SBJ/November 17 - 23, 2003/E Sports

ESPN.com puts 4 games up for subscribers

ESPN.com over the weekend made its most ambitious foray into the broadcasting of live content, offering premium subscribers the chance to see four NCAA football games live on the site.

The offering, available to ESPN Insider subscribers, included broadcasts of TCU vs. Cincinnati, Miami vs. Syracuse, Boston College vs. Rutgers and San Diego State vs. Colorado State. The TCU-Cincinnati game was not televised, so it was available only to Insider subscribers, while the other three games were available as part of ESPN's College Game Plan.

Kyle McDoniel, director of ESPN Insider, said the latest effort is the result of the success of earlier and more cautious attempts to gauge demand for such offerings.

Earlier this season, espn.com Webcast the Sept. 20 Penn State-Kent State game. ESPN.com last season made the Miami-Rutgers and BYU-Utah games available via Webcast to Insider subscribers.

ESPN.com’s Insider costs $4.95 a month or $39.95 a year.

McDoniel said all of the Webcasts have been successes, and the site is developing the technical capabilities it hopes will allow it to be more opportunistic about putting games online.

Insider, which costs $4.95 a month or $39.95 a year, has nearly 200,000 subscribers, according to ESPN executives.

Unlike the Penn State Webcast, which simply gave fans a live feed from the stadium, the four games broadcast over the weekend were to have full graphics and commentary.

ESPN.com in September drew 15.5 million unique visitors, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, a single-month record for Nielsen's rankings of sports sites.

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