X-Games Mark the Future Spot for ESPN Multiplatforms

By Carl Lindemann

ESPN’s coverage of the X Games comes at an interesting juncture in
digital media according to Mike Colangelo, ESPN’s coordinating Producer
for digital content. “This is payoff year (for digital media),” he says. “There have been lots of
promises, and this year everyone’s stepping up. The technology is one
thing and it’s now matched with content and both are merging right now
especially around mobile platforms. As people discover there’s value in
product, they will invest in the technology.”

The numbers support Colangelo’s sense that digital sports media is at a
turning point in 2007. Video plays on ESPN.com have gone from 68.5
million clips in May, 2006 to 110.5 million in May, 2007. That’s a hefty
hike in traffic that may mark the transition from early adopters to
mainstream acceptance. Whether or not the long-promised boom is here, one
thing is becoming clear: people like to use digital media. This
gives a window into what the future may hold as the bitrates get higher
and compression continues to improve and a whole new world of options are
available.

“What we’re seeing here is what may be the predecessor to IPTV, we’re
looking at the future of TV. Kids in college now are watch multiple
channels of live sports to follow Cricket, Aussie Rules football…getting
high bitrates to deliver HD in people’s homes plugging into plasma
screens is the ultimate,” Colangelo said.

The X Games are a bellweather because of the age bracket that interest.
These aren’t just the early adopters, they’re the generation raised with
the technology.

“My earliest media memories are the arrival of the cable box in the 70’s.
We’re talking about a rising generation that doesn’t remember when they
couldn’t get video on their phone,” he said.

Colangelo is now in the thick of providing multiple platform delivery of
X Game content for EXPN.com, ESPN360.com, and ESPN mobile platforms
including ESPN Mobile TV and ESPN MVP. That may prove as exciting is the
aftermath – analyzing the audience response and mapping out strategy from
it. With ESPN360 relaunching on the MOVE Network platform, the quality
will hopefully drive the quantity of the audience. Still, new horizons
will continue to beckon for some time.

“I can’t wait till we go 16×9. As bandwidth opens up, there’s nothing
that can stop (digital media),” Colangelo said.