Chat: ESPN Exec. VP John Wildhack
John Wildhack, ESPN's executive vice president, production, will stop by Monday to take your questions.
Wildhack will discuss the network's approach to editorial coverage and take your questions about specific content topics. This is a part of regular ESPN.com chats with editorial decision-makers at ESPN. These chats offer viewers and readers the chance to connect directly with those involved in ESPN's coverage.
Send your questions now and join Wildhack Monday at 11 a.m. ET!
John Wildhack (11:04 AM)
Hi everyone, thanks for joining us.
Andrew Colletto (Champaign, Ill)
What is your take on the constant conference-jumping by college teams? Some say it's driven by TV contracts with conferences. Is that true, and if so, does ESPN benefit? Or is it worse for you?
John Wildhack (11:08 AM)
Conference realignment is ultimately determined by the presidents and board of trustees of the applicable institutions. We have no direct involvement in conversations with any school or conference. One of many determining factors is whether realignment would benefit the university in terms of media agreements. We have agreements with all major conferences, so it's really neutral for us.
Sally Wooden (San Francisco)
How do you determine which "anchors" will be on SportsCenter? Are there desigated teams of announcers who always work together?
John Wildhack (11:09 AM)
We try to establish and maintain continuity among our anchor teams while also taking into account other work they do for the company and giving new anchors the opportunity to work on SportsCenter, as well.
Dave Brooks (Tampa)
In looking back, with the Heat finally winning a title and generating two years of amazing controversy, would ESPN do the Decision again? It seems like LeBron must have been ratings gold for ESPN ever since.
John Wildhack (11:11 AM)
Yes, we would do it again, but we produce it differently.
Larry Katz (Columbus, Ohio)
How come ESPN never shows the Olympics? And do you plan to show results from the London Olympics before NBC actually carries events (I've noticed this before on your Web site. Whilel I like it, some of my friends say it should have a spoiler alert).
John Wildhack (11:14 AM)
We will report results in real time. That's what fans expect from ESPN and how they consume sports. We'll serve fans with real-time results. NBC made a long-term bid to the Olympics and IOC last year in which they secured rights through 2020. We were aggressively bidding for the Olympics, and the liscensing agreement between the IOC and NBC limits our access and highlight coverage.
Roger Barkley (Phoenix)
It seems like Sportscenter is on all day. While that's nice when I want to check it, I often get the feeling I'm seeing the same story or highlight over and over and over again. What do you think about an over-saturation of the show, or do viewers really care?
John Wildhack (11:17 AM)
It allows fans to consume the show at their convenience, but also gives us the forum to report in real-time on breaking news, the frequency of which is only increasing.
What's the hardest part of your job on a day to day basis?
John Wildhack (11:20 AM)
The most difficult part is finding the time to watch and consume all of the content we produce on a daily basis. As a company, we produce 40,000 live hours of TV a year across all of our networks. We also post 600+ stories a day on ESPN.com. It's challenging to find the time to read and watch all of our shows and content. But that is a lovely problem to have.
Steve T. (Newark)
Why doesn't ESPN show any MMA fights? It's the only sport me and my friends really care about, and I wish I could watch more wiht all of the channesl ESPN has
John Wildhack (11:21 AM)
We don't have the rights to televise MMA fights. We do report on MMA throughout our news and information programming, and aggressively on our Web site.
One of my favorite parts about ESPN's coverage is the analysis of plays. Is there any interest in expanding programming based on play design, coaching, etc?
John Wildhack (11:24 AM)
Our production teams continue to work with our analysts to identify new technologies and applications, and follow developing trends. We look to provide the most comprehensive analysis available. Shows such as Baseball Tonight and NFL Matchup take fans in-depth in individual sport. ESPN Axis and our EA applications are examples of our utilization of technology to provide smarter, more in-depth analysis.
How could you let Michelle Beadle and Erin Andrews leave ESPN? they were the best
John Wildhack (11:28 AM)
We were aggressive in trying to retain both Michelle and Erin. We respect their decisions to pursue new opportunities. We lost two really talented women, but with up-and-coming personalities such as Charissa Thompson, Samantha Steele, Heather Cox, Sara Walsh, Jenn Brown and others, we are operating from a position of strength. We wish Erin and Michelle all the best.
Stephen A. Smith or Skip Bayless?
John Wildhack (11:29 AM)
Arch Stanley (Denver, Colorado)
While I enjoy PTI and Around the Horn, it seems like you have more shows than ever with people debating -- or yelling -- including First Take and Numbers Never Lie and even Baseball Tonight. Does that debate add to or detract from the sophistcation of sports fans? I wonder if you are just reverting to base instincts.
John Wildhack (11:31 AM)
One of the fundamental components of sport is debate. Fans engage in debate, and we want to provide provocative, thoughtful and intelligent debate that will stimulate thought among our fans. Talk radio in the last 25 years and the emergence of the blogosphere and the Internet have upped the ante.
Eric Reilly (Harrisburg, PA)
I watched the Cross Fit Games on ESPN last weekend, and have to say, I really enjoyed it. I also like the Lumberjack contests and other non-professional sports programming. Will ESPN continue to broadcast these lesser sports events? I think they are a fun alternative to all of the big-monied sports.
John Wildhack (11:34 AM)
The answer is yes, we want to serve all sports fans. In the 40,000 hours of original programming, there's a home for non-traditional (non stick-and-ball) sports. Including even the spelling bee. It's always been part of the DNA to show a wide variety of live programming. As one who has been here almost 32 years, I remember fondly the days of Australian Rules Football and darts.
How aggressively will ESPN pursue the rights to air the BCS from the 2014 season until the 2025 season? ESPN's college football coverage is by far the best so I hope that ESPN can keep those rights for decades to come.
John Wildhack (11:36 AM)
First, I'm pleased you enjoy our coverage of college football. We certaily desire to acquire the rights to the new college football postseason. We recently extended our partnership with the Rose Bowl for an additional 12 years.
How do you determine what is appropriate to report in the Penn State scandal? Obviously it has deep ties to the football program, but what do you feel is your responsibility covering it from a sports angle? And where is the line between reporting "sports news" and "Penn State" news?
John Wildhack (11:39 AM)
Penn State is a premier player in the fabric of college football, and all the developments around controversial stories allow us to educate fans around such issues. We try to deal with it with appropriate care and sensitivity, while also reporting accurately throughout the arc of the story. We have confidence that our reporters have a broad background of experience and can deal with sensitive issues.
Longhorn fan here. I love that the school I bleed Orange for started their own network but DISGUSTED that I will have to miss 2-3 games this year because Directv will not have the station. When will this be resolved. You are turning off alot of people with this.
John Wildhack (11:42 AM)
We are in conversations with our distributors and hope to significantly increase the distribute of the Longhorn Network. We share in your frustration that the network is not more widely available at this time. Please be proactive in calling your multi-channel provider and request carriage of the Longhorn Network.
You guys call yourselves the best sports network in the world and I would agree but how come you don't show one NHL game a year? It would seem like a sports network like ESPN would love to show games from all four of the major sports?
John Wildhack (11:46 AM)
In the spring of 2011, NBC and Comcast renewed their agreement with the NHL, which provides them exclusive rights in the US for 10 years. We were an aggressive but prudent participant in that process. We still retain what we believe is the No. 1 NHL analyst on TV in Barry Melrose, and aggressively cover the sport in our news and information programs and cross-media outlets.
I feel like the fundamental problem with ESPN is the overkill on certain topics (Tebow for one, he is a backup QB), but on the flipside would like to commend you for adding more and more soccer coverage...that being said please televise rugby.
John Wildhack (11:49 AM)
Thanks for your feedback. We do televise some rugby matches on ESPN3, and we enjoyed presenting unprecedenting coverage of the 2012 Euro Championships and are very excited about the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. As for Tebow, some topics in sports resonate with larger groups of fans. And there is occasionally an athlete that may transcend the normal boundaries of sports and crosses over into pop-culture. Jeremy Lin and Tim Tebow two of the most recent examples.
Ernie Alvaraez (Atlanta)
John, what is it like to have to deal with all of the pro sports commissioners? Do you see a side of Gooddell or Stern or Selig that those of us in the public dont?
John Wildhack (11:51 AM)
We have very constructive and positive relationships with the NFL, MLB, NBA and many other organizations. Their leaders are smart, passionate and committed -- and are not shy about giving us feedback about their goals for the growth of their sports.
What does your job as executive vice president of production entail? What are the best and worst parts about that position?
John Wildhack (11:54 AM)
I have the honor of leading a group of 2700 dedicated professionals who create all of our television and radio content on a daily basis. Collectively we have a deep passion and commitment to produce compelling content, which best serves sports fans. In my capacity, I give them both direction and autonomy to do the best job they can possibly do.
Deven (New York)
How has social media have had a big impact for the network?
John Wildhack (11:56 AM)
Social media has cleary become a source of information -- whether tweets from players, coaches or owners -- and fast-growing medium for breaking news. We try to embrace the new technologies and develop sensible standards and practives to ensure that we are sports fans in social media the way we do in traditional media.
What is the one attribute that's contributed the most to your success at ESPN?
John Wildhack (11:57 AM)
Passion for sports and media. And showing up for work every day with an open mind.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
What is your Favorite NHL,MLB,NFL,& NBA Team?
John Wildhack (11:59 AM)
I grew up in Buffalo, so I followed the Bills, the Sabres, the Braves and Bisons for dedcaes. I graduted from Syracuse -- the fourth member of my family to do so -- and I remain a loyal alum.
What is your position on ESPN as a diverse workplace? Why is it important to you both behind the scenes and in front of the camera...
John Wildhack (12:02 PM)
Diversity makes us smarter, more thoughtful and provides us the opportunity to look at stories and issues from a broad, varied perspective. We want our coverage to reflect society and the industry that we cover.
John Wildhack (12:02 PM)
I appreciate all the good questions, and hope you enjoy our content offerings at ESPN. Thanks for the chat.