Cabler to branch into L.A., New York, Dallas

ESPN is looking to expand its turf significantly in local sports.

After a successful launch of its Chicago-based website on all things Windy City, the cabler is now expanding the site into New York, Los Angeles and Dallas in hopes of attracting advertisers who have backed away from newspapers and other forms of print media.

The Dallas version is slated to begin in October, with the Gotham and L.A. sites set to go in the first quarter of next year.

“We weren’t planning on growing this quickly, but to have the No. 1 sports site in Chicago in just three months was eye-opening,” said Marc Horine, VP of digital partnerships, told Daily Variety.

Each site will have its own three to six minute version of “SportsCenter” — the net’s signature series — as well increased blogs and analysis of local teams. There will also be video exclusive to each individual city’s site.

Coverage will go beyond professional and college teams to the high school level, with ESPN thus hoping to draw users away from newspapers and sites that specialize in that pre-college terrain.

ESPN will use personalities from its radio affiliates to provide content. Net has just hired former New York Post scribe Andrew Marshan and New York Yankees announcer Michael Kay to provide commentary for the Gotham site, while KCAL and KCBS sports reporter John Ireland will handle L.A. duties.

Horine said the net is hoping to draw advertisers that are already spending coin on radio and may be considering a digital effort as well.

“From a competitive standpoint, we’ve been competing for ad dollars on different radio stations,” Horine continued. “We’ll also be going after national advertisers but want to make sure we’re serving the local community.”

Chicago’s ESPN 1000 (WMVP) is a 50,000-watt station that was instrumental in the cabler’s local growth, using plenty of cross-promotion as a way to attract listeners to the site. Stations in the three new cities will be vital as well in convincing hardcore sports fans to click away.

“The radio stations will be the driving promotional anchor for the websites,” Horine said. “They’ll be constantly plugging it.”

More than 22 million unique visitors visit ESPN.com per month.

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