What next from ESPN? TV on your computer, that's what. They've been doing it in a less than high profile way for a few years, but now they're making it official, renaming ESPN360.com to ESPN3.com. They promise more interactive stuff online, better video and more. Here's what I wrote about it for The Bristol Press (http://www.bristolpress.com/):
BRISTOL – Whether sports fans are away from home or merely “lose the battle for the remote control,” ESPN wants to provide them with the games they want to see, said Damon Phillips, a company executive overseeing the launch of the new ESPN3.com.
Beginning April 4, just in time for the Yankees-Red Sox opening game, ESPN will debut ESPN3.com, an online network that will offer fans hard-to-find games as well as an alternative means of watching other events.
“We’re doing some new things,” said Phillips. He said ESPN3.com will “bring the best of the web and television together.”
In addition to major sporting events that viewers could also see on ESPN, the online network will offer a lot of college sports that can’t be seen anywhere else, as well as “out of market” games and sports that aren’t often shown extensively on television, such as cricket, soccer and tennis.
Phillips said ESPN3.com will show 3,500 live events every year.
ESPN3.com falls into the company’s “best available screen” philosophy and the promise to deliver sports to the fan wherever the fan may be.
If given a choice, Phillips said, fans will gravitate to watching their favorite sporting events in their home on a big television screen.
But if that’s not available – because the game is on in the daytime and they’re at work, because they’re out of town and can’t see the local team or lose the TV to family members watching something else – they’ll be able to tune in on the computer instead, Phillips said.
“There’s a large percentage of fans who don’t get the sports they want on television,” said Phillips.
For these people, watching online is an alternative.
“We treat it just like a TV network,” said Phillips. “This is a very important priority for our company.”
On the computer screen, viewers can choose to watch in a little box in the corner of the screen – up to five events at a time – or enlarge one of them to full size.
“A good percentage of our users go to full screen mode,” said Phillips.
The initiative isn’t new. ESPN3.com is the new name for ESPN360.com, but the change in name will be accompanied by improvements for viewers, said Phillips.
Phillips said viewers will get “even sharper video quality” along with the interactive features. He said people who are now using ESPN360.com will notice a difference starting April 4.
The company plans a big marketing push next month for ESPN3.com, said Phillips.
The name change follows ESPN’s naming patterns and is a “clearer promise to our viewers,” said Phillips, that they’ll get the best content possible, the same as they do on ESPN and ESPN2.
And there will be more to do online, said Phillips, who promised that fans will be able to watch and check stats and scores and take part in or keep tabs on polls and fantasy leagues.
“It’s true interactivity for fans,” said Phillips. “We’re really excited about it.”
ESPN3.com can show as many as 20 events at one time, said Phillips, and viewers can watch as many as five at a time.
ESPN3.com will be available from any internet service provider that is affiliated with ESPN, including Comcast, AT&T, Cox, Verizon and many others. ESPN360.com is currently in 50 million households.
Company spokeswoman Amy Phillips said most of what will be seen on ESPN3.com won’t be available on cable television.
Games, matches and other sports contests will be archived for 24 hours on ESPN3.com, she said, so fans can catch up if they missed the live broadcast.
And like a digital video recorder, she said, viewers can pause the live action and rewind to see something again, then fastforward to catch up with the action.
As with anything else, what’s broadcast online on ESPN3.com will depend on the ownership rights.
Some of the events that fans will be able to watch online include the NBA, college basketball, football, baseball, hockey, softball and lacrosse; the FIFA World Cup, European soccer games, Major League Baseball, the Little League World Series, the US Open and The Masters golf tournaments and the X Games.