What’s a bigger and bolder word for “empire”? That’s what ESPN is

In a New York Times article looking at Rupert Murdoch’s plan to take on ESPN (good luck with that), the word “empire” comes across as an understatement when describing the breadth of ESPN’s domain:

It [ESPN] is a true empire, with eight domestic cable channels; the ESPN3 broadband network; the Web sites ESPN.com and Grantland.com; a radio network; digital properties like ESPNw, which focuses on women’s sports; a magazine; the WatchESPN app, which enables viewing of ESPN on computers, smartphones and tablets; and ownership of the Global X Games, college basketball tournaments and seven bowl games.

Other ESPN bits and pieces:

  • There’s an entire corporate website dedicated to ESPN’s inner workings.
  • The Internet is a wonderful thing. I searched for “who is the guy who does the SportsCenter voiceovers” and discovered it’s Chris Kelley. You can see him here and listen to an interview about his rise to voiceover power here. (It must be unnerving to get a tour of this guy’s house. “This! … is the dining room. And this! … is the lanai” dun-huh-Nuh dun-huh-Nuh!)
  • One last thing: My O’Reilly colleague Joe Wikert wrote an interesting piece last year that deconstructed ESPN’s content strategy. It’s a good read.

Notable things: The WatchESPN app and the multi-screen buffet; you built the app, but will people use it? (probably not); the retirement of Fireman Ed

This was a big weekend for college football. It seemed like every channel — including all the flavors of ESPN — had a game, and many of them were worth watching. It’s the kind of weekend that destroys the “last” button on remotes.

Someone in ESPN’s marketing department came up with a clever solution to this abundance problem. Rather that catch a few plays on one game and flip over to another, you could watch a game on your television and monitor another game through the WatchESPN app on your tablet or phone. It’s picture-in-picture, only you’re holding the small screen in your hands.

ESPN pushed this set-up hard during the prime time Notre Dame vs USC game on Saturday (that game was on ABC, but ESPN and ABC are both owned by Disney so they do a weird “ESPN on ABC” co-branding thing for big games).

I’m not much of a college football fan — I think it’s a lightweight version of real football — but I was tempted to fire up the WatchESPN app on my iPad.

What’s more important is that ESPN planted the seed. I have a Slingbox, so I rely on that for most of my TV streaming. There are times, however, when the Slingbox-connected television is being used for other things (“Curious George” is in heavy rotation). The WatchESPN app never crossed my mind, but now it will.

The marketing worked, dammit.

Moreover, it’s only a matter of time before I take multi-screen viewing to its logical conclusion: one game on the TV, one on the iPad, and a laptop fired up to browse the web. My router better limber up.

(Somewhat related sidenote: I’d love to ditch cable as much as everyone else, but there’s no way that’s going to happen if I can’t watch live sports in high definition on my preferred devices. Until the sports blockade is disrupted, all this cable-cutting hoopla is just gobble, gobble turkey.)

Fred Wilson on why it’s no longer enough to build an app that people download:

you need to master the “download app, use app, keep using app, put it on your home screen” flow and that is a hard one to master. [Emphasis added.]

The home screen is a popular neighborhood and the dock is the best street in town.

Fireman Ed will no longer attend Jets games as Fireman Ed.

What does that transition entail, exactly? Ditch the helmet? Go jersey-free? Sit quietly during J-E-T-S chants?

Related: Deadspin has the final word on the Fireman Ed “retirement”