ESPN: Digital front and (sports) center

Net trumpets plethora of screens to ad buyers

ESPN2 is taking a cue from the Web and bringing ESPN.com's popular "SportsNation" feature to the TV screen with ESPN Radio personality Colin Cowherd and Michelle Beadle as hosts.

The one-hour weekday live show, which the net said will be "fueled by fan interaction and focused on fun," launches at 4 p.m. July 6 with Toyota a sponsor.

The announcement was made Tuesday at the ESPN upfront in Manhattan that also featured guest appearances by Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, New York Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain and the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

ESPN and ABC Sports president George Bodenheimer also welcomed Robert Iger, CEO of parent company Disney, and Anne Sweeney, co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney/ABC Television Group, at the event at Times Square's Nokia Theatre.

"The fans will have unprecedented input in the show's daily rundown," "SportsNation" coordinating producer Jamie Horowitz said about the new show.

Overall, digital was a key theme in ESPN's pitch to ad buyers Tuesday. For example, ESPN unveiled an expanded digital-rights deal for Wimbledon that will allow for nearly 800 hours of live ESPN360.com coverage and more live mobile streaming. Also, ESPN ScoreCenter for the iPhone will be a free application with customizable scores and stats. And "SportsNation" on ESPN.com will be redesigned this month with a more chronological layout and tie-ins to the new show.

A video package also made the point to advertising buyers that the choice of screens has redefined people's viewing habits and created more opportunities for marketers. "Thanks to the Internet, daytime is the new primetime," it said. "Thanks to mobile, weekends are the new primetime."

Among other key messages ESPN took to advertisers: The net is aggressively pushing content and ad opportunities across all platforms, allowing an average of 104 million people per week to interact with the ESPN brand; women watch sports and especially ESPN; and men are making household buying decisions they used to leave to their wives. (partialdiff)
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