ESPN (NYSE: DIS) is getting ready to launch two new local sites for a total of five across the country that could serve as the starting point for a 20-city network, ABC Sports President George Bodenheimer told Reuters at the news service’s Global Media Summit. But almost as soon as he uttered the words, Bodenheimer stressed that ESPN has no concrete plans to roll out any other sites beyond the LA site launching later this month and the New York destination slated for next year.
Since April, ESPN has launched sites in Chicago, Boston and most recently, Dallas.
Aside from having a sizable base of sports fans, an expanded ESPN local sports presence would primarily be built across areas where the network already has a presence. For example, Bodenheimer sees Pittsburgh as a natural area since ESPN has a radio station there to provide sales and promotional support. Bodenheimer’s comments come as both Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA) and Fox Sports are aggressively building online local sports sites of their own, since web-based local advertising remains a relatively growing segment.
Apart from that, ESPN is not just thinking local these days. Bodenheimer is sticking to plans for an ESPN and ABC bid for U.S. broadcast rights to the 2014 and 2016 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, respectively. Separately, an ESPN rep told paidContent that the company just launched the first phase of its global online destination for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.