I missed the Chicago-Philadelphia football game last night, so this morning I went online to check the score. On a whim I decided to type MondayNightFootball.com into my browser bar, thinking that there was a chance it might lead me to what I was looking for.
The domain directed me to a page on ESPN's website. At the top of the page was an error message that said, "The URL you requested does not exist, but you may be interested in the content below." That content below was a list of search results for the query "NFL." Since the domain redirected to an ESPN URL, I checked out the WHOIS records and found out that ESPN does indeed own MondayNightFootball.com – or at least, ABC Sports, Inc. owns the domain, and ABC and ESPN are both owned by the Walt Disney Company.
That made sense to me, given that ESPN has been broadcasting Monday Night Football since 2006. Out of curiosity, I went over to Google and searched "Monday Night Football," The first result? ESPN's Monday Night Football page, located at espn.go.com/nfl/mnf. So if ESPN owns the domain name MondayNightFootball.com, why doesn't it redirect the domain to the section of its website devoted to Monday Night Football?
According to Compete, the domain MondayNightFootball.com gets, on average, roughly 500 unique visitors per month, and peaks at around 1,600 visitors per month during football season. Based on our own research, we have found Compete grossly underestimates traffic to some domains, so this number could actually be higher. But what this means is, with a simple redirect, ESPN could drive, at minumim, an extra 500 to 1,600 people to its Monday Night Football page without having to create any new content at all.
I also checked on MNF.com, the abbreviation that ESPN uses both in its URL and in its television broadcasts. ESPN does not own that domain, which currently points to a pay-per-click site. During the off-season, MNF.com only gets around 200 unique visitors per month, but during the fall, traffic jumps to over 3,000 visitors per month. Many Internet users favor shorter domains (think AE.com for American Eagle Outfitters or UA.com for Under Armour), so it's not surprising that football fans type in MNF.com about twice as much as MondayNightFootball.com during football season.
If ESPN were to acquire MNF.com and redirect both that domain and MondayNightFootball.com to its existing Monday Night Football page, it could boost its traffic by approximately 4,000 monthly visitors (at least) during the NFL season. While this number is tiny compared to the total MNF audience, it represents a boost that ESPN could gain without any extra promotion or content development. The traffic figures also show that these domains are likely to be highly intuitive to a broader audience as well. This dual redirection strategy would allow the sports media leader to build up its MNF brand without losing the folks who prefer to type in MondayNightFootball.com.
And that means Monday Night Football's next big winner could be ESPN itself.
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