ESPN: No talks yet about Apple TV authentication

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As the most powerful programming brand on cable television, you’d expect that ESPN would spend the day of its upfront presentation bolstering its still-very-lucrative linear television business.

But the Disney-owned sports channel spent most of Tuesday hyping — and shooting down rumors about — new digital initiatives.

Notably, an ESPN spokesperson denied a Bloomberg report that earlier stated that ESPN and Apple executives are in talks to make the authenticated TV Everywhere app WatchESPN available on Apple TV.

That’s not to say a deal is never going to happen.

Bloomberg quoted Sean Bratches, ESPN executive VP of affiliate and advertising sales, as saying his company would be open to a deal with Apple that would allow subscribers of select multichannel TV services password-protected access to ESPN programming on the over-the-top Apple TV platform.

ESPN already has a deal in place with Apple to let subscribers of select multichannel services, including No. 1 provider Comcast, stream its sports news on iOS mobile devices the iPad and iPhone. And in the living room, Comcast Xfinity subscribers can also stream ESPN programming on Microsoft’s Xbox gaming consoles.

“To the extent that in the future there’s an opportunity with Apple to authenticate through the pay-TV food chain as we’re doing with Microsoft, that’s something that we will participate in,” Bratches told Bloomberg.

Just don’t get your hopes up for anything to happen soon.

“We’re not having conversations with Apple about authenticating WatchESPN,” ESPN spokeswoman Amy Phillips re-iterated to paidContent.

Double-teaming brands with Twitter

At its upfront presentation earlier in the day, ESPN unveiled an advertising partnership with Twitter that will allow the social media giant to monetize all those tweets that occur around big-ticket sports events. (During the final three minutes of February’s Super Bowl, for example, Twitter reported that 10,000 tweets per second were being transacted on its network.)

The collaboration will kick off with next month’s NBA Finals coverage. Studio analysts for ESPN’s NBA Tonight highlights/analysis show will encourage viewers to tweet their painted “game faces” with the hashtag #gameface, with the most telegenic of the lot presented on the linear broadcast.

Twitter and ESPN will be co-sell the campaign through promoted tweets and trends, as well as product plugs on Disney’s ABC, ESPN and ESPN.com channels. The cross-platform offering will be sold to sponsors as a single package.

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