ESPN exec: Sling TV 'significant' but Apple is 'frustrated'

ESPN won't follow HBO or Showtime and offer an internet-only version.

ESPN has come of age in the cable era, but as internet TV grows and cord-cutting continues, its future is suddenly fuzzy. President John Skipper talked to the Wall Street Journal and commented a bit about the state of streaming and how it's affecting his business. He says the stats show Dish Network's Sling TV (which carries ESPN as part of its bundle of channels) is bringing "significant" numbers of new TV customers in, without pulling viewers away from cable or satellite.

Meanwhile, Skipper says that the folks at Apple have "been frustrated by their ability to construct something which works for them with programmers." That's why there's no TV service yet to fill out the new Apple TV box, although that could change at any time. At least for now, ESPN is sticking to its cable-bundle guns (unlike HBO and Showtime), although Skipper said it has not abandoned a plan to try an over-the-top internet service with its NBA broadcast rights. If reported subscriber numbers drop again this year, or more cable companies try out flexible, smaller and possibly ESPN-less bundles, we'll see how long that commitment lasts