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ESPN’s Upfront Show Goes Beyond NFL

5/23/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

New York — Although pro football sits
squarely atop the standings of America’s
favorite sports, ESPN had plenty of other
games, gadgets and GRPs to discuss with
advertisers at its upfront presentation.

Appearing onstage,
ESPN executive
vice president
of content John
Skipper and, later,
Green Bay Packers
All-Pro linebacker
Clay Matthews Jr.
both expressed confidence that the NFL
would surmount its labor issues. “They’re going
to play,” Skipper said at the May 17 event.
“I don’t know when they’re going to play, but
when they do, we’ll carry it.”

ESPN executives, league officials, players,
fans and media buyers hope so and that Monday
Night Football
, cable’s top-rated all-time
show, will be in play for viewers and clients.

Meantime, the network emphasized plenty
of other choices ad executives could huddle
about. Heading that list: “labor-strife free
football,” also known as the college game, including
such notable contests as LSU-Oregon,
Boise State-Georgia, Nebraska-Wisconsin
and, in the first night game at “The Big House,”
Notre Dame-Michigan.

With network anchor Hannah
Storm and “91er” Julie Foudy taking
the stage, this summer’s 2011
FIFA Women’s World Cup from
Germany also got kicked around,
as was “HERoics,” a series of six
short films on women in soccer.

Officials also talked up a revamped
weekday afternoon lineup
for ESPN2 , beginning Sept.
12, which will showcase Numbers Don’t Lie,
aimed at fantasy sports fans at 3:30 p.m., and
Dan Le Batard is Highly Questionable, based in
Miami, at 4 p.m.

Looking to buttress its X Games franchise,
ESPN will expand from a pair of U.S. events to
a total of six, with four of them scheduled internationally,
beginning in 2013.

With Kenny Mayne’s Wider World of Sports,
the irreverent host, with retailer JCPenney in
tow as first sponsor, will travel the world learning
about regional sports, while introducing
U.S. games to locals.

ESPN’s coverage of the final 10 races of
the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will feature
“NASCAR NonStop.” Billed by Skipper
as “sportus non-interruptus,” the split-screen
format will show the advertisement on the left
side of the screen and the racing action to the
right. Before dividing the screen, ESPN will deploy
a screen wipe tied to the sponsor.

Channeling the worldwide leader’s anyscreen
mantra, ESPN executive vice president
for sales and marketing Sean Bratches
pointed to the 2.2 million people using
ESPN smartphone apps daily. “That’s scale.
That’s engagement,” he said, before touting
WatchESPN. Come October, that service will
be able to incorporate “existing creative and
customized content.” Currently, 20 million
Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks
and Verizon FiOS customers have access to
the WatchESPN app.

September