Big huge story in Business Week this week looking at the challenges facing ESPN Networks and ABC Sports president George Bodenheimer as the network looks for more opportunities to grow. (Because that's what ESPN needs: To be bigger.) The story is a fascinating look at a company — and a leader — that tries to put a jocular public face while still desiring to dominate everything it sees.
Some fun notes from the story:
• The high-profile cellphone deal ESPN signed with Sprint/Nextel has some people nervous. ""You have to ask yourself how much growth will be left if they keep spending like this," says one analyst.
• Most people don't think The Outdoor Life Network won't be a legitimate challenger until it gets the NFL. Yeah, Paul Tagliabue's gonna be all over that one.
• ESPN revenues this year could hit $5 billion. And that's just from sales of Simmons' book.
• Before deciding to work with Daniel Snyder, former content head Mark Shapiro had received feelers to head NBC News, which is terrifying; not that we wouldn't like to see Matt Lauer and Katie Couric on "Teammates," mind you.
On any given day at the main ESPN campus in Bristol, Conn., now encompassing 100 acres dotted with dozens of satellite dishes, you might find former All-Star second baseman and Baseball Tonight host Harold Reynolds waiting in line for brick-oven pizza in the fancy staff cafe, or SportsCenter anchor Stuart Scott looking for someone to spot him on the bench press in the state-of-the-art gym.
There's precious little detail on Shapiro's "replacement," John Skipper, whom, try as we might, we've yet to find anyone to say anything bad about. "One of the smartest, most competent guys I've ever worked with," one ESPNer tells us. Well, jeez, that's no fun.