ESPN Is Latest to Add Fan Conversations to Coverage

Media Morph: Section 140

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WHAT IT IS: Sports fans love to talk about their teams, and more and more of that chatter is happening in social media. Naturally, the TV networks, purveyors of live events, are not about to be left out. ESPN today is launching Section 140, a service that will live on many of ESPN's platforms (mobile, PC, Gamecast) and let fans in different places join a central conversation about college football. President of Sales and Marketing Ed Erhardt calls the Windows Phone-sponsored initiative the company's "first real strong foray into virtual, social conversation around college football." Other networks are also trying to tap the social-mediasphere. For example, last spring Turner Sports launched its own version, which pulls conversations on Twitter, Facebook and MySpace into a central widget created by Gigya.

HOW IT WORKS: Users will create a log-in name if they don't already have one, and then they can join a conversation -- sort of like a real-time message board -- about whatever college game they're into. Future iterations will allow syndication across other platforms such as Twitter.

HOW IT CAME TOGETHER: Editor Rob King had this notion of wanting to create a college football conversation, Mr. Erhardt recalled. At the same time, ESPN was talking to Universal McCann, San Francisco, about how they could work with Microsoft's Windows Phone to help bring the experience of people at the game to people who weren't at the event. The idea of creating a central destination where fans could meet other fans was born; it was named after Twitter's 140-character limit, and ESPN's bloggers and on-air personalities will participate. ESPN plans to create a special Windows Mobile app of the service, but it's not exclusive to those phones and will live on all of ESPN's mobile applications, as well as on the site, in live-streaming application ESPN 360 and in Gamecast, which lets users follow the action of the game via a graphical representation.

MOBILE IS KEY: Section 140, which will have a large mobile presence, is launching with college football, and most of the games are played on Saturdays. That's no coincidence. Saturdays are highest day of the week for mobile usage, by far, Mr. Erhardt said, a fact he attributes to the sheer volume of games going on and the amount of people out and about on the weekend.

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