As Rivals Grow Vocal, ESPN Touts ‘SportsCenter,’ World Cup

ESPN took some time to cheer about its presentation of sports as a central facet of life, burnishing not only the content it provides but the way in which it distributes it.

“We tell the stories of what it means to be human,” said Ed Erhardt, the Walt Disney outlet’ president of global customer marketing and sales, holding forth at an “upfront” assembly of ad buyers and marketing executives.

Meanwhile ESPN President John Skipper told the crowd that ESPN had launched 80 different programs and products in the last year or so – a testament to the company’s determination to continue providing new ways of covering sport no matter how consumers wish to access them.

ESPN made its pitch as sports-media outlets owned by rival companies have been making more noise. On Monday, some executives at NBC’s upfront presentation spent almost as much time talking about parent company NBCUniversal’s recent pact to broadcast the Olympics through 2032 as they did the primetime schedule for the Peacock. And 21st Century Fox slipped a nod to its new Fox Sports 1 cable outlet into the script at its Fox upfront meeting, also held yesterday.

At ESPN, the company threw a spotlight on everything from a redesigned “SportsCenter” due to launch at the end of June (complete with new ways to weave ad messages and logos into the set), to Keith Olbermann and “First Take” on ESPN2 to the coming launch of a new network devoted to SEC football.

The company also highlighted its coming coverage of the Brazil World Cup.ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC will air all 64 matches live and in high-definition  – resulting in more than 290 hours of original programming on ESPN, ESPN2, and ABC, compared with 240 in 2010.

ESPN announced that Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser have each signed “multi year extensions” to continue co hosting “Pardon the Interruption.”

Tim Tebow, John McEnroe, and Carmelo Anthony were among the athletes helping the network make its case to advertisers, while sportscaster Kenny Mayne offered some funny riffs on the use of social media.

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