ESPN to Launch ‘Absolute A’ Ad Offering

The newly rechristened is set to unveil its version of a digital advertising grand slam.

During ESPN’s upfront presentation on Tuesday (May 18) the network plans to introduce to advertisers what it’s calling the “Absolute A position,” an ad offering which combines a pre-roll video ad with a high-impact, homepage-takeover-styled display ad. But what makes the Absolute A unique is that the ad placement leverages’s new ability to dynamically serve ads into live video content.

Previously, executives from the digital network (formerly were required to manually insert ads into live-game footage, and viewers saw whatever ads were running at the time they tuned into a live Webcast. Now, with Absolute A, has the capability to ensure that all viewers see the same ad as soon as they log onto the site.

That theoretically allows ESPN to sell advertisers on the promise of reaching the entirety of’s audience for a given live event—such as a live college football games or NBA playoff contest. “The Absolute A allows us to not only target content but literally target actual user sessions,” said Lisa Valentino ESPN’s vp of digital and mobile ad sales. “You can’t make these kind of guarantees in any other medium.”

Thus, ESPN is looking to charge a healthy premium for the Absolute A, which will debut during the 2010 FIFA World Cup on June 11—though Valentino declined to discuss pricing. Until now, few live events if any have featured dynamic—i.e. on the fly—ad insertion. Instead most networks when streaming live events either allow ads from linear TV to run as they are broadcast, or they elect to strip out TV ads and manually insert Web-only video ads.

In the case of Absolute A, besides featuring 15- or 30-second spots, Valentino said the ad will encompass a “pretty dramatic display takeover,” including ad messaging that covers the video player during the duration of the video, along with other elements, depending on the advertiser (the network will frequently cap the placement, so users don’t become inundated).

“All of our sponsors are going to have pretty deep integrations,” said Valentino. “It really is about innovating beyond the traditional commercial.”