ESPN Unveils Social Games, Foursquare-Like App At Upfront

ESPN held its 2010 upfront presentation for media buyers, advertisers and the press Tuesday, and interactivity was at the heart of the show.

While much of the presentation focused on what the network has on its linear channels in the coming year, it also unveiled a number of multiplatform offerings.

The cabler has inked a deal with social gaming company Playdom to develop ESPN-branded sports games on social networks like Facebook and MySpace, as well as and The first two games to come from the partnership will launch in Fall, 2010. One of the games will let players design their own college sports franchise a la Sim City.

“Our deal with Playdom marks ESPN’s first major presence into the social gaming space,” said Raphael Poplock, vice president, games and revenue strategy and development for ESPN Digital Media, in a statement. “The sports genre for this category of games has gone virtually untapped thus far, and through this agreement, we have an opportunity to be in front of a highly engaged audience and at the forefront of what is currently the fastest growing games category out there.”

The network is also entering the location-based social space with its ESPN Passport app. Similar in function to FourSquare and free to download, the app will let users “check in” to sporting events they attend. Users will be encouraged to take photos from their setas and share it with social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, with ESPN aggregating submissions to present a “fan’s perspective” of each game.

More from the upfront after the jump.

Also on tap are dedicated iPhone apps for the ESPN local sites, with Dallas first to go (pictured right), followed by New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston to follow.

The Disney-owned cable network brought in Colin Cowherd and Michelle Beadle, the anchors of its interactive ESPN2 series “SportsNation,” to host the event, with ESPN and ABC Sports president George Bodenheimer and Disney CEO Bob Iger watching on from the audience. It also had demo iPads in the lobby for guests to play around with, and had ESPN3D playing on screens throughout the lobby.

ESPN is looking to leverage the interactivity of “SportsNation” on some of its other channels. ESPNU, the college sports-centric network, will launch “U:Nite” in Spring, 2011, with social media at the core of the program. Fans will debate one another via video chat, guests will share YouTube clips and highlights, and other interactive features are in the works for when the program launches.

Publish date: May 18, 2010 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT