ESPN Expands ‘SportsCenter,’ Boosts Digital

May 13, 2008  •  Post A Comment

ESPN talked about its plans to expand its “SportsCenter” franchise into daytime at its upfront presentation to advertisers Tuesday.
The sports network also plans new shows in daytime and late night, and several original programs produced for its Web site, which will be getting a facelift.
ESPN’s presentation at the Nokia Theater in New York was based on a special upfront edition of “SportsCenter,” hosted by anchors Scott Van Pelt and Steve Levy, with special appearances from ESPN executives and athletes including Amani Toomer of the Super Bowl-winning New York Giants.
“If you like your ad talk peppered with sports analogies—and who doesn’t—you’ve come to the right place,” Mr. Van Pelt said.
Hannah Storm, who was in the audience at the theater, will be one of the hosts of the new live weekday edition of “SportsCenter,” which will launch Aug. 11.
“SportsCenter” will be live from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET, replacing the reruns that currently air.
Anchors and production personnel will work on three-hour alternating shifts, with Ms. Storm on-air from 9 a.m to noon.
A late-night 1 a.m. edition of “SportsCenter” will be produced in Los Angeles from a new studio being built near Staples Center.
Other new programming includes “Time Line,” a late-night show for ESPN2 in which three on-air personalities tackle what sports fans are going to be talking about the next day.
During the day, the network will be airing “SportsNation,” a talk show whose subject is selected by viewers voting on ESPN.com.
“College Football Live” will start airing year-round at 3:30 p.m., beginning in August.
ESPN will launch “ESPN Homecoming” in October, featuring Rick Reilly, the new back-page columnist for ESPN the Magazine who was hired away from Sports Illustrated last year. Mr. Reilly will interview sports legends in the place they were brought up, surrounded by friends and family. The first subject will be Charles Barkley.
Digital programs originating on ESPN.com will include “Mayne Street,” featuring “SportsCenter” anchor Kenny Mayne, “Comedy Shorts Starring Sports Tattoos,” “College Game Day on Campus,” “P.O.V.-X Games Experience,” “It’s the Shoes” and “Street Soccer.”
ESPN said it’s ramping up its efforts at delivering advertising via mobile devices. The network has 10 million users of its mobile Web site per month, making it the No. 4 mobile site overall. The network is offering banner ads, click-to-call campaigns and video advertising over cell phones and personal digital assistants.
ESPN discussed some of its new research initiatives. Sean Bratches, executive VP, sales and marketing, said ESPN soon should receive the results of its first wave of research on the cross-media research it’s doing with NielsenConnect covering TV and Internet use. ESPN plans to combine data from Nielsen on TV viewing, Internet surfing and mobile use with its own research and data from MRI to show advertisers what consumers are watching and what those consumers are buying.
Mr. Bratches also talked about the new emerging media and advertisng research lab parent company Walt Disney Co. is building in Austin, Texas. The facility will use biometric measurement to evaluate engagement and emotional responses to advertising across media platforms.
Chris Boothe, president for activation at Starcom USA, which focuses its media buying on accountability, said the new research would be of interest to his agency and its clients.
Buyers said the “SportsCenter”-themed presentation was an improvement over last year’s upfront, whose skits struck some as amateurish, and delivered a lot of information.
“When you’ve got a captive audience, you might as well sell them,” said Harry Keeshan, director of broadcast at PHD.


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