ESPN expands online

No one could accuse U.S. broadcasters of rushing to the Internet. Slowly but surely the big media brands are putting content packages on web-based channels, but with emphasis on the slowly. Disney-controlled sports giant ESPN is the latest, opening its sports portal, ESPN360.com to non-cable subscribers who have a .edu or .mil network.

ESPN relaunched its video site in September for subscribers of its cable service where the cable company has paid the required affiliate fee and plans to have 2,500 hours of live content this year. That gives the service a footprint of about 20 million users and the move to make it available to the two new domain groups is because ESPN says they can't get it though a cable provider.

On that rationale, the service should be made available to any region in the world which does not get ESPN. So why limit the service to the same old media footprint? HBO is doing something similar in its Wisconsin trial and is a replay of the early thinking when newspapers made their first tentative move online over a decade ago. Once the newspaper groups understood the online audience was almost all additional to their traditional audience the newspaper companies (mostly) embraced the net as a new channel and the big sites are now earning very good money from their ad-supported digital content. For the TV industry it has been a far more painful process, but with brands like National Geographic also starting to put their video content online, it does seem 2008 might just be the year we finally see most of the big players get onto the web.

For more:
- ESPN to offer sports events free to some web users Article
- National Geographic Channel beefs up broadband Article 

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HBO makes online video hard Report
Time Warner needs a visionary Report
Motorola says 45% of Europeans watch TV online Report

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