SBJ/January 7-13, 2013/Media

With X Games expansion, ESPN re-establishes separate site for action sports

Four years after ESPN moved its action sports coverage from EXPN.com to ESPN.com, the company is giving skateboarding and snowboarding videos and articles a stand-alone website at XGames.com.

The site, which will debut Jan. 15, was developed to support ESPN’s expansion of the X Games into a six-event, global property. It will be available in Spanish, German, Portuguese and French later this year and offer localized action sports coverage that complements ESPN’s new X Games events in Tignes, France (March 20-22); Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil (April 18-21); Barcelona, Spain (May 16-19); and Munich (June 27-30).

XGames.com will offer action sports content without the scrolling.
Part of the reason ESPN shut down its stand-alone website, EXPN.com, in 2008 was it only garnered traffic during the winter and summer X Games competitions. By moving action sports coverage to ESPN.com/action, the company was able to boost traffic by 43 percent to 234,000 unique monthly visitors in 2009. But with the six events now and companywide emphasis on turning X Games into a global property, ESPN felt the time was right to create a separate website again and name it XGames.com.

“We essentially have a season of X Games now,” said Adam Deutsch, ESPN senior director, X Games product development. “With those six events, we have a lot of reasons for fans to be on the site. We think we have enough there, coupled with some new video enterprising we’re doing, new fresh original content, that we think we can get some critical mass and serve the fan.”

ESPN created a site where visitors can click or swipe horizontally through four different news pages. Each page is populated with big, bold images and headlines that link to news stories and videos.

The design has two advantages, Deutsch said. First, it’s platform agnostic and will look the same whether it’s brought up on a desktop, a tablet or a mobile device. Second, it means that two primary ads on each page — a unit beneath the navigation bar and a large box in the lower right corner — will be visible on each page without requiring any scrolling.

“We knew content below the fold was not being used that much,” Deutsch said, adding that was especially true for people visiting the site on their mobile phones. “When people are on an app or a website, they swipe, and we wanted that to be true from screen to screen and device to device.”

ESPN worked with SapientNitro, a marketing and advertising agency that also worked on NASCAR.com, on designing the X Games site.

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