Under the application, ESPN takes over a channel on the satellite operator, where it creates a "mosaic" with six small "screens." Each offers a different action simultaneously. Viewers are given multiple opportunities to toggle between the various feeds, and to access content from sponsors.
An animated video unit will run in the mosaic's upper right, and viewers can click through to an advertiser's branded microsite. The interactivity then continues as advertisers can offer additional click-through options, such as the opportunity to search for the nearest retail location.
"They really like to reach consumers one-on-one and give them more information," says Jeff Siegel, ESPN senior vice president, regional sales, direct response and emerging media.
Siegel adds that marketers are attracted to the more definitive metrics the opportunity provides, where Dish can track viewership patterns and click-throughs.
The linear ESPN feed will simulcast the ads that run on that network. On the other mini-channels, the four advertisers will run in equal rotation. The advertisers are also receiving exposure, as ESPN offers X Games coverage on other platforms--including VOD provided by multiple cable operators, the broadband video site ESPN360.com and ESPN's mobile outlet.
In past iTV initiatives with Dish, which is in 13 million homes, ESPN has signed two to three advertisers. For the Winter X Games starting tomorrow, four are on board: the Navy, Microsoft's Zune portable music device, HDTV marketer Olevia and Jeep.
Navy plans to use its microsite to offer recruitment features, such as a video of Navy Seals in action.
ESPN has partnered with Dish before for the Winter X Games, along with the Summer X Games, plus golf and auto racing. College football could be next for iTV, as well as "Monday Night Football," although that would involve rights negotiations with the NFL.
With the mosaic Dish channel, viewers can watch the six mini-screens all at once or opt to fill the full screen with just one image. The six feeds will include the standard ESPN linear broadcast, along with others produced specifically for the Dish channel--each with its own announcers and unique content. Among them is a feed dedicated to snowboarding, another to freestyle skiing and a Best of X Games.
When ESPN covers events on multiple platforms, it refers to it as "liquid content." Describing the X Games packages, Siegel says it is "liquid advertising."