ESPN Set to Market Cable Sports


ESPN hopes pay-per-view event distributors and basic and
premium networks will use its new digital sports barker/promotional channel to promote
cable-sports programming to digital customers.

ESPN Now, which launches Sept. 7, features an L-shaped
split screen that provides updated sports news, sports TV schedules and spots promoting
upcoming sports events.

"The concept is for sports fans to check the channel
when they first turn on the TV," ESPN director of sales and marketing and
distribution development Skip Desjardin said.

While the service will promote programs from ESPN's
various out-of-market PPV packages, as well as its PPV-event network, Desjardin said, the
service is open to all basic and premium networks and to PPV distributors that carry
sports programming.

The network will work with a rate card, but Desjardin said
the terms have yet to be determined. Nevertheless, ESPN has received inquires from other
networks interested in the service.

But at least one basic-network executive said any
discussion of deals with ESPN Now is "premature."

ESPN hopes the service will help operators to generate
additional revenues from PPV events through targeted promotion.

Further, the site could help premium services to acquire
and retain subscribers through marketing of its popular live boxing events, sports
documentaries and series, Desjardin said.

Unlike most networks that operate via satellite, ESPN Now
features state-of-the-art video equipment and a file server linked to similar equipment at
AT&T Broadband & Internet Services' Headend in the Sky digital facilities.

The information is sent from New York to Denver via file
server, eliminating costly satellite fees and technical support, Desjardin said. The
result is more flexibility to change data quickly.

Desjardin added that the network could be manned by
marketing executives, instead of technicians, allowing for more on-air creativity.

"We can give the [file server] specific instructions
to run it by week, day, hour or minute, or overnight," he said.