The Walt Disney Co. may give the ESPN brand name more play
on broadcast television as it contemplates greater integration between the cable network
and ABC Sports.
Such a move would provide a major boost for the ESPN brand
as it battles Fox Sports for sports-television supremacy, according to industry observers.
The integration would call for ESPN to play a greater role
in ABC Sports' operations, according to published reports. The plan could include the
switching out of the ABC Sports name on such network-sports staples as Monday Night
Football and Wide World of Sports in favor of the more sports-recognizable ESPN
Representatives from ESPN and ABC Sports would not comment
on the report, and executives from Disney could not be reached for comment at press time.
Spokesmen from both ESPN and ABC, however, did acknowledge
that the two sports divisions have been sharing resources on several levels since Disney
appointed ESPN president Steve Bornstein to oversee ABC's sports operations in 1996.
Disney paired the two networks as part of its $9.2 billion deal to secure Sunday-night and
Monday-night television deals with the National Football League.
For ESPN, such a move would further enhance the
network's status in the sports world and greatly enhance ESPN's brand, which
Disney is trying to branch out beyond sports television, said John Mansell, analyst for
Paul Kagan Associates Inc.