Initial Thoughts on ESPNBoston.com

By now, thanks to Fang’s Bites, you know that ESPN will be launching a local version of ESPN.com, ESPNBoston.

The site is slated to launch on September 14th – or opening day for the Patriots, who play on Monday Night Football that night on ESPN. ( I wonder if it is telling that 98.5 The SportsHub launched on the day of the Patriots first preseason game, while ESPNBoston launches on the day of the Patriots first regular season game.)

Here are a few of my initial thoughts on the topic:

First of all, the ESPNChicago site should give you a pretty good feel of what you can expect from the Boston version.

While there will be a lot of “re-purposing” of Boston content from the main ESPN.com site, there will be plenty of original content as well. The splash hiring of Mike Reiss gives the site some instant credibility, and you can expect some other local defections to this site in the coming weeks.

For a guy like Reiss, leaving the uncertainty of what the future holds for The Boston Globe (not to mention that recent pay cut all Globe employees had to take) probably made this a pretty easy decision. If you’ve been following the news of some of the potential buyers of the Globe, you know that the idea of Platinum Equity purchasing the Globe should have employees terrified. ESPN offers stability and reach.

I’d say the days of Reiss’ Pieces (as a brand) are over, for now anyway. Boston.com will obviously have to change the name of their Patriots blog, but I don’t expect it to follow Reiss over to ESPNBoston. ESPN is about their brand, not that of its talent. Reiss however, will continue to do exactly what he’s going now for Boston.com, except without the added burden of having to produce something for the print edition.

You can probably expect some change in ESPN Radio locally. The 890 station is not owned by ESPN, they are an affiliate. I would expect that you’ll see some move by ESPN to get their brand better established on the local airwaves. I don’t think that would come in the form of a new locally staffed and hosted ESPN Radio Boston to compete with WEEI and WBZ-FM, but something more along the lines of a more solid platform for their national shows, such as Mike & Mike in the Morning. The current incarnation of 890 simply isn’t up to ESPN standards.

The local edition of SportsCenter is intriguing. Rather than sitting through the full version of SportsCenter on ESPN for the few Boston highlights (if you even do that anymore), you’ll be able to go online and get them all instantly, at any time.

The Chicago site still seems to lean on a lot of AP content, and straight links back to ESPN.com. That’s not going to be appealing here, but I expect there to be more of a focus on local original content on the Boston site.

In a similar vein, I would hope the local focus would also result in a scaleback of the ESPN hysteria. I don’t think the Mark Schlereth type of hysterical, irresponsible speculation would go over well here. Based on the emails and comments I receive, people in this market smell out that type of stuff pretty quickly and reject it.

Also check out the Globe media column by Chad Finn on the topic.

It doesn’t touch on ESPNBoston, but the New Bedford Standard Times rates New England’s “Big 6″ sports media outlets.

One other quick unrelated link, over on Patriots Daily, we’re Trading Places with a Redskins blogger.

  • Bruce, NV

    Sorry, Bruce, but I think that the boston.com and herald comments pages give the lie to your comment about Schlereth and ESPN hyperbole.

    • http://www.jonvssports.blogspot.com Jon

      Generally, people who comment on articles are idiots. Except on this site, for some reason. The biggest idiots are the Lakers trolls on the Celtics Blog on boston.com. Everything they touch turns to suck.

  • late to dinner

    Bruce et al,

    If I were ESPN I would do one of three things in the Boston Market as it currently is the most profitable sports radio market in the country.

    1) End the affiliation with ESPN 890 and reaffiliate with WEEI. I do not think WEEI would think twice about dropping Fox Sports if only to get Gammons back on as a regular contributor.

    2) Buy WEEI outright. It may mean buying Entercom but to the bean counters that might not be as far fetched an idea as having virtually no presence in the market as they currently do. They could then merge the WEEI.com business with their ESPNBoston.com business and they have instant credibility.

    3) Buy an FM station with a good signal, and have a corporate run station rather than an affiliate. Put on local programing from 10:00am until 6:00 pm. Then slug it out with the other two.

    I think the most likely option is the alliance with WEEI in option 1. Although it does not get Mike and Mike into the Boston market, the fact is they have no other block of programing that would compete against the local stuff here. The issue is exposure. I think option 2 however makes the most sense if I were a bean counter. We will see what happens.

    • Guntfather of Sports Radio

      ESPN radio wants an outlet to at the very least run their morning show live and for 4 hours. They do that in New York, Chicago, Washington, and Philly if I’m not mistaken. The ratings are mixed. WEEI would never go national during drive time. 985 might if Toucher and Rich’s contracts don’t get renewed.

    • Jason

      i wronder what kind of radio espn boston will have

  • Jason Coyote

    Has 890 moved to their new frequency yet? A thought I had over the weekend when I heard that they were FINALLY going to improve their signal strength (in this case by moving to a new spot on the dial) was that the timing of this move underscores why that station was never able to get off the ground.

    If the station management at 890 made this move a year ago perhaps they could’ve kept Felger (he doesn’t go back to EEI) and that afternoon show takes off enough that they can build other local programming around it (like a local show for Russillo instead of him leaving for Bristol). If that happens maybe CBS Radio decides not to flip BCN to sports because now it’s that much harder for them to find a duo for afternoon drive. Now Jessamy Tang and her pals are trying to expand their product after 98.5 has already gotten a foothold in Boston and I can’t see this market–sports-starved as it is–supporting three sports radio stations.