Will ESPN’s new local strategy succeed?

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The New York Times is reporting that ESPN is rolling out their local site experiment that started in Chicago to three additional markets – Dallas, Los Angeles, and New York. In the Chicago test market they are now the top sports site, passing the local newspaper. This move will be one to watch.

The strategy is brilliant! Take a content mega engine and splice the coverage into micro sites that appeal to a more targeted, regional audiences. They are also using local resources from their owned radio stations with the option to use additional resources in affiliate station markets. Sports coverage is one of the easiest to plan and resource because sports by their very nature are planned events and have a ready source of data (e.g. box scores, etc.).

The Bottom Line

Keep you eye on this move as it could but another nail in the newspaper coffin. The one tricky part for ESPN will be scaling the advertising model effectively for Tier 2 and beyond markets. The cities they are going after next should be relatively easy to replicate Chicago’s success, but Charlotte or Detroit will be another kind of challenge. Stay tuned…

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  1. ESPN’s localized sites reminds me of the 1980s when The Nationala, a 32-page sports tabloid, was published each day. The first half was national sports news, while the cover and back half featured localized content from the major markets — similar to what ESPN is doing. Distribution, I believe, is what doomed the magazine, not to mention printing costs. Back then, though, a localized Chicago version still had to contend with the two Chicago newspapers.
    My fear now is that ESPN is using all of its mite to eliminate any competition, and that’s never a good thing. ESPN will dictate what, when and how we get our sports news. The Erin Andrews story is a prime example. As far as I can determine there has been no mention of it online, on TV or radio platforms. Not that she should be held up like Steve McNair, but it’s a story that is taking on legs — no pun intended. That ESPN chooses not to acknowledge is interesting.

  2. They have the scale and infrastructure to provide a great product at the local market level. Although that probably doesn’t bode well for existing TV affiliates, I’m not sure if it’s much different from NBC, CBS, and ABC offering regional sports coverage. FSN has also been dabbling in the space for some time.

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