CHICAGO, April 9 (Reuters) – ESPN will launch a website dedicated to the Chicago market on Monday in an effort to reach more fans and generate more revenue from local advertisers, after more than 10 years on the radio in the Windy City.
“This is our first entrance into the local marketplace,” Marc Horine, ESPN’s vice president of digital media, said on Thursday.
“We thought the time was right to go beyond just the local radio station website,” he added. “We have no immediate plans to move beyond Chicago; (but) we’re looking at this as an incubator.”
As part of the launch, Walt Disney Co’s (DIS.N) ESPN will use technology that allows for content targeted by geography, as well as ad insertion in both live audio streaming and downloadable audio. That will allow ESPN to attract advertisers it has not before that want to target a specific market, Horine said.
ESPN’s advertising partners for the new website, ESPNChicago.com, will include eBay Inc’s (EBAY.O) StubHub ticket market place, as well as MillerCoors, the U.S. joint venture of Molson Coors Brewing Co (TAP.N) and SABMiller Plc (SAB.L); Hiltons of Chicago; and Chicago’s Lincoln Mercury auto dealers.
ESPN has owned a radio station in Chicago since 1998, and also owns stations in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas and Pittsburgh. It is affiliated with another 350 stations.
The new website will be served by the existing sales staff at the Chicago radio station, Horine said.
ESPN has targets for unique visitors, page views and time spent at the new site, as well as revenue, but he declined to reveal those. He also did not reveal start-up costs.
A website ESPN started two years ago centered on the Chicago radio station’s content will be folded into the new site, which will include content exclusive to the Chicago market and its sports teams and athletes, Horine said. Editorial staff has been hired to write stories and blogs.
While there are no plans now to replicate the website in other cities, success in Chicago could lead to similar websites starting in the other cities where ESPN owns radio stations.
“If we see there’s an opportunity to go outside Chicago we’re going to think about it, but it’s just the first step in ESPN’s effort to serve local sports fans beyond radio stations,” Horine said. “I don’t want to go on the record as saying we’re going to be in 10 markets. I have no idea right now.”
(Reporting by Ben Klayman, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)