John Kosner, executive vp of ESPN digital and print media, shared his insights on building and running the largest global digital sports programming network at #TheLabNYC in Chelsea on Friday. He focused on the convergence of mobile devices, handsets and tablets with social networks led by Facebook and Twitter. Mobile and social are individually strong–and their combined impact is only starting to unfold. “But with these two together,” he said, “what’s unique is that they are happening at the same time and it feels like our lives are changing — it’s different how we behave and different what’s possible.
Facebook paid $1B for Instagram because it’s at the intersection of media and mobile devices, he said, adding, “We’re living in amazing times and it’s important to focus on the small screen first, and to take advantage of the confluence of these mobile devices and these sprawling social media networks.”
Sports lend themselves to social activity online. “Fans love to talk about what they are watching and who they are following and to share it,” he said. Facebook’s frictionless sharing, the transparent sharing of resources using social media services, is great for ESPN. “You may not want to share your medical condition, but for sports, it’s fairly uncontroversial and fun.” The worst complaints he gets are from bosses–because people spend a lot of time thinking about sports.
Peter Bordes, co-founder of InternetMediaLabs, and event host, said, “What ESPN did really demonstrates how powerful it is when you can combine these in a meaningful way.” Yao Hui Huang, The Hatchery’s co-founder, said it’s beneficial for entrepreneurs to learn how Kosner made ESPN digital media successful. “It’s the largest site out there with one the hottest demographic areas — our members can gain great insight from an executive from ESPN.”
“I would encourage you not to be satisfied with the status quo,” added Kosner. “Don’t protect a position but always try to think about where this business is headed and what people really want.”