In his role as the Head of Business Development and Innovation at ESPN, it’s Mark Walker’s job to serve sports fans all over the world. A trained engineer turned lawyer, he’s found himself at the crossroads of media and technology for the past few decades, starting first in the music industry and later in entertainment as a Senior Vice President at Disney.
Today, Mark is tasked with creating products and experiences that meet the needs and expectations of modern sports fans. As the worldwide leader in the space, Mark says that it’s his team’s responsibility to do just that—lead the industry with cutting edge solutions that deliver fans what they want. He talks about personalization and how it can be used to improve ESPN’s fantasy product, which is inherently unique to every user. “Imagine that every Monday morning you get your own mini Sportscenter-cast that’s a reflection of the picks you made in fantasy….I think it enhances the entire experience of sports consumption.”
Mark goes on to explain how fandom has changed over the past few decades. Fans aren’t just into their local teams and players anymore. The rise of social media and connectivity has generated a new kind of interest in sports that extends beyond the hometown team.
“I have a son that was born and raised in Los Angeles, went to high school in New York, and he’s a Milwaukee Bucks fan. He’s never been to Milwaukee before, but you know, Giannis is his idol.”
Another thing that Mark and his team are working on is how to incorporate betting into the ESPN offering. Now that it’s been legalized in 33 US states, it’s something that fans are excited about and creates an entirely new level of interest in games. The task at hand is how to take this thing that’s been in the dark, and turn it into something that’s light and fun. Technically speaking, there’s also a challenge of how to make it accessible and integrated in a way that’s easy to use for fans of all ages.
Looking towards the future, Mark talks about bringing the magic of the movies into sports—potentially using CGI, non-live filming environments, and utilizing AI to generate content and voice-over talent. In the months and years to come, fans can expect a host of cool, new experiences to look forward to from the worldwide leader in sports.