ESPN: 2011 Is Year of QB

New York — ESPN declared to advertisers
at its upfront presentation last week that
2011 will be the “Year of the Quarterback.”

Spanning the run of 2011, ESPN will analyze
sports’ most critical position across all
of its vehicles, examining QB myths and legends
and delving into the physical, mental
and leadership attributes necessary to succeed.
ESPN on-air talent and former National
Football League QBs Steve Young, Trent Dilfer,
Ron Jaworski and Kirk Herbstreit, among
others, will afford their views.

More imminently, futbol will hold center
stage across ESPN properties in the form of
the 2010 FIFA World Cup, from South Africa.
The programmer’s multiplatform presentation
of the June 11-July 11 event includes 25
three-dimensional matches on the soon-tolaunch
ESPN 3D, a network that now counts
DirecTV and Comcast as affiliates.

Host nation South Africa vs. Mexico leads
off 18 matches over 17 consecutive days, including
United States vs. Slovenia on June 18
and Portugal vs. Brazil on June 25.

Three of the quarterfinals, the semis, the
third-place match and the final will be available
in 3D.

ESPN officials also talked up new shows
on ESPN Deportes and ESPNU, as well as upcoming
entries into social gaming and the
release of new iPhone apps.

College-sports network ESPNU, which
added a gaudy 50 million homes over the
past year (to 73 million), is bowing in spring
2011 U-Nite, a daily show at midnight that
will “cheer, debate and celebrate” anything
of interest to viewers across the realms of
sports and pop culture, including gaming,
music and technology.

Spanish-language ESPN Deportes will
launch Nacion ESPN, its version of the faninteraction-
friendly SportsNation, in firstquarter
2011. It will emanate from the
company’s Los Angeles studios.

ESPN Interactive’s two-year deal with
social-gaming firm Playdom will generate
ESPN-branded sports games for their respective
sites plus social-media platforms, including
Facebook, MySpace and Bebo. Two are in
the works and are set to premiere come fall.

“The sports genre for this category of
games has gone virtually untapped thus
far,” Raphael Poplock, vice president of
games and revenue strategy and development
for ESPN Digital Media, said at the upfront.
“And through this agreement, we have
an opportunity to be in front of a highly engaged
audience and at the forefront of what
is currently the fastest-growing games category
out there.”

ESPN is expanding its mobile base with
six local-based iPhone and iPod touch applications
— five tied to scores and breaking
news about hometown squads in New York,
Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and Dallas. A
sixth, ESPN Passport, will launch in the next
month and let fans chronicle at-game experiences
via digital scrapbook functions, such as
photo uploads, commentary and virtual ticket
stubs. Fans also will be able to check in and
confirm their game attendance via GPS.