Bill Simmons--who pens "ESPN.com's The Sports Guy" on the popular online site, as well as a column in ESPN The Magazine--voices his own character for the animated series, which debuts on Nov. 24 on ESPN.com. The series consists of 11 one-minute episodes, and is produced in conjunction with Funny Garbage, the New York and Los Angeles-based production company behind Comedy Central's prime-time puppet show "Crank Yankers."
The animated comedy series marks ESPN.com's first foray into original entertainment programming for the Web. "The launch of 'ESPN.com's The Sports Guy' marks the beginning of a new way that ESPN.com can serve its fans with the best, most distinctive content and voice. We're excited about the prospects for original entertainment video content on ESPN.com, and all that we can do with the technology and the platform," said John Papanek, senior vice president and editorial director, ESPN New Media, in an e-mail message.
The Web shorts feature Simmons' sports fan character, and are peppered with Simmons' experiences as a fan and a writer. Simmons is a former writer for ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live." Promotions for the free series ran on ESPN Motion on Nov. 19. Ads flagging the series will also run on the ESPN.com home page and the site's "Page 2" section home page; ads on ESPN cable were also planned.
ESPN.com offered a sneak peak of two clips from the series on Nov. 18 during the "Battle for the Heart" online creative event in New York organized by Jaffe LLC, an online creative and media consultancy. ESPN.com said the series does not yet have a sponsor, but that it is in discussions with several potential sponsors in the auto and quick service restaurant categories, and existing advertisers that are considering extending their online ad buys. After its Nov. 24 debut, the animated series will run weekly on Thursdays.
Apart from ESPN.com, original content for the Web is beginning to sprout up elsewhere. AtomShockwave has been an innovator in offering short, original content online; Yahoo!, which recently hired Lloyd Braun, a former ABC TV executive, is quietly working to nail licensing deals for original content. Yahoo! has also looked to secure exclusive, never-before-seen footage of popular TV shows and specials; this fall the online network secured a deal with Mark Burnett's popular NBC show "The Apprentice" to air exclusive behind-the-scenes footage. Braun began his new gig as head of Yahoo!'s media and entertainment division on Nov. 15.