The New York Times reports that ESPN, after a successful launch of its local sports Web site concept in Chicago, is adding three more markets: New York, Los Angeles and Dallas. The Dallas site launches this fall, while New York and LA will start in early 2010. Fifteen staffers are being added for the three sites, which will obviously be operating “mean n’ lean.”
Longer term, ESPN promises to eventually provide local coverage across the U.S., and will be getting progressively “hyperlocal” as it builds, with high school sports coverage, including photos and video, from user-generated content. Eventually, it could also add international markets, since ESPN operates in 200 countries. There is no discussion of adding coverage and promotion from its sister ABC affiliates, but that is always an obvious synergy.
ESPN has also looked to cross-promote its local efforts. A deal was recently signed with The Huffington Post, which has similar local aspirations for its news and commentary sites.
Some observers suggest that ESPN’s site, which is basically a buildup of local radio efforts for the Disney-owned vertical, is taking aim at transitioning readers from local newspaper coverage. ComScore puts ESPN Chicago as the top sports site in the Windy City with about 590,000 unique visitors in June. The Chicago Tribune‘s sports section is second with 455,000 unique visitors. ComScore’s analysis, however, is that the users are coming from different sources and there isn’t much overlap at this point.