John Skipper, 54, isn’t afraid of taking the big shot. After paying $100 million to get ESPN the rights to broadcast the 2010 FIFA World Cup in the U.S., Skipper, an avid soccer fan, is sending 200 employees to South Africa for the most extensive coverage and marketing of any event in the network’s history. The 250-plus hours of coverage include 24 matches in 3-D, a documentary on the haunting murder of Colombian star Andres Escobar, and even a music-video collaboration between U2 and the Soweto Gospel Choir. Will it be enough to push soccer into the American sports vernacular? We’ll see. “This is the first time we’ve said our intention is to move the needle,” Skipper says.
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