Back in 2004, ESPN (NYSE: DIS) ended a three-year relationship with MSN designed to boost the sports site’s traffic while giving the Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) portal much-needed content. Among other things, ESPN wanted complete control over its online advertising and its broadband video plans. Fast forward four years and ESPN is ready to try a portal again — sort of. For the first time, the Disney sports unit is syndicating video through a portal; this deal uses an ESPN channel on AOL and an embedded ESPN player.
It’s all short-form programming: game highlights, clips from major sporting events and video-clips as well as video clips from ESPN original programming. (One gripe: too many clicks to get to actual video.) The player also includes links to ESPN.com content. ESPN describes expanding its video audience for advertisers as one of the prime benefits. For AOL (NYSE: TWX), the deal adds to video from the four networks, including Disney sibling ABC, and multiple cable nets already on the portal.