In Depth

ESPN Targets ‘New Male Consumer’ via Varied Screens

More games, more screens, more opportunities for sponsors.

Those were the messages delivered by ESPN at its upfront presentation to advertisers Tuesday morning in New York.

For TVWeek's comprehensive coverage of the upfront presentations, visit the Upfront Navigator page.

Despite the economy, ESPN continues to invest in content and technology, emphasizing live events and live studio programming to keep fans glued to the tube, network executives said.

ESPN’s revenues have been hurt by the crisis among American car makers, traditionally among the most prominent advertisers in sports programming. That helped lead the sports network to talk about what it called a “new male consumer” whom a different set of advertisers need to reach. Those new males are booking family vacations, picking breakfast cereals and laundry detergent and even using grooming products.

The network also reaches a large number of women who are light viewers of other television programming.

At the same time, ESPN pitched another mantra: “New Markets of Time.” Its point is that while TV’s primetime is in the evening, daytime is primetime on the Internet and weekends are primetime on mobile devices. Advertisers can work with ESPN to follow consumers when they’re choosing to view its content on those platforms.

Sean Bratches, executive VP for sales and marketing, talked about new findings from ESPN’s AdLab in Austin, Texas, which measures biometric responses to programming and commercial messages. Tests there showed that when brand images were overlaid onto sports highlights, awareness and recall of advertisers’ products were increased. That’s one of many ways ESPN is integrating its content with sponsor messages.

ESPN also is doing a sports area on YouTube and is offering the first pre-roll ads on the Web video site.

“They made their point,” said Steve Grubbs of Omnicom Media. “How many screens are there?”

John Skipper, executive VP for content, said ESPN will be mounting its biggest marketing campaign ever for its coverage of the 2010 World Cup. During the tournament finals, “SportsCenter” will originate from South Africa.

Among ESPN’s other announcements:

—Comcast and DirecTV are expanding distribution of ESPNu, adding about 21 million homes to bring its reach to a total of about 46 million.

Comcast also is adding distribution of ESPN360, bringing it to 41 million homes.

—ESPN is launching SportsNation, a show built around fan interaction and opinion that will air at 4 p.m. on ESPN2. The show, hosted by Colin Cowherd and Michelle Beadel, launches July 4. Toyota is sponsoring the program.

—Scott Van Pelt’s radio show will be simulcast on ESPN2 starting July 6 at 3 p.m.

—ESPN is launching Love30, a feature on ESPN.com and ESPN Mobile that will give viewers highlights from the previous 30 minutes of the U.S. Open.

—ESPN is launching free iPhone apps, including SportsCenter for iPhone, Fantasy Football and ESPN Alerts.