New ESPN360 goes full circle

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BRISTOL, Conn. -- ESPN is raising the profile of its ESPN360.com broadband service, unveiling a new design Saturday that will boost the number of live sporting events available on the service.

A new video player will give users TV-like video with a main screen along with a mosaic of five other streams that are live or on-demand at the time. ESPN360.com is being positioned as a place exclusively for live or nearly live sporting events from the NBA and NASCAR to more esoteric fare such as cricket, Mexican college football and Argentinean polo.

Meanwhile, the VOD-like pieces of "Pardon the Interruption" and the "Mike and Mike Show" are going to be aggregated in a special video site on ESPN.com.

"There are a lot of live events that people want to see that they can't on linear television," ESPN360 GM Jeff Cravens said. When developing the new site, Cravens said ESPN realized there was a lot of programming that it either had the rights to or could acquire that would normally never get on ESPN or ESPN2.

Of course, not everyone can get ESPN360, either. The broadband service is available in 17 million homes nationwide through affiliate programs with some MSOs and telcos AT&T and Verizon. The major MSOs such as Time Warner Cable, Comcast and Cox have yet to sign on for the service, which limits its exposure.

But ESPN executives said they're optimistic about the service, which will soft launch Saturday with 26 live events, beginning with the women's world triathlon championship from Hamburg, Germany, and continue through the day with college football and other sports and then finish up with a simulcast of a Busch Series NASCAR race.

Also, ESPN said that "Monday Night Football" would launch a 12-city luncheon tour that will at various times include such talent as Ron Jaworski, Stuart Scott, Suzy Kolber and Emmitt Smith, among others. The first luncheon will be Sept. 10 in San Francisco, the site of Arizona Cardinals-San Francisco 49ers game that night. It's called the "Monday Night Football Chalk Talk Luncheon."
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