I just went to a talk by David Pahl, ESPN's general counsel and VP (and a Michigan Law alum!), and thought I'd share a few of the highlights.
The most interesting stuff to me was about online video. They're working with YouTube and Justin.tv to take down highlights and broadcasts, which from a consumer's perspective kind of sucks - I'm not always in front of a TV, but I want to be able to catch the game. They really want to get more material online, though - they're working on setting up a website to do a live simulcast of everything that's on ESPN. Sometime this fall, Time Warner customers - no deal with Comcast yet, what a shock - will be able to go to espnlivebroadcast.com (or something like that) and watch whatever's on at the time.
They're also trying to get more material on ESPN3, but the problem is that with a lot of their contracts it's not entirely clear whether they're allowed to broadcast stuff online. Older contracts didn't even mention web stuff, and newer ones are inconsistent. Their NFL contract, for example, says that they can put stuff online only if it's simulcast with what's on TV. Their contract for Olympics broadcasting, on the other hand, explicitly says that they aren't allowed to put video online - so when you're watching ESPN online in 2012, you'll just get a black screen when they're showing Olympic highlights. Fun.
One other thing that people kept coming back to was the Erin Andrews videotape. Apparently this guy was the one who acknowledged that it was actually her in the tape. He admitted that wasn't his brightest move. ESPN provided all of her legal counsel during that time because they were petrified that it was an ESPN employee who had made the tape. It seems Erin doesn't really understand how the internet works - she kept insisting that they take down every copy of it everywhere. But once it's out there, it's too late - it'll never die.
What else... there was some interesting talk about gambling. ESPN has to walk a fine line, trying to phrase things as "predictions" rather than "the spread" or "the over/under." Somebody brought up a pick-em feature on their website, and David's response was a gentle "shhhhhhhhh." They're especially in a tight spot since they're owned by Disney, who probably doesn't want to be associated with gambling.
He mentioned that there was some real soul-searching at ESPN about whether to air LeBron and "the Decision" because they didn't want to establish a precedent, but in the end it came down to money (surprise!). It wound up getting great ratings, unfortunately, and ESPN's president said he'd probably do it again.
Oh, and apparently Chris Berman isn't nearly as annoying in person as he is on TV. FYI.