Sunday, May 25, 2008

New ESPN Network May Be A Reality


Over at The AOL Fanhouse, the soccer guys were buzzing about the potential for ESPN to acquire some additional high-profile soccer for 2009. As NASCAR fans continue to growse about the problems with non-televised Cup practice and Nationwide broadcasts, one answer from ESPN's own Soccer columnist was certainly interesting.

Here is it below, and here is the full link.

About a year and a half ago, ESPN announced that it was shutting down production on original programming for ESPN Classic. Since then, the network has shown everything from old American Gladiators reruns to run-off programming from the other ESPN networks, and everyone has been scratching their head wondering what would happen to ESPN Classic.

ESPN Soccernet columnist Ives Galarcep, who keeps his own blog at SoccerByIves.net, may have leaked the Worldwide Leader's plans for its least-watched channel.

"The word I just got from a source at ESPN is that ... ESPN has big plans for expanding ESPN Classic into potentially an ESPN3, with the English Premier League as one of the station's marquee draws. That whole scenario may wind up being wishful thinking but what is clear is the ESPN is interested in the EPL rights," said Galarcep.

Still, this begs the question of what kind of channel ESPN3 might become. Would it become an ESPN Soccer Channel of sorts to compete with Fox Soccer Channel? Would it have a more general focus on international sports? (Anything that brings Aussie Rules back to ESPN is okay by me.) Or would it just blend in with ESPN and ESPN2 to allow more events in all sports to be shown on basic cable and satellite TV?

The Daly Planet first raised this issue back in June of 2007 with this column addressing the obvious concerns about NASCAR's Fall races conflicting with other ESPN and ABC programming. In fact, both ESPN and ABC had a mess on their hands with all kinds of logistical issues. From ABC local stations leaving live races for regular newscasts to college football games pushing the Nationwide Series all over the ESPN dial, things were not good.

It was only a short time ago that NASCAR actually had to call on SPEED to telecast one of ESPN's own Nationwide Series races because of programming conflicts. Here is the column about that issue. ESPN had tried to move the race over to, you guessed it, ESPN Classic. That was a "no sale" with NASCAR and SPEED stepped-in and actually carried the entire ESPN broadcast of the race complete with ESPN announcers and graphics.

The bottom line is that there is plenty of product on the ESPN table to fill additional network time. Between soccer and NASCAR, two very hardcore audiences would welcome an opportunity to see live product uninterrupted and additional re-airing of games and races. The ESPN Classic offerings of old NASCAR races from the ESPN Speedworld days are fantastic.

Here we are in May, with a full schedule of college football once again about to push Cup practices and happy hour off-the-dial or to tape delay come September. Those same football games will no doubt have the Nationwide Series hopping around the ESPN Networks like the Energizer Bunny.

In one way, it is nice that ESPN has an opportunity to have ten pounds of programming in its bag for 2009. Now, the executives just have to figure out how to make their networks hold more than five pounds at a time. As the re-runs of Stump the Schwab and American Gladiators roll-by, all eyes are on ESPN Classic.

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16 comments:

Photojosh said...

As silly as this sounds, an ESPN "Ocho" that was based around soccer and NASCAR would be insanely cool for me.

And, quite frankly, I think just on the strengths of those two dedicated fanbases that a single channel could do very well. Though I can't imagine anyone ever billing it as such. But if ESPN started the channel with the idea that those two sports would be the "anchor" programming, I think it would go over very well.

Assuming that the average person could get it on their cable lineup.

Lou,Kingston,NY said...

You know, if my memory is correct. Speedvision comes to mind. Now look at that channel today. I think it is worth a try.

darbar said...

JD, do you by any chance know the numbers for "football" on any network? While I know soccer might be the in thing for the suburbanites and their offspring, I just wonder how many Americans are interested in Premiere League soccer or any other kind Euro football. For that matter, I wonder how many subscribers Direct TV has for their soccer channels. Somehow I just don't think all soccer all the time will be a ratings winner.

When one realizes that auto racing is probably much more popular for US fans than soccer, it does give one pause that ESPN is willing to throw money at that sport and ignore auto racing.

Anonymous said...

From the soccer columnist's writing, it doesn't sound like it would be all soccer all the time. It says one of the ESPN3's marquee draws would be soccer. Marquee draws could include more soccer, more NASCAR, more WNBA, more IndyCar, more high school football, etc. Could be a lot of things.

haus20 said...

anything is better than poker reruns

All kidding aside, this will take away another excuse as to why ESPN can't cover more practices and NASCAR in general - they now will have the network to support the increase in coverage.

Daly Planet Editor said...

darbar,

The ESPN agenda is now very international. The EPL rights are big, and as one poster mentioned Fox actually has a dedicated soccer channel.

Gaining an entire 24 hour pathway to cable homes would be the big bargain for NASCAR fans. As you know, other than NASCAR Now and the races, ESPN has no programming from the NASCAR Media Group.

This would be a great opportunity to increase the amount of non-racing NASCAR programming and revive favorites like "Beyond The Wheel" and "NBS24/7."

The positives far outweigh the negatives and that is the bottom line on a concept like this one.

JD

Newracefan said...

It will be a great idea as long as ESPN sweetens the deal with cable providers so they carry the channel. If they handle it like Speed's HD version many of us will be in trouble. ( I don't have classic now, am still waiting for Speed HD to be added, and have to go way up the tier find ESPNNews)

Photojosh said...

It isn't so much the numbers of soccer fans in the USA, it's more that soccer fans are rabid in a way that can give even the craziest Jr Nation member a run for their money. As JD said, EPL rights are a big deal. And if they are looking into it, ESPN must be confident that the market is there.

Given the lengths that my soccer friends will go to in order to see a match, I would say that they are right.

Kevin in SoCal said...

Oh gosh, please no, not soccer. We dont need any soccer in America. Leave it to those other crazy fans in other countries. We'll keep our football, baseball, auto racing and basketball, please!

Anonymous said...

that only 'suburbanites' like soccer is just not so. There are large ethnic groups in this country now that still love their 'futball'. While I'm not in that group, no one played much baseball when I was a kid, it was all soccer, and I'd rather watch a scoreless soccer match than anything in the NBA or MLB...they bore me to tears. I have a relative who subscribes to digital sports just so he can get Fox Soccer Channel, just as many NASCAR fans have it for Speed.

AndyPandy said...

When I watch soccer, I understand the comments by non-NASCAR fans such as "How can you watch cars drive around and around in a circle for 500 miles?" I would rather have my wisdom teeth pulled than watch a soccer game (match?). Actually, I could watch the match to be put to sleep to have the teeth pulled.

On the other hand, give me a Hooters Cup marathon and I'd be glued to the screen watching drivers I've never heard of turn left and go counterclockwise around a track that I've never seen before for hours and hours.

They don't get me, I don't get them, and it would be nice if we each had a place to go to see what we like.

Daly Planet Editor said...

andy,

I think it would be a hilarious match made in "why isn't that on TV" heaven.

JD

haus20 said...

Besides soccer and NASCAR, maybe Indy Car and NHRA would benefit from the opportunity to have more live coverage given to them.

Depending on how advanced these plans are, this may cause Speed to increase their NASCAR coverage in order to increase their status in the Sport. - Hopefully

Dot said...

A couple of years ago, ESPN was trying to raise the price of their channel or move it to an upper tier. I don't know if it was just here in Las Vegas, or across the country. Today, ESPN is still on the lower tier and the price is included in the basic package.

I have feeling that if people want to watch this new ESPN channel, they are going to have to upgrade their cable package. Hopefully, SPEED will come with it for those who don't have it.

Regarding Soccer, it's not as popular as our football because you can't bet on it. That's what I've heard.

JD, regarding Aussie rules football, it make our players look like wusses. Padding, helmets and all that.

PS,I agree with Haus20.

Anonymous said...

Some of us don't have ESPN Classic or ESPN News ...

We'd have to get digital cable & an addressable converter box ... It's a lot of money for people on a limited income ...

There's still a LOT of people who don't have cable or satellite at all ... And they lose out on a LOT of the auto racing broadcasts ...

Desmond said...

For any of this to work, ESPN must increase the number of available households for what is now ESPN Classic. I remember SophiaZ123 (whatever happened to her?) telling us sometime back that her cable company downgraded ESPNC to enhanced digital, which she could not afford.

I don't think that the new channel will be another general, multisport network because there is already ESPN and ESPN2. So NASCAR fans must hope for an emphasis on motor sports if ESPNC is revamped.