If you head over to espn.com right now you’ll see lead stories of baseball streaks and slumps at the beginning of the season.
Out of the five stories contained in the main story area on the front page, four are accessible only to ESPN’s “in” members.
I think paid subscriptions is a good business model for many websites. For some sites it means no advertisements, for others it means premium content (a la espn.com). Either way, you’re usually diversifying revenue sources (generally, it means a site is not relying solely on ads). Slow sports news day or not, pushing your paid service by using the main content area such as this has to be as much of a turn-off to most of the audience as it is a turn-on to new members.
So is having however many new signups worth driving others away? For espn.com, I’d say the answer is most likely yes. Sports sites, and certainly ones like espn.com, can be extremely sticky. News sites in general have large return audiences and sports fans can be rabid. Chances are a one-day (or just a few hour) push to attract new paid members won’t do anything to traffic long-term. Sending some users to alternatives like Sportsline, Fox Sports or Sports Illustrated on a day where little is happening shouldn’t have any impact on tomorrow. However, if ESPN were to continue it’s push for a few consecutive days they might start to see a decline in traffic, at least for a brief period of time.
Everyone already hates the Yankees, I know that being a Yankees fan. David Schoenfield hates the Yankees too, but he’s starting to hate the Red Sox as well. Schoenfeld lists his 86 reasons for hating the Sox on ESPN.com’s Page 2.
One game, one complaint and it took all of two batters to happen. ESPN2 is airing the opening game of the baseball season, Red Sox at Yankees, which I’m sure you’ve heard about 1000 times by now. Well, Edgar Renteria is the second batter of the game, and he takes a pitch. ESPN whips out their nifty K-Zone to show us the location of a pitch Renteria didn’t swing at (to make him 1-2). The audience then proceeds to miss the strikeout pitch.
ESPN did not make the same mistake when the next batter, Manny Ramirez, struck out as well.
Update: Tino Martinez comes in to play first base for Jason Giambi. In his first inning of action he makes a great play to end the inning. The Tino-loving Bronx crowd goes nuts. Instead of being treated to a replay (and all I’m asking for is one), we get to see Sam Ryan introducing Fat Joe for ESPN’s new “Soundcheck” segment. Yipee. We don’t see a replay when they come back from commercial either. Go
Here it is, past midnight and FSNY and MSG are both gone from the Time Warner channel lineup. The guide says they’ve been replaced by CSTV (College Sports TV) and NBA TV, although both channels seem to both be NBA TV right now.
There’s no hockey, and I don’t watch too many Knicks or Mets games, so I’m not bothered by losing these two channels all too much other than being annoyed that these two companies have again locked NYers out of their sports channels.
I have both NBA TV and CSTV already, so this is no bonus to me by any means. CSTV usually shows college hockey on Friday nights for those that are interested (although nothing is scheduled this Friday), so if this blackout lasts long enough NYers will probably see more hockey than they would have with FSNY and MSG.
Of course - the reason I have the package that NBA TV and CSTV are included in is for the Fox Sports College stations (there are three, Atlantic, Central and Pacific). I subscribe to those for the good amount of college hockey those stations broadcast. Those are gone now as well with a message that I’ll be credited for those stations until this is resolved. The credit is $3.45 per month, the package is $3.95 per month. While it’s only 50 cents a month to wait it out, there’s not much college hockey left, and there’s not much of a reason for me to continue on with a package I won’t watch anyway, even when it does return. I’ll just see what my options are in the fall.
When you have a menu with as many options as ESPN.com does, it’s probably a good move. It brings more visibility to the options towards the end, and with the dropdown menus you have more choices available in just one click (by having the submenus available for each sport on all pages).
What’s interesting is that the NHL is #4 on the list when ordering from left to right (same as Sportsline and Fox Sports) - probably a permanent spot (I hope). ESPN generally moved around their menu orders depending on season. I hope they stick with the non-moving menu.
Ordering for those interested:
ESPN - NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL
Sportsline - NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL
Fox Sports - NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL
What a new format like this does, besides being able to give you easier menu access and looking a little better, is that it gives you more screen space to work with for the content itself. They can use the space for anything, including stats, pictures - and possibly some different ad formats.
Besides the articles on the inside, the scores for the NBA are also in the newer format. I’d assume more of the site is expected to change over soon. Perhaps Reemer, ESPN.com employee, can fill us in more.
1UP takes a look at this year’s baseball games:
EA’s MVP Baseball 2005, Take-Two’s Major League Baseball 2K5, and Sony’s MLB 2006
Sony’s game is PS2-only, while the other two are available for Xbox, and only MVP on GameCube. Pennant Chase Baseball will also be coming out for GameCube, but there’s no solid release date right now. Mario Baseball is a baseball alternative for GameCube.
For another baseball game round-up, check out GameSpot.
I’ll be picking up MVP or 2K5 for Xbox, hitting up Xbox Live hard. Just have to co-ordinate with friends to make sure we all pick up the same one. Drop me a line if you’ve played any of them and have a suggestion.
Jason Giambi has one place to go to avoid heavy criticism all year long: the top.
If he’s not on the top of his game, Oakland A’s MVP-type numbers, all he’s going to hear are steroids jabs, and if he’s actually playing first at Yankee Stadium, it’ll be chants of “Tino, Tino…”
I was never a fan of the Yankees not re-signing Tino Martinez and paying a ton to bring in Giambi, but even I have to say: let’s give him some time.
We can argue all we want about how taking steroids is cheating and that Giambi is in a large circle of previous steroid users in baseball who deserve a lot of the condemnation they get, but Giambi is obviously in the group of people who have had steroids affect more than just their baseball game. While there’s been no research done, I think it’s pretty safe to say taking steroids has not helped Giambi stay healthy. He’s now another year older, and recovering from some pretty serious health issues last year. Expectations cannot be high. Without his grand jury testimony, he’d be just another “steroids suspect”, and we’d be focusing on his healthy. Now, people are just saying “he can’t do it without the ‘roids”, and while that may be a fair statement, it’s not too fair to look at someone who’s turning 34, coming off of injury and illness, and expect him to reproduce career years at 29-30.
I happen to think if he’s given a shot, he may be able to put together a decent season. .290s, 30HRs. Not worth his salary, but not bad numbers.
Dayn Perry at Fox Sports thinks Giambi will be something in between the old and new.
PJ at Sharkspage informs us we can watch last night’s SEL Farjestad vs Modo matchup.
This is another free preview weekend from ESPN’s broadband “channel”. ESPN 360 hasn’t changed from ESPN Broadband’s model of having the ISP be the one that needs to subscribe to the service, not the user. They’re hoping the free previews push enough users to contact their ISPs I’m guessing, but it doesn’t seem like they’re pushing the preview enough for that, so perhaps it’s only for some testing and feedback at this time.
Darren Rovell on espn.com is reporting that EA, ESPN announce 15-year gaming partnership. This comes a little over a month after EA signed an exclusive rights deal with the NFL and NFLPA (CNN Money’s Game Over article about the deal).
The EA-ESPN deal starts in 2006 (there is one year left on the deal between ESPN and Sega) and is for all of EA’s sports titles.
While ESPN branding certainly isn’t as powerful as exclusive rights, it certainly can’t hurt EA and is leaving Sega in a very tough spot for future games. Visual Concepts, Sega’s sports studio, did not return calls to Rovell.
Sports gamers are now left waiting to see if any real competition will exist in the sports gaming marketplace in two years. The future looks bleak for football games (which outsell baseball and basketball games combined) and with now having to re-brand its games Sega could be in a very rough spot.
Let’s look at the video games from the other three major team sports, with the criteria being it’s licensed from the league and union (real teams and players), is available on at least one major console (PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube):
MVP Baseball (EA)
ESPN Major League Baseball 2K5 (Sega, soon to be sans ESPN)
MLB 2006 (Sony’s 989 Studios, only available on the PS2)
MLB SlugFest: Loaded (Midway; no announcement of new game for this season, Slugfest came out mid-season last year)
All-Star Baseball from Acclaim is dead (Acclaim went bankrupt)
NBA Live 2005 (EA)
NBA Street V3 (EA)
ESPN NBA 2K5 (Sega…)
NCAA March Madness 2005 (EA)
ESPN College Hoops 2K5 (Sega…)
NBA Ballers (Midway; and this was released towards the end of last season, there doesn’t appear to be a new title for this season)
NHL 2005 (EA)
ESPN NHL 2K5 (Sega…)
Gretzky NHL 2005 (989 Studios, PS2-only)
My guess is this list may thin out over the next couple of years. Sure, there are PC simulators, and handheld and mobile games coming out, but the consoles are where the market is.
Update (Jan 19th): From gamesindustry.biz - Publisher Take Two, whose plans for its sports game franchise have been hard hit by a string of exclusive license deals announced by rival Electronic Arts, may be in talks to sign a similar exclusive with Major League Baseball.
However, unlike EA’s dominant Madden franchise, their NBA Live games doesn’t have the same sort of market share and there are multiple basketball games that compete with it and most likely would have been a moneyloser for the NBA.
After the NFL deal one non-EA publisher was able to extend their MLB deal to at least three more games, quieting rumors that EA was trying to get an exclusive deal with the MLB as well.