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ESPN's NY Web site will make its debut April 2

The company announced Thursday that ESPNNewYork.com will debut

The company announced Thursday that ESPNNewYork.com will debut next Friday. Photo Credit: Screengrab

Usually, ESPN's plans for world domination come in the form of national and international initiatives, often bold, flashy ones.

But one of its most closely followed recent projects has been a series of locally oriented Web sites in major markets, now coming to the most major market of all.

The company announced Thursday that ESPNNewYork.com will debut next Friday - timed for the Yankees-Red Sox opener two days later - joining sites in Chicago, Boston, Dallas and Los Angeles.

Jim Pastor, senior VP and general manager of ESPN Local, said the response elsewhere has exceeded expectations.

But he acknowledged that New York is a unique test of the concept, given its size and heavily entrenched existing local sports media.

Not that that necessarily means trying to drive business away from the Web sites of newspapers and local cable TV stations, who naturally are wary of the threat posed by ESPN.

On the contrary, Pastor said, the more established the local Internet marketplace is, the more accepting of it advertisers will be.

"No one is cheering harder for newspapers and and other broadcasters than I am right now,'' he said.

Perhaps so, but journalistically, the site does intend to challenge existing coverage of New York teams. Leon Carter, its executive editor, will hire daily beat reporters to cover the Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets and Knicks. Others on the staff will handle hockey, soccer, colleges and other sports.

ESPN has not announced any names, but Ian O'Connor is expected to be a columnist and Adam Rubin, famously a target of a televised verbal attack from Omar Minaya last summer, will cover the Mets.

In addition to articles, the site will include a daily New York-focused SportsCenter video, podcasts and interactive features.

Coincidentally, the launch of ESPNNewYork.com comes a few weeks before The Wall Street Journal plans to deploy beat writers for New York teams in a new local sports section.

The net effect will be more jobs for sportswriters in an era when that is rare, as well as more sources of information for New York fans.

"People in other markets are thinking about cutting back,'' Carter said. "So it's good to see that's not happening in New York.''

The New York site will have similarities to the other four, but "I can assure you it will have a New York feel,'' said Carter, a copy editor at Newsday from 1984-92 and later the Daily News' sports editor for 10 years.

ESPNNewYork.com will stick to major sports and not take on newspapers such as Newsday when it comes to one of their bastions: hyper-local events such as high school games. For now.

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