Upfront: ESPN Web property hawked in upfront

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ESPN ABC Sports is bringing new meaning to the term "moving the market." ESPN Motion, broadband streaming video on the ESPN.com Web site, was hawked in the upfront for about $20 per cost per thousand viewers. Ratings are measured by the number of impressions viewed.

According to Ed Erhardt, president of ESPN ABC Sports, his sales staff is working with two large media agencies, Publicis Groupe's Starcom MediaVest Group, and another unidentified shop to sell the product to their clients. "We are selling it in the upfront as part of our integrated package," said Mr. Erhardt. "We began in March and so far we have Lexus, Gatorade, Universal Pictures and Warner Brothers on board." The product was launched in February 2003, and so far 1.6 million people have downloaded the product. There are about 800,000 viewings per day.

ESPN Motion, which first appeared in February, is composed of sports news clips. The segments are 45 seconds to two minutes long and are intercut with 15- and 30-second commercials. To get Motion, users must download a player onto their hard drives, available on the site, which triggers the clips on the opening page immediately after accessing the site.

`two types of clips'

"There are two types of clips," said John Skipper, exec VP, ESPN. "There are morning news flashes from events that happened the night before ... and then, during the day, there are news highlights. We did a lot of clips about Sammy Sosa and his corked bat."

Other sites offer ad placement in streaming video-such as Atom Films.com and Maxim.com-but ESPN is said to be the only one that ties into a parent network, pulling news reports from ESPN and ABC. It is the only online video being offered as a straight buy at the upfront, rather than offered as an "added value" premium to a prime-time buy.

"They should not sell it as an added value," said Rishad Tobaccowala, exec VP, Starcom MediaVest Group. "They should sell it in some form that is competitive with television, so that you can access television budgets to pay for it. The days of the added value on the Internet are circa 1995. "

According to Mr. Tobaccowala, ESPN Motion captures a significant daytime audience that is not reached by TV who log onto ESPN during the day to catch up on sports teams. The screen size is small, but Mr. Tobaccowala sees that as an advantage. "When the boss walks by you can cover it up quickly with Excel spreadsheets and pie charts."

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