Dan Patrick: They do understand how to use the product for their benefit. If they want to be heard or seen, they know they can use the forum. But it's a reciprocation - "I know you need me to talk about this, and I'm ready to go on because my sponsors, my fans, and teammates will see it." It's a symbiotic relationship and athletes are aware of the game.
Berman: If we've been part of the reason that someone knocks down a pass and starts over-celebrating, then that's unfortunate, because as a pass defender that's your job. It's one thing when you score a TD and the team is celebrating, but over-the-top to get on our show is unfortunate. Conversely, what's nice about it is that the players are also sports fans. SportsCenter has become a central meeting place for the athletic community to look at it and say, "Okay, this is the center of the sports universe, where we'll go to get our news, where we go to perform and have our highlights shown." This is the nightly news for athletes.
Will on-demand be the future of sports consumption?
John Walsh: The notion of "I want it when I want it" is growing. There are aspects of sports that lend themselves to on-demand. But I think one of sports' greatest attractions is this ongoing drama in real time when you get the result when it happens. We have strategy meetings about these issues, about TiVo and people fast-forwarding through commercials - just like the major networks are doing. We have to confront these issues as a business, and new alternatives are emerging, like product placements.
What's the future of action sports?
Walsh: We've spent much time cultivating the summer and winter X Games, being proactive about appealing to the largest amount of people. In the '30s through the '50s, baseball's fan base was maybe 12,000. Even when Roger Maris hit his 61st home run [in 1961], the stands were mostly empty. We're in the embryonic stages of looking at the growth of women's sports here. At the collegiate level, World Series softball is taking off. And people have said that the 21st century will be about women's sports. I keep an eye out for the blips, the incremental audience growth, but you must have patience. The problem with America is that we want things to be successful now.