News

ESPN Calls Interactive Play

1/02/2009 7:00 PM Eastern

ESPN wants to draw viewers even closer to the action — and its advertisers.

The sports programmer will pitch affiliates on three interactive-TV products that provide live voting, in-game statistics and a customizable “Bottom Line” scroll.

Each of the three interactive applications, to launch next summer, will include specific advertising overlays. The voting and in-game stat applications will be based on CableLabs' Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format middleware, which Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon Communications and others are planning to widely deploy.

The third ITV app, tentatively called “My Bottom Line,” will use the newer Tru2way technology, which requires a higher-powered set-top box.

“Now with ITV technology more widely available and of more importance to our affiliates and our advertisers, we want to enhance the fan experience at home,” ESPN executive vice president of sales and marketing Sean Bratches said in a statement.

ESPN spokeswoman Amy Phillips said the company has not reached distribution agreements for the ITV applications yet. “We will be talking to our affiliates about this in the coming weeks and months,” she said.

With Verizon, ESPN already has launched an interactive TV fantasy sports application that allows FiOS TV subscribers to access real-time scores and statistics using their remote controls, set up and managed through ESPN.com.

ESPN plans to incorporate My Vote and In-Game Extra applications into more than 3,000 events and shows per calendar year.

The “My Vote” voting and polling feature will be available during each live airing of SportsCenter, College Football Live, college football games, Major League Baseball telecasts and Baseball Tonight, with the potential to add additional programming.

“In-Game Extra” will let viewers obtain additional stats and information — such as player tracking, scores, standings and schedules — during live events.

The customizable “My Bottom Line,” to be available within shows for which ESPN currently displays a bottom line, will allow fans to customize the scrolling information that appears on their screens. For example, a St. Louis fan could program the bottom line to include only scores from St. Louis teams, regardless of where they live. The application also will provide additional access to individual player stats, standings, research and national polls.

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