ESPN, Echostar launch ESPN Interactive Zone

By Ken Kerschbaumer

ESPN and Echostar today announced the ESPN Interactive Zone, a new feature for Dish subscribers. “We want to offer interactive TV that doesn’t supplant but rather supplements TV viewing,” says Oke Okaro, ESPN Mobile and Interactive TV senior director. “We don’t expect viewers to want to read long articles on their TV but they will be curious in bite size information about what is going on in other games.”

ESPN says the service will offer sports fans a “dashboard” featuring up to the minute news, scores, standings, and rankings for the major professional and college sports.

The deal is non-exclusive, leaving ESPN the option to port it over to cable operators and other services. “We are bullish on ITV and very excited about as it’s a natural extension of ESPN,” adds Okaro. “ESPN has always been an innovator and over time the platform and capabilities will become richer and hopefully play a role in pushing ITV standards.”

Viewers can launch the ESPN Interactive Zone by clicking on an on-screen button that is available during selected programs on ESPN channels, or from DishHOME Channel 100. Once inside, fans can easily tune in to all ESPN channels available on DISH Network, and check out TV schedule listings for the ESPN channels.

Key features of ESPN Interactive Zone include updated scores for all of the day’s games (before the start of a game, ESPN Interactive Zone will show the game start time); ESPN headline news and stories; an Interactive Bottomline, with scrolling headlines and scores across the bottom of the screen. Fans can select the sport of their choice for immediate access to the information they care about most and a reduced-size video feed allows fans to continue watching ESPN.

ESPN earlier this year debuted a Mosaic service during the Summer X Games and Okaro says it received good usage numbers. The new service, launched on Oct. 4, taps into the data side of the ESPN family, namely related services.

“There are two ways to integrate ITV services,” says Okaro. “One is to get data from a third-party source, deliver it to the operator and then the operator makes it available. The other way, which we’re doing here, is to leverage what we already have and repackage it.”

In terms of revenue Okaro says the system has interactive ads on screen that allow the viewer to request more information. “Over time we’ll explore alternative methods of advertising,” says Okaro.

Eventually, he adds, viewers will be able to create a more personalized experience. On a Sunday morning, for example, a viewer who is joining a fantasy football show late could pull up an interactive menu and preconfigure the system. “You’ll be able to set updates and watch all your players,” he says.

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