SBJ/August 13-19, 2012/Media

ESPNFC to serve as brand for network’s global soccer coverage

Coinciding with the opening of the 2012-13 English Premier League season and qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, ESPN is stepping up its commitment to global soccer coverage.

Starting this week, ESPNFC will serve as the network’s single, multiplatform, multilanguage, multicountry soccer brand.

Beginning Wednesday, Soccernet — ESPN’s current title for its coverage of the sport — will cease to exist. The network’s soccer coverage on television and digitally will be rebranded as ESPNFC, beginning with that night’s ESPN2 broadcast of a friendly between the U.S. men’s national team and Mexico.

The U.S. television debut of “ESPNFC Press Pass,” a news-and-views show broadcast the last 10 years only on ESPN International and on the Web, is slated for Thursday at 2 a.m. ET on ESPNews. The show subsequently will run 30 minutes on weekdays, 60 minutes on Sundays, and be dark on Saturdays. “Press Pass” joins programs like “Fantasy Football Now” and “MMA Live” as examples of ESPN
The rebranding comes as the EPL season and 2014 World Cup qualifying begin.
incubating a show online before bringing it to television. But unlike ESPN shows such as “Pardon the Interruption,” which cater to U.S. audiences, “Press Pass” was created for a global audience and will launch in the U.S. on the strength of its popularity outside the country.

The network’s first EPL match this season is between Arsenal and Sunderland on Saturday at 9:30 am ET. It will be broadcast on ESPN, ESPN3 and ESPN Deportes.

ESPN’s altered soccer strategy is on the heels of record numbers during

Euro 2012. During the monthlong tournament this summer, a soft launch of ESPNFC.com and ESPNsoccernet.com logged an average of 919,000 unique visitors per day, up 35 percent from Euro 2008. The ESPNsoccernet app for iPhone and Android generated 33.6 million total page views. The final match between Spain and Italy on July 1 delivered the highest-rated telecast ever on ESPN Deportes: a 12.9 Hispanic household coverage rating and 1.125 million viewers.

The rise in popularity of the EPL in the United States is also a touchstone.

“Soccer has become much more of a global game in the U.S. the last few years,” said Steve Palese, coordinating producer for soccer at ESPN. “After the success of Euro and the Premier League, we plan to continue to grow the audience with ESPNFC.”

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