ESPN360 to stream only live events

Sports net might bid for future Olympic Games

ESPN said Wednesday that it would relaunch broadband net ESPN360 to focus exclusively on live events and also revealed that it could make a play for future Olympic Games.

ESPN360 was launched as the broadband video companion to company’s range of television and digital properties. Net, which reaches about 17 million homes in which the net has a deal with cable operators, had been mixing in live events like World Cup games with highlight packages and clips from its studio shows.

But net said it wanted to turn the site into a venue for live sports ranging from college football to international sports like cricket. “We were doing a lot of different things but we didn’t have the one big thing everyone came to us for, said 360 veep and GM Jeff Cravens.

Execs said that more than 2000 events have been signed up for the first year of the relaunch.

Net made announcement at its media workshop in its Bristol, Conn., headquarters, which gathers media from around the country for two days of conversations with talent and execs.

ESPN360, which can be accessed only from homes that receive cable from licensed providers, has had some success in landing deals but has yet to pact with cable heavyweights Comcast and Time Warner. Execs said they continued to negotiate with those operators.

Also on Wednesday, ESPN exec veep of programming acquisitions and strategy John Wildhack said that the Olympics was a rights package the net could bid on. Games are currently one of the few sporting events in which the net does not own at least a piece of the broadcasting rights.

“Obviously we need to pick our spots,” Wildhack said in an interview. “But the Olympics are one area we could see ourselves getting into.”

NBC has all rights through the 2012 Summer Games in London, but ESPN could make a play beginning with the 2014 Winter Games.

Also at the workshop, Monday Night Football chief Chip Dean said the net this season would cut back on the number of celebs it brought into the booth during games. Net had last year faced criticism that some of the celebs were distracting from game coverage.

Instead of bringing in a celeb every game, net would do so only in about ten of the seventeen telecasts, and would do so exclusively with what Dean called A-listers, such as Spike Lee, who came on for the first football game back in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. “We learned a lot from year one,” Dean said. “We want to be a lot more selective in who we bring on the show.”

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