SBD/Issue 162/Sports Media

ESPN To Announce Web Site, "SportsCenter" Changes At Upfronts

ESPN To Announce Revamping Of Web Site
During Its Upfront Presentation In N.Y.
ESPN today is hosting its annual upfront presentation at N.Y.'s Nokia Theater, where it will make a number of announcements, including a new look for ESPN.com and the formal introduction of Hannah Storm as a "SportsCenter" anchor. ESPN plans to redesign ESPN.com later this year, and the new site, which is expected to be unveiled in the fall, will be much cleaner, with less clutter and easier navigation. New features will include a "news and analysis" section, which will filter stories by sport, columnist or topic. ESPN.com also will add personalization throughout the site. "We're improving our navigation to move visitors beyond the home page," one ESPN executive said. The most noticeable change will be on the home page, which will have a scoreboard at the top, with tabs for sports, scores, news and analysis, fantasy, video, SportsNation and games and guides just below. The site will group its columnists in one area on the home page and put its SportsNation poll in a permanent placement at the center of the page. Meanwhile, ESPN will launch SportsCenter.com in August. ESPN plans to use the site to interact with viewers via chats, blogs, e-mails and instant polls. "SportsCenter" producers will use the interaction to help determine which stories are generating the most buzz.

COMPLEX REBRAND: Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, which took its name from the iconic sports broadcast property when it opened in '97, is updating with a rebrand to a name that is still undetermined, but will likely include the ESPN brand. That presumably means sponsorship assets across the 220-acre indoor/outdoor participatory sports complex -- which annually hosts more than 180 events -- will be sold centrally, along with other ESPN commercial assets. However, a Disney spokesperson said the rebrand and associated elements were "very much a work in progress, with those details still to be worked out." However, more ESPN TV programming from the sports complex is a certainty. In December, the 11-year-old sports complex opened additional outdoor playing fields for football, soccer, lacrosse and field hockey, and a new field house is scheduled to open this summer.

SPORTSCENTER: Starting August 11, ESPN will telecast a nine-hour block of "SportsCenter" live from 6:00am-3:00pm ET Monday-Friday. The move, which coincides with the opening week of the Beijing Olympics, replaces the current wheel of "SportsCenter" repeats. ESPN will use three separate two-person anchor teams during the block, including Storm, who will host the program from 9:00am-noon ET. The show will refresh during the day (Ourand & Lefton, THE DAILY). 

ORIGINAL PITCH: In N.Y., Steinberg & Elliott write ESPN today also “intends to play up its new-media offerings along with what is coming on TV, outlining plans for original programming that will appear only online or on mobile devices.” Those shows include “Mayne Street,” featuring Kenny Mayne and “Erik’s Got Issues,” featuring Erik Kuselias. Other shows include “P.O.V,” which will “compile and present video clips that are submitted to ESPN by viewers and fans,” and an untitled MMA series. ESPN/ABC Sports Consumer Marketing & Sales President Ed Erhardt said that there also will be “sponsorships available with the new media offerings … along with the opportunity for advertisers to integrate brands and products into the shows” (N.Y. TIMES, 5/13).

NBC: NBC yesterday during its upfront presentation had “autograph-signing tables for the broadcast team of ‘Sunday Night Football’” (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 5/13).

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