ESPNChicago.com Launches Monday

ESPNChicago_4.8.bmp

As the countdown tells you, in a little more than 3 days, ESPN’s first regional Website, ESPNChicago.com will launch. Monday also happens to be the home opener for the Chicago Cubs. The White Sox home opener is today.

The Chicago-focused online sports destination will feature original content from some of the most familiar names in Chicago sports including former Bears wide receiver Tom Waddle and former Bulls announcer Chuck Swirsky.

ESPN Digital Media is also launching new technology that allows for geo-targeted content and ad insertion in both live audio streaming and downloadable audio. ESPNChicago.com will also make use of existing ABC/ESPN properties in the city including ESPN Radio 1000 and WLS-TV and abc7chicago.com.

Much more in the press release after the jump…


Opening Day: ESPNChicago.com Launches Monday, April 13

Online Destination for Chicago Sports Fans to Feature Exclusive, Original Local Coverage Including a Daily ESPN Chicago SportsCenter

Launch Marks Debut of Dynamic Geo-Targeted Audio Ad Insertion

ESPNChicago.com is set for its own Opening Day on Monday, April 13 just in time for the Chicago Cubs home opener. At launch, the Chicago-focused online sports destination will feature exclusive, original content, a stable of authentic Chicago voices, and customized content integrated from across ESPN’s multiple platforms, branded programming and award-winning contributors.

Building on the 10-year success of ESPN’s flagship owned and operated radio station (ESPN Radio 1000) and its dynamic Web presence, ESPNChicago.com offers a cleaner design and navigation schematic, with a premium on balancing the site’s breadth with ease of use. To organize all of that content, the new site includes a primary navigation bar similar to that of the new ESPN.com (with seven anchor menus, each with expandable rollover menus) and a secondary navigation bar (customized by the site’s editors to include easy access to the most timely topics and sports) on its front page. ESPN Radio 1000, ESPN’s local Chicago radio station, will be included as a subsection on ESPNChicago.com

“We’re excited to be building on the combined successes of both ESPN.com and ESPN Radio 1000 with a new platform for Chicago sports fans,” said Marc Horine, vice president of digital partnerships and sales development for ESPN. “Through a collaborative effort from ESPN Digital Media, ESPN production and ESPN Radio, fans now have a destination for their Chicago sports roundup on-air, online and on-site, and advertisers have a unique opportunity to reach a specific and passionate audience on multiple platforms.”

With the launch, ESPN Digital Media also launches new technology that allows for dynamic, geo-targeted content and ad insertion in both live audio streaming and downloadable audio. The technology will allow for locally relevant content to be delivered in live ESPN Radio streams and free ESPN podcasts (including podcasts available through iTunes), and will allow local and national advertisers to target ads in ESPN audio to Chicago and other markets nationwide.

Charter Advertisers

StubHub is the launch partner for ESPNChicago.com and will be the official ticket provider for the site. Other charter advertising partners include MillerCoors, Hiltons of Chicago, Chicago Lincoln Mercury Dealers and Hawthorne Race Course. They will be the first to take advantage of the new site’s enhanced advertising opportunities, which include more options and increased flexibility; more than double the number of advertising executions on the front page and index pages; and cleaner, bolder ad units.

Enhanced Video

ESPNChicago.com will also be the exclusive home of the daily ESPN Chicago SportsCenter, hosted by SC anchors familiar to Chicago viewers. The video series will feature all things Chicago sports including breaking news and highlights, offering local fans a rundown of their hometown teams and athletes.

The new site will prominently feature a custom Chicago Video Hub, offering a library for the latest highlights and video content about Chicago sports. Additionally, a dynamic 16×9 main engagement area will be featured on the front page, with main index pages that can deliver a rich, integrated video experience and the day’s top videos. High quality video will be integrated throughout the site.

ESPN.com already has the top sports video library online, accounting for nearly 50 percent of total minutes spent with sports video online.

Exclusive, Original Content

As ESPN’s local home for Chicago sports online, ESPNChicago.com will integrate ESPN.com’s Chicago team clubhouse pages in addition to providing top-quality coverage of both the college and professional leagues, including:

• Professional: Bears (NFL), Bulls (NBA), Cubs and White Sox (MLB), Blackhawks (NHL) and Fire (MLS)
• College: Illinois, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Northern Illinois, Southern Illinois, DePaul, Loyola, Illinois-Chicago and Illinois State

The site will also grow to include coverage of Chicago prep sports later this year.

Content, features, highlights and tools on ESPNChicago.com include:

Columnists, Contributors and Bloggers
ESPNChicago.com will feature insights, information and reporting from a lineup of notable Chicago writers and voices, as well as contributions from ESPN’s national experts weighing in on Chicago sports topics. Regular contributors include:

• ESPNChicago.com Editors:
-Kristin Lanning – a former freelance writer for The Chicago Tribune who has spent the past five years leading sports coverage on NBCChicago.com.
– Roman Modrowski – 13-year veteran of The Chicago Sun-Times who has covered the Bulls and Notre Dame and served as the online sports editor for Notre Dame the past five years.
– Keith Sgariglia – a lifelong Chicago native who has been overseeing digital media efforts at ESPN 1000 since June 2000.
– Rahula Strohl – a former producer for ChicagoTribune.com and ChicagoSports.com, Strohl has extensive experience covering the Chicago sports scene and interacting online with fans.

• ESPN Contributors:
– Wayne Drehs – an Emmy-winning senior writer for ESPN.com, where he spent the past eight years on the features and enterprise team. His work has been honored by the Football Writer’s Association and appeared in the Best American Sports Writing. He is a 2000 graduate of the University of Iowa.
– Scoop Jackson – an award-winning journalist who has covered sports and culture for more than 15 years. Jackson, a writer for Page 2, is a former editor of Slam, XXL, Hoop and Inside Stuff magazines and a noted author.
– Gene Wojciechowski – named ESPN.com’s first-ever senior national sports columnist in June 2005. Wojciechowski joined ESPN The Magazine as a senior writer in January 1998, after serving as a college football reporter for ESPN since 1992.
– ESPNChicago.com will also feature contributions from ESPN’s John Clayton, Peter Gammons, Tim Legler and Barry Melrose.

• Columnists:
– Jerry Bonkowski – award-winning sportswriter and lifelong Chicago native returns to ESPN having previously served as NASCAR columnist/writer for ESPN.com from 2001 to 2004. He served 15 years with USA Today and spent the last 4.5 years as National NASCAR Columnist with Yahoo! Sports.
– Jon Greenberg – editor of a sports marketing newsletter and has covered Chicago sports as a freelance writer for the last six years.

• Bloggers:
– Al Cimaglia (Blackhawks) – a lifelong Chicagoan who has covered the Hawks the last three years for HockeyBuzz.com.
– Jeff Dickerson (Bears) – Bears beat reporter for ESPN 1000 and the host of Chicago’s Football Tonight.
– Nick Friedell (All Teams) – has written for MLB.com, The Orlando Sentinel and, most recently, Yahoo! Sports, contributing to their baseball, college basketball and football coverage and serving as lead editor and writer for Yahoo!’s Olympic coverage.
– Bruce Levine (Cubs/Sox) – the popular host of Talkin’ Baseball, heard Saturdays on ESPN 1000 who has also maintained a popular blog for the station.
– Matt McHale (Bulls) – TrueHoop blog network member and the voice behind the popular Bulls blog Bulls By The Horns.
– Chuck Swirsky (Bulls) – radio play-by-play announcer for the Chicago Bulls has more than 20 years of broadcasting experience including stints with University of Michigan basketball and DePaul University.
– Tom Waddle – former wide receiver for the Chicago Bears and currently co-host of Waddle & Silvy, which airs every morning from 9am-1pm on ESPN 1000.

Social Media

• Community: ESPNChicago.com will integrate and build upon the fast-growing ESPN.com community platform to connect fans of Chicago sports both locally and nationally, and will include Fan Profiles, SportsNation live chats, blogs and ESPN Conversations pages. Additionally, fans can get the latest updates on Chicago sports news via social networking platforms, including Facebook, MySpace and Twitter

• Web 2.0 Tools: ESPN’s Sports Travel Passport (providing tools to chronicle sports experiences and memories), an interactive sports calendar and interactive stadium guides.

Mobile

ESPNChicago.com sports content will be integrated across ESPN’s industry-leading mobile Web site, including mobile updates for upcoming guests, press conferences or other breaking news as well as call to action campaigns, interactive polls, trivia contests and more.

Audio

The subsection for ESPN Radio 1000 on ESPNChicago.com will provide an online home for the local sports station. Featured coverage and tools available to fans include robust show pages dedicated to Mike & Mike in the Morning, Waddle & Silvy, Tirico & Van Pelt and the top-rated Afternoon Saloon. Additionally the ESPN 1000 subsection will include local podcasts, blogs, photo galleries, events, live audio/video streaming and contest information for the radio station.

Enhanced Scoreboards

With enhanced scoreboards built into the top of the ESPNChicago.com homepage, fans have immediate access to the Chicago sports scores they’re looking for. For fans that personalize their favorite teams, scores are pushed to the front of the line and highlighted in yellow for fans. Additionally, each sport features a full scoreboard page with game previews and recaps, ESPN Gamecast and more.

Chicago News, Traffic & Weather

ESPNChicago.com will feature local news coverage, video, traffic & weather provided by ABC Owned TV station WLS. The site will also provide links back to abc7chicago.com.