ESPN Going Interactive in 2009

The network is gunning for an enhanced fan experience and new opportunities for advertisers.

ESPN is bringing three new interactive applications to viewers in 2009, gunning for an enhanced fan experience and new opportunities for advertisers.

The sports giant said Tuesday that two of the new products will use EBIF middleware—already deployed in millions of set-top boxes nationwide—which the third utilize the new Tru2way technology (formerly known as OCAP, the OpenCable Applications Platform), which will allow more robust services and is now being included in set-top boxes and other devices available at retail.

“ESPN has always been a leader when it comes to innovation and technology,” said Sean Bratches, ESPN executive vice president for sales and marketing. “And we know that our fans tend to be early adopters of technology. Now with iTV technology more widely available and of more importance to our affiliates and our advertisers, we want to enhance the fan experience at home. We believe these applications will be hugely popular and further advance interactive television in the industry.”

The network says the interactivity will bring elements of the Internet to the TV, letting viewers create customized data feeds and participate in on-screen voting and polling.

The new features (with names subject to change) are:

•ESPN My Vote (EBIF)—an interactive voting and polling feature that will be available during each live airing of various sports shows.
•ESPN In Game Extra (EBIF)—will let viewers obtain additional stats and information (player tracking, scores, standings, schedules) during live events.
•My Bottom Line (Tru2way) – Available in shows where ESPN currently displays a bottom line, this will allow fans to customize the scrolling information that appears on their screens. For example, St. Louis fans could program the bottom line to include only St. Louis scores, no matter where they live.

ESPN plans to incorporate the new features into more than 3,000 events and shows per calendar year. Each of the three products will include specific advertising overlays.