ESPN continues to make it's pivot to becoming the most powerful network on TV. Already as it stands, ESPN is the most expensive network for cable operators to carry. It is also more often than not, one of the top 10 most watched cable networks on television. Now according to Variety, it is teaming up with the History Channel to promote it's new show "Vikings":
On Monday, executives at the sports-media empire will take a vested interest in helping a general-entertainment cable network launch the second season of one of its most successful scripted dramas. When ESPN fans use any of the company’s outlets today, they are likely to find promotions for History’s “Vikings,” in the form of mobile-page and web-page “takeovers” on ESPN digital properties, and, of course, in TV ads on ESPN and ESPN2 featuring veteran Kenny Mayne and Vikings character “The Seer” in three different spots touting the series. ESPN is also including print ads for the series in the March 3rd issue of ESPN The Magazine.As part of the agreement, ESPN also set up a large replica of a Viking ship at it's annual Super Bowl party. It's pretty weird for a TV network to be encouraging it's viewers to tune in to another network but it all makes sense to me. ESPN wants to use it's influence to control some of the ad dollars which are going to hit cable dramas such as "The Walking Dead" and "Breaking Bad".
This move is something which should be watched closely because of how much power ESPN can yield in the sports world and in the television world. I wouldn't be surprised if we continued to see this kind of cross-promotion between ESPN and A&E Networks which both share the same owners (Hearst and Disney). Coming soon: you might hear the Wahlberg brothers (A&E reality stars) calling a Celtics game on ESPN with Bill Simmons.
If this formula works, don't be surprised if the parent companies decide to change the corporate structure of these companies and move A&E and it's family of networks under ESPN Inc. This is just the beginning of ESPN's push to moving beyond producing sports programming.