding new channels and platforms. This summer, it will launch the SEC Network, a channel devoted to the popular Southeastern Conference. The network launches in August, although it is still lacking several major distributors, including
"Hopefully we'll have full distribution," said ESPN Chief Executive John Skipper. The biggest distributor to agree to carry the channel is satellite broadcaster Dish Network, which has about 14 million subscribers.
Asked about NBC's $7.75-billion deal to keep the Olympics through 2032, Skipper said ESPN would have been interested in making a run for the Games but added there would have been a "significant gap" between the bids of the two companies.