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Stations Set to Tackle ESPN's Local Push

With ESPN poised to launch local sites in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas, TV station executives are worried. ESPN's entry into those markets could not come at a worse time for the stations, where staffs have been downsized and sports reports have been shrinking.

Local TV outlets nationwide have increasingly found their niche in high school sports. ESPN has expressed interest in boosting its teen coverage on the local sites ad is hiring about a dozen staffers for the sites, relying on its20local radio personnel. That may be a relief to station brass. "If you're going to be at the high school level, you need relationships with the teams and the coaches," which ESPN won't have, says one general manager.

Some wonder if ESPN's cozy relationships with the pro leagues will mean better access than what stations get. "Since they're broadcast partners with those leagues, will they be under the same Draconian rules that we are about using video and stills on the Web," says KDAF Dallas News Director David Duitch. An NFL rep says the ESPN sites are "subject to the same restrictions" as other media outlets.



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