JC / Railbird

Going Local

ESPN goes after local sports markets:

[A]fter a promising test run in Chicago, ESPN is adding local offshoots to three more cities. On Monday, ESPN, which is owned by the Walt Disney Company, plans to announce local Web sites in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas — in what executives say is only the “first inning” of their effort to provide hyperlocal sports coverage in cities across the country.

What might the network’s expansion mean for racing in those cities? The ESPN Chicago site, which launched less than three months ago, is already drawing more traffic than the Chicago Tribune’s online sports section and attracting steady advertisers, including local racetracks. For marketing, that’s a positive. But coverage could be another matter: While the Chicago site does have a piece up about Arlington jockey E. T. Baird, who recently won his 2000th race, it appears to lack any links to ongoing reporting of local racing.

Related: Sports Business Journal runs a four-part piece this week on the changing sports media scene. In the lead article, Bill King reports on reduced newspaper coverage and how that’s pushing sports to innovate; in a sidebar, King takes a closer look at motorsports and golf coverage. “There are more words being written about golf, even with these cutbacks, than before,” PGA Tour VP Ty Votaw tells King. “It’s just a question of: Are as many people reading it?” The same could be asked of racing these days.

6:45 PM Addendum: ESPN expansion is good news for fans, not so great for newspapers, and that’s nothing to lament; Dan Shanoff explains why ESPN moving into local sports news is such a big deal.