ESPN is probably one of the most recognizable cable networks in the US. And like many big networks, they are taking notice of how big a role digital marketing is going to play in the near future. At their upfront the company spent most of its time showing buyers what new digital packages they could expect. ESPN is hoping to provide advertisers with more diverse and more easily targeted demographics.
The company referred to ESPNw, an online platform that focuses more on female sports which can sometimes go unmentioned on the numerous ESPN shows, and serves as a place to recruit and entertain sports oriented women in a more connected forum. Laura Gentile, the vice president of ESPNw said that ESPNw would be marketed to women ages 18 to 34 and that the site has a range of offerings, from a blog to streaming online video to content for mobile phones.
ESPN also released a new version of its ESPN radio application which allows users to stream many of their favorite hosts via their mobile device for a one-time fee of $4.99. They also discussed the improvement of Grantland’s (in partnership with ESPN) YouTube Channel which features great sponsored videos like this one with popular sports writer Bill Simmons and Los Angeles Clippers star Blake Griffin.
The network also said Watch ESPN, the authenticated TV Everywhere app introduced last year, is now in 40 million homes. ESPN predicted that figure would double by 2013. It’s not so much TV Everywhere until it becomes available without authentication, but at least it’s a step towards the right direction. I am sure that a stand-alone application for ESPN and its affiliate networks would sell like hot cakes, but Big Cable wouldn’t like that at all.
“Whether we televise the game or not, there is an audience consuming it via ESPN platforms,” said Sean Bratches, exec VP-sales and marketing.
And to support his point ESPN is looking to make more content for these digital platforms. They are planning on launching a “30 for 30 Shorts,” similar to its wildly successful “30 for 30” series that featured full length movies/documentaries of great moments in sports history. The”30 to 30 Shorts” will roll out monthly on Grantland.
And looking to cash in on the social media side of things the company is set to partner with Twitter for the upcoming NBA finals. This notion of second screen viewership has become widely accepted, with 41% of U.S. smartphone owners and 45% of tablet owners using their devices at least daily while watching TV, according to a Nielsen study released in April. Twitter of course in one of the most popular second viewing destinations.
Twitter is a very popular space for fans and followers to voice their opinions about their sports team and it seems about time that the two companies figured out a way to earn some money.
According to AdAge, the companies announced the first program, GameFace, at ESPN’s upfront this morning. “GameFace will center on the NBA Finals and be promoted on Twitter with the #GameFace hashtag. The social-TV dimension calls for the hashtag and program to be promoted on-screen during ABC’s live broadcasts of the NBA Finals, as well as on ESPN’s “NBA Tonight” show.” The goal of this initial campaign is to get fans to tweet photos of their best “game face” along with the dedicated hashtag. At the end of each game of the finals, “NBA Tonight” studio analysts will display some of the top contest photographs on air. Some photos will also get exposure at ESPN/NBA.com. The campaign will include promoted tweets and trends, as well as plugs on ESPN, ABC and ESPN.com which the companies’ will be selling for an unlisted price.