Right on cue around the X Games, ESPN (NYSE: DIS) has announced plans to launch an online action sports network, imaginatively called ESPN Action Sports Network. The online channel, slated for a fall launch, will have a slew of sites, each focused on action sports such as surfing, skateboarding, motocross and snowboarding. This will expand on its X Games franchise that it created more than a decade ago. The network also developed the EXPN.com website about a year ago to start offering daily content of different extreme sports, but that will now become ESPN Action Sports Network, the company says.
Besides its own content, it has done deals with sports information and product websites Surfline.com, Vans.com and Active.com to share content and do cross promotion. Expect it to also do some acquisitions in this space. ESPN has been active and has acquired smaller sports websites over the last few years.
Staci adds: Action sports seems like a no brainer, given that it meshes Gen X/Y passions of technology and extreme sports. The LAT is spot on when it describes it as “an increasingly attractive, if elusive, audience for the major networks.” Audience estimates vary wildly from 27 million to 115 million with a high-spending core demo of men ages 15-34. But the LAT is also right to mention the fragmented nature of that audience as enthusiasts stock to their own sports. Pardon the mixed metaphor but it’s no slam dunk. AOL backed out of Lat34.com, its broadband action JV with Fusion Entertainment, less than a year in — a casualty of the post-Miller re-org and change in priorities. Then again, the site itself is still up and running.