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ESPN, Inc.: 2007 in Review

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ESPN’s brand and multimedia businesses continued to thrive in 2007 with growth in both its core and digital media entities globally.  ESPN grew content for sports fans domestically and internationally through network and web site acquisitions and expansion of existing media platforms and programming franchises.

The company assumed formal ownership of the North American Sports Network (NASN), a pan-European network televisingU.S.sports; acquired CricInfo.com and Scrum.com; and launched ESPN360.com inMexicoandBrazil, in addition to launching three international editions of SportsCenter for a total of 14.

NASCAR’s return to ESPN and ABC drove huge increases in both networks’ TV ratings and online usage and key long-term content agreements expanded relationships with the NBA (17 platforms, plus digital media not yet invented), the Big 12, WNBA, the Little League World Series and the Masters early rounds to be aired for the first time on ESPN in 2008.  Other similarly expansive deals took effect with the BIG EAST, Big Ten, Major League Soccer and Arena Football. 

Long-term distribution agreements were reached and ESPN’s many businesses grew:  ESPN Radio, ESPN.com, Publishing and event franchises. 

Overall, the company serves fans worldwide a diverse lineup of sports news, events and programming to be consumed however, wherever and, increasingly, whenever, via on-demand services – providing more sports, to more people through more devices.  The results include records and strong growth in TV (including breaking the cable record for audience with the December 3 Monday Night Football game), online and in print, radio and more.  In the fourth quarter, the four measured networks – ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic and ESPNEWS – combined to reach a record 209 million Americans while each week 120 million Americans interacted with ESPN media, including ESPN on ABC. 

“ESPN’s unmatched ability to engage fans around the world every hour of every day with compelling content brings unique value to rightsholders, distributors and advertisers, but the real winners are sports fans who enjoy our wide array of offerings,” said George Bodenheimer, president, ESPN, Inc. and ABC Sports, and co-chairman, Disney Media Networks.    

CONTENT & TECHNOLOGY

  • ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic and ESPNEWS averaged a combined 1,108,000 households (at any time, 24-hour basis) with many records and successes, including cable’s most-watched series, Monday Night Football.
  • A record 209 million Americans – 73% of the population watched ESPN networks in the fourth quarter when 91% of cable homes tuned to one of the ESPN networks.
  • Surveys of cable operators and viewers by Beta Research Corp. ranked ESPN and ESPN2 the top two major ad-supported cable networks in perceived value.  ESPN was #1 for the seventh consecutive year among operators, while viewers of ESPN and ESPN2 judged them more valuable than viewers of other networks judged their favorite channel.  Also, ESPN was considered the best in generating local ad sales and as the most effective in selling broadband or interactive services. 
  • ESPN, now in 96.4 million homes, posted its most-watched August, September and third quarter.

Monday Night Football generated nine of cable’s top 10 household audiences in 2007 (and 16 of the top 20), topped by the New England – Baltimore game, cable’s biggest audience ever (12.5 million homes, 17.5 million viewers).

SportsCenter grew its audience with up to 106 million Americans tuning in monthly (up 6%).

NASCAR provided ESPN five of its biggest six household audiences ever for motorsports, including the top three.  In just three months (August 27 – November 18), 127 million people (45% of Americans) watched NASCAR on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2.

New highs for average audience for college football, College GameDay, Sunday NFL Countdown and the weekday pairing Around the Horn/Pardon the Interruption.

  • ESPN2:– Now reaching 96 million homes, the network set a record for the month’s audience six times, with September ranking as the best month ever, helping make third quarter the most-viewed quarter in ESPN2 history, followed by its best fourth quarter ever.

–Season-long coverage of NASCAR’s Busch Series debuted as ESPN2’s highest-rated series ever, with three of its six biggest motorsports audiences ever.

ESPN2’s morning lineupMike & Mike at 6 a.m. followed by FirstTake at 10 a.m. – debuted in HD in May and for the year increased the audience 32%.

Set records for average audience for Major League Baseball, college football, women’s college basketball and MLS.  

  • ESPN on ABC became the first network to present exclusively the NASCAR NEXTEL Chase for the Cup and the 10 races attracted five times the audience as the same time period last year.  The Rose Bowl was the highest-rated college football bowl game outside the BCS Championship Game.  The audience for the Little League World Series grew and The SportsCenter Minute news update segments debuted.
  • ESPN Classic now reaches 63.2 million homes and enjoyed its most-viewed January, February, March and April, as well as its most-watched first quarter.  The network posted a record rating for the September 15Louisville –Kentucky live college football game.  
  • ESPNEWS grew 17% to 62.6 million homes and every month set a viewership mark for the month, with September the network’s best month ever.  Each quarter set a record for that quarter, with the third topping all quarters ever.  The network debuts in HD in March.
  • ESPNU secured agreements with three of the top 10 distributors – Charter, Cox and Time Warner, increasing distribution to 20 million households.  In addition, next August the network be presented in HD.
  • ESPN HD and ESPN2 HD telecast more than 800 events and 10,000 programming hours in high definition, including 100% of ESPN and ESPN2’s Bristol-based studio programming.   
  • ESPN Deportes’ distribution increased by more than 50% after closing deals with DirecTV, Comcast and Time Warner.  The network expanded its programming with agreements for the Pan American Games, Mexican First Division Soccer and the expansion of SportsCenter to a one-hour show. ESPN Deportes Radio launched in Dallas, New Jersey and Knoxville and can now be heard 24/7 on 25 stations reaching more than 45% of the U.S. Hispanic population. Its Los Angeles affiliate is No.1 among men 18+ in the market among all sports radio stations (Spanish or English, Summer 2007 Arbitron Books).  ESPNdeportes.com continues to be ranked as the top Spanish-language sports site in the U.S., with four million unique users per month and over 72 million page views.  A Caribbean version of ESPN Deportes La Revista magazine launched in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.   
  • ESPN.com, the leading U.S. sports web site every year since launch, averaged more than 18.5 million unique users per month.  September was its best month ever, with 24 million unique users.  Users embraced several new community features (blogging, chats, widgets).  ESPN’s digital audio continued its exceptional growth with podcasts (via PodCenter and Apple iTunes Store) topping more than six million downloads per month, and the monthly online listening audience for ESPNRadio.com topped 315,000 in October.  Fans are increasingly enjoying watching video online, with more than 1.2 billion views in 2007, up 54% over 2006.  Additionally, fans are enjoying ESPN.com’s portability, with more than nine million accessing the site from wireless mobile devices each month.  ESPN.com added to its growing network of global online destinations, acquiring CricInfo.com, the world’s top cricket site, and Scrum.com, a leading rugby site, and launching the ESPN Arcade, a casual gaming hub featuring more than 40 free online games.
  • ESPN360.com was relaunched in 2007 with a new interface and a new programming strategy, and is now a 24/7 live destination that will deliver more than 2,500 live events in a 12-month period.  The dynamic new user interface includes live-event pause, rewind and fast forward, and easy navigation between multiple, simultaneous live sporting events.  In the first two months of the new service, fans logged more than 150,000 viewing hours.  ESPN360.com doubled distribution and is expected to be in 20 million homes by February.   Coverage includes the NBA, college football and basketball, NASCAR, UEFA Champions League, Argentinean polo, Japanese baseball and more. 
  • ESPN Radio provides more than 9,000 hours of talk and event content to nearly 750 stations reaching more than 20 million listeners each week.  New events (Kentucky Derby and weekly college football), afternoon talk shows and podcasts were launched.
  • ESPN Content Development supplied 200 hours of original multimedia content, highlighted by its first ABC broadcast with Ruffian, the first-ever ESPN miniseries The Bronx is Burning, the 15th anniversary of The ESPYS and the investigative news magazine E:60.  ESPN made its first foray into independent film with the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival.  
  • ESPN Regional Television (ERT), the nation’s largest syndicator of college sports programming, launched several proprietary events and acquired/created four new events: ESPNU Women’s College Basketball Invitational; Anaheim Classic; Pizza Hut Big East/SEC Invitational; O’Reilly Auto Parts Puerto Rico Tip-Off.  ERT debuted a six-week regionally syndicated college football package with the Mid-American Conference in 34 markets.  ERT programming includes football, basketball, NCAA events, golf and NHRA events – more than 2,200 live and/or original hours of programming.
  • ESPN Publishing comprises ESPN The Magazine and ESPN Books.  Now at two million in circulation, The Magazine enjoyed a banner year, including its second, third and fourth largest issues for pages and ad revenue.  ESPN Books released 15 titles in 2007, including the New York Times bestseller Man in the Middle by John Amaechi, William Nack’s Ruffian and John Ed Bradley’s It Never Rains in Tiger Stadium
  • Consumer Products continued to expand, launching the ESPN brand into new categories including gift and stationery lines, keepsake ornaments, tailgating items and handheld games.  It extended the X Games brand internationally.  ESPN Home Entertainment continued to grow with 20 new titles in 2007 and the ESPN-branded Visa credit card exceeded forecasted growth by 30 percent in its first year.
  • ESPN PPV posted double-digit growth for ESPN GamePlan subscriptions on television and online. ESPN also continued to provide viewers with hundreds of college basketball games, content from EOE and SportsCenter, and instructional offerings.  ESPNsoccernet.com and ESPNDeportes.com offered all 125 UEFA Champions League matches to soccer fans (a first in theU.S.).
  • ESPN Mobile Properties extends the ESPN brand and content over wireless devices via a wide variety of products.  ESPN Mobile TV is ESPN’s first 24/7 channel for wireless (not a simulcast of any existing ESPN network).  It offers compelling live sports events, news, commentary and analysis.  Also offered are the industry’s most trafficked sports content wireless site (WAP) which is also one of the five most popular overall and ESPN MVP, an immersive sports application available through Verizon with real-time scores, news, video, personalization and daily on-demand video/audio clips.  Content from ESPN Mobile Properties is available every major domestic wireless carrier and in more than 30 countries.
  • ESPN Zones raised the bar for sports restaurants even higher and further established itself as a ultimate sports dining and entertainment mecca.  All sites now have wireless Internet access and brand new DreamSeat recliners.  The Web site was redesigned and received multiple awards. 

INTERNATIONAL 

  • ESPN International spans 194 countries and territories on all seven continents and includes television, wireless, interactive, print, radio, broadband, event management and consumer products.  TV networks number 34 in 16 languages, with 200 million subscribers.  Major programming deals, most including digital rights, included UEFA Euro 2008, UEFA Cup, three Grand Slam tennis events (Wimbledon, Australian Open and U.S. Open), MLB, NBA and the U.S. and British Open golf events.  Also, ESPNSTAR sports, the joint venture in Asia, announced a deal with the English Football Association for multimedia rights to the FA Cup and more. Local SportsCenter versions were launched in Australia, Malaysia, and Africa/Middle East.  ESPN also recently added three major businesses to its portfolio in Europe and on-line:  NASN, Cricinfo.com and Scrum.com.  In other online news, Soccernet.com added versions for fans in France, Germany, Italy and Spain and ESPN360.com was launched in Mexico and Brazil.  The X Games continues to grow with the first-ever Games in Dubai and Mexico and the return of X Games Brazil early next year.  In radio, ESPN launched its first branded properties inBrazil (ESPN Radio Eldorado in Sao Paolo) andChile (a nationwide network, Radio Bio Bio).

SALES & MARKETING

  • For the fifth straight year, cable ad execs voted ESPN #1 for brand image, creative marketing and promotion opportunities, desirable programming for advertising and audience demos.
  • Of all deals of $2 million or more, 70% included at least one medium other than TV, up from 60%.
  • ESPN held a digital forum for advertisers, to provide leadership in exploring new opportunities.

OWNED EVENTS

  • The X Games and Winter X Games again set records for exposure and attendance.  Winter X Games 11 was the highest-rated and most viewed ever among several key demos, including men and people 18-34.  Attendance totaled more than 75,000, up 10%.  X Games 13 was the highest-rated and most-viewed with prime time telecasts delivering double-digit increases from 2006 in household and demo impressions. Attendance totaled more than 120,000. 
  • The ESPYS were co-hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and LeBron James, the first time co-hosts filled the role in the show’s 15-year history.  Content was distributed across ESPN360.com, ESPN Motion, ESPNEWS, ESPN First Take, ESPN Deportes, ESPN International and Mobile ESPN.
  • BASS announced Women’s Bassmaster Tour anglers will have a direct qualifying route to the Bassmaster Classic and enhanced its top-level tournament trail, the men’s Bassmaster Elite Series, allowing anglers to compete from their own branded boats and increasing the Bassmaster Angler of the Year payout to $1 million. 

TEAM ESPN

  • Team ESPN continues to grow its outreach programs including volunteerism and special projects to support its primary charities.  ESPN raised $3 million for The V Foundation for Cancer Research, primarily via the ESPY Celebrity Golf Classic ($1.3 million), ESPN Radio Auction ($800,000), and the inaugural Jimmy V Week in December ($525,000).  In addition, Team ESPN employees volunteered over 24,000 hours in community service projects.

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