ESPN's Rollins: Sling TV will be 'supplemental,' won't hurt pay-TV

Seeking to ease the frazzled nerves of a pay-TV industry that pays it about $7 billion in annual carriage fees, ESPN executives are downplaying the effects of having cable's top channel on Dish Network's (NASDAQ: DISH) new OTT service, Sling TV.

"We're very excited to kind of see our innovative efforts come to fruition with Dish to provide a valuable service to an underserved market, these broadband customers that don't have a multi-channel video subscription, which is roughly about 12 million broadband homes," said James Rollins, VP of digital video distribution, affiliate sales and marketing at Disney and ESPN Media Networks.

Rollins made his comments Wednesday, while speaking at a Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour panel focused on TV Everywhere. The Los Angeles event was covered by Broadcasting & Cable and other media outlets.

"So really we see this as being kind of supplemental," Rollins added. "It's going to be additive in a way to serve a market that has been underserved, to be that bridge into higher terms of service."

Noted fellow panelist Erik Flannigan, executive VP of multiplatform strategy and development for Viacom Entertainment Group: "That premise about whether someone's really holding on to cable for one network, I would question whether that's really true." Sling TV, he added, is targeting a "younger demo, probably a less affluent demo."

Meanwhile, the panel's producer, the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing, rolled out new statistics on TV Everywhere awareness and usage. According to the group, pay-TV consumer awareness has reached 54 percent, with about 49 percent of pay-TV customers actually using TV Everywhere services.

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