The refurbished site will also include an upgraded shopping section with 2,000 more products, including authenticated memorabilia and ESPN merchandise. The store was designed by the Walt Disney Co. team that designed the Disney Online store, said Geoff Reiss, senior vice president of programming and production. ESPN.com is produced by ESPN Internet Ventures, a unit of the Buena Vista Internet Group, which is owned by Disney.
"We're trying to create a notion of a single place to go for everything you want for sports. Epsn.com will be the home to the proprietary news and reporting which is already a bellwether in the industry, but it will also fold in best aspects of products that come from strong partners," he said.
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Other enhancements to the site include a new version of a Java applet that graphically displays statistics from games in real time. The football version, Gameday live, launches Sunday at the start of the season.
The tighter integration will include linking consumers to video and audio that is produced for the league sites and NASCAR. For instance, football fans will now be able to watch a two-minute video of Sunday highlights on the NFL.com site.
More premium features
While the NFL video is free, as are most of the other upgrades, there are some additions to the "premium" sections of ESPN's site.
Reiss would not give specific figures for ESPN's fee-based sections but said that said that ESPN sold over quarter million "units" of fantasy games and subscriptions over past 12 months.
The fantasy sports sites have become increasingly popular Web features on sports sites. Reiss said that ESPN's fantasy business is doubling every year by sport, and accounts for a "significant portion of traffic" at the site.
The fantasy section will be given its own site, as will "extreme" sport, through partnerships with Outside Online and MountainZone.com.
Other new partners include Soccer Times, Tennis Week and U.S. College Hockey Online.
NBA goes it alone
The NBA.com Audio League Pass will now be offered exclusively over NBA.com, run by the NBA and ESPN. That subscription allows a consumer to listen to live local radio broadcasts of every NBA game on the schedule over the Internet. The service had previously been available through both NBA.com and ESPN.com.
That decision was partly at the request of the NBA.
"The leagues' video [and audio] footage is just one of the most significant assets they have and they are extremely judicious about how they mete those rights out," Reiss said.