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ESPN Teaming With YouTube for 'SportsCenter' Stunt
Social media blitz by sports network
By Jon Lafayette -- Broadcasting & Cable, 8/30/2010 12:36:09 PM
Who doesn't want to appear in a highlight on SportsCenter? Now you might get your chance.

ESPN is getting ready to launch a tie-in between SportsCenter and YouTube in which fans will be able to submit sports highlights featuring themselves or their families and the best of them will wind up on the network's flagship program, said John Kosner, senior VP and general manager for digital media.

The deal is one of the first examples of ESPN working with one of the major social media platforms on a commercial program, according to Kosner. It was unclear whether ESPN has landed a sponsor for the program.

"It's early. There is a lot of ad sales interest in social media programs on ESPN.com and on ESPN Mobile," Kosner said. In addition to YouTube, ESPN is talking about commercial programs with Facebook and Twitter, he added.

Sports fans are turning to social media as a way to discuss games and trade information about their favorite teams and players, and sports programmers are increasingly finding ways to make it easy for viewers to access social networks while consuming games and other content.

"What's really changing is fans' desire to create their own content. And that can be being on a message board, or sending a photo on Facebook, playing a game or a variety of games, sharing information. That's becoming a big part of the online usage story and it's certainly coming to sports," Kosner said

ESPN linked up with Facebook during the NFL draft. That enabled fans following the draft on ESPN.com to indicate which players and teams they liked and have that news go directly onto their Facebook newsfeeds.

ESPN also implemented live Facebook chats that were open to either a viewer's friends or to all Facebook users.

ESPN also implemented Facebook chant as part of its World Cup coverage.

"We'll do more of that," Kosner said, adding that more elements of the Facebook social-media took kit will be popping up on ESPN.com.

ESPN is also about to launch a sports social game called ESPNU College Town. The game has been created by Playdom, which was recently acquired by ESPN parent the Walt Disney Co.

The game allows fans to build their own college campuses and works sort of like a student-athletic version of the Sims, Kosner says.

ESPN expects most of its participants to arrive via Facebook, and adds that EPSN plans a have promotional push both on ESPN TV channels as well as on Facebook to drive sports fans to participate in the game.