ESPN.com's year-long revamp is finally ready today and set for its formal debut on January 5. Aside from emphasizing video and smarter search, as execs have said over the past few months in previews, execs at the Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS) sports unit tells the NYT that the site's over-arching ethos is all about reducing ad clutter. As John Skipper, ESPN's EVP for content, explains: "If we are frustrating people, they're not going to spend as much time as we want on the site." Some of the key changes include:
-- The revamped home page has done away with the big block of 36 links at the top of the home page, and reduced it to 19 tabs for Fantasy (a rollover unveils about 16 sub-categories), NFL (which unfolds to offer eight links that take users to the "scoreboard" or "blog network") and a More tab, which has 20 links to areas such as Olympics, poker and cricket news.
-- With less links taking up space on the site, advertisers are getting more display options. The most popular pages will feature eight spots for advertisers, instead of the usual three. Next month, ESPN.com will add a new ad choice for video that will largely be targeted to movie studios. And in a sign that Ford believes it will survive the current financial crisis gripping its Detroit competitors, it has signed up as the revamped site's initial sponsor.
-- ESPN.com is also creating more spaces for user customization, such as personalizing what scores are displayed.
By David Kaplan