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ESPN Launches All-in-One Affil Site

ESPN has relaunched its affiliate Web site (www.affiliate.espn.com), expanding its content beyond advertising sales and marketing to include information for customer-service representatives and system-level engineers and technicians.

"We want to build a single, comprehensive site," said ESPN vice president of affiliate marketing E.J. Conlin.

The new site features training help information for CSRs, including fact sheets about each network; "Did You Know?" programming highlights; and a frequently asked questions section.

The new "Techcenter" section provides information on ESPN technical issues, such as satellite feeds, integrated receiver descrambler (IRD) switchouts and other material important to system engineers and technicians.

For instance, ESPN recently switched out 20,000 IRDs, used to receive a programmer's signal at the headend and descramble it for transmission through the plant to the home. The Web site hosted much of the information that system technicians needed to complete the change.

ESPN said some 2,000 system-level technicians have registered with the site.

Some of those technicians might be headed to the site's "Football Pool" section. The sports programmer has essentially set up a national office pool, where cable-system employees can predict the winners of weekend National Football League games and compete for prizes. That provides a fun outlet for many system-level personnel, Conlin said.

But there is plenty of work-related material on the site for ad-sales and marketing staffers, ranging from ratings information, ESPN marketing campaigns, downloadable logos and ad slicks to information on upcoming programming.

The site's main categories — programming, sports, marketing, ad sales, pay-per-view, research, promotions, football pool, network, ESPN Techcenter, CSR, ESPN merchandise, regions, affiliate tools and partners — incorporate extensive drill-down menus that users can access from the first page.

"We overhauled the navigational structure," Conlin said. "We want people to get to everything within one or two clicks."

Because affiliates don't have to repeat pages to return to the main menu, their time spent online is reduced, Conlin said.

ESPN has added an affiliate forum, an online message board where users can post questions and discuss issues with other affiliates or with ESPN personnel.

The new "regions" section showcases cable system marketing, ad sales or public-relations campaigns in various parts of the country.

Conlin said ESPN will update the site as much as 10 times per hour, depending on such factors as outside news events and schedule changes.

"It's very, very fluid," she said.