ESPN Grabs From Cybersquatter

Four of the first five ESPN local sports news websites are now online. New York will complete ESPN’s initial online foray into covering local sports by launching in the first half of 2010. Already up: L.A., Dallas, Boston and Chicago.

ESPN's Local Market Sites

Several media sources have told me that ESPN soon plans to launch sites in other markets, but the network has yet to make public what its intentions. This week I heard, out of the blue and unsolicited, from a South Florida media source that could soon be targeted by the net, noting that print media reporters are already “positioning” themselves for the eventuality.

I emailed ESPN PR Guy Josh Krulewitz about what I’d heard. His reply: “We’ve only committed to the five cities to date and continue to review opportunities individually. Obviously we feel the local thing can potentially grow over time, but nothing specific is planned beyond New York (which is on deck).

My South Florida source also said that when selecting markets, ESPN leans to cities that already have an owned & operated ESPN radio station in place. ESPN’s Krulewitz also addressed that:

In terms of radio, having a local-owned radio station gives us an existing local presence, cross-platform content and a sales arm, but as evidence by us launching, owning a station in a market is not necessarily a condition to launch a local web site.

ESPN does not own a station in the Miami market, but now we know that wouldn’t prevent the network from launching

That’s all interesting, but has ESPN actually tipped its hand about having interest in the online Miami market?

As of just over a month ago, the domain name was still up for sale by a woman named Marielena Abruna. Abruna made her intentions known on at least one site, inviting visitors to “make offer”.

I contacted Bruna to see if ESPN had contacted here, and not surprisingly, she said yes.

In another not-so-shocking revelation, Bruna, who owns 328 other domains (!), said that ESPN’s contact was a demand that she transfer the domain to the network - per cybersquatting laws.

ESPN already contacted me. They sent me a certified letter. It was mainly legal stuff about cybersquatting etc.. Infringement. I had to release the name to them otherwise they were going to proceed with legal action. I do not know if what they did was legal, but I signed the form.

It does not indicate what the site was going to be used for.

I consulted two cybersquatting legal experts and they concurred that ESPN had every right to demand transfer of the domain name after paying registration and transfer costs.

Sucks for the lady though, she probably thought she had a lotto ticket waiting to happen.

I emailed Krulewitz for a response on ESPN’s legal manuever and he said the network had no comment at this time.

So does my Miami media source info coupled with ESPN’s recent legal action to acquire mean that ESPN will soon be launching the site? Absolutely not. But ESPN’s recent action in acquiring the domain - at the very least - indicates the 305 is on Bristol’s radar.