ESPN Broadens Its Pitch

Greenlights 'SportsNation'

ESPN is knocking on new doors in an effort to drive revenue in the troubled economy, according to media buyers.

“They're trying to go deeper on who watches ESPN and trying to suggest women watch, too,” says one senior TV buyer. “I don't think they've ever gone after clients that are women-based.”

Advertisers such as Procter & Gamble and Wal-Mart have traditionally shied away from male-skewing programming. But with the whole family starting to make financial decisions together, ESPN may be hoping that its major events, broad reach and family-friendly programs can lure some new big-money brands onto the network.

Of course, even with that new approach, the network is not forgetting its core male fan base.

ESPN will be going forward with a television program based on its popular “SportsNation” online polls. Audience interaction will play prominently in the series, with hosts discussing topics selected by viewers. It is also expected to include other interactive features and segments.

Test shows of SportsNation will begin taping in June, with the network targeting a July premiere on ESPN2. ESPN is expected to announce the show's launch at its upfront presentation on May 19 in New York.

ESPN's new sales pitch and programming announcements come as the sports market as a whole struggles to keep drawing marketing dollars from many of its longtime clients.

Many advertisers that used to be staples on sports programming have seen their marketing budgets shrink or dry up since the economic collapse.

According to Peter Knobloch, CEO of media communications agency RJ Palmer: “Between automotive and financial, there is a big hole and a large level of uncertainty.”