The Walt Disney Company-owned sports TV broadcaster ESPN is looking to extend its brand to television sets after reportedly holding preliminary talks with major consumer electronics manufacturers.

If it does hook up with a TV-maker, ESPN will add to its already lucrative merchandising stable of poker tables, games and even a bicycle. Its parent offers several Disney TV sets through retail giant Wal-Mart.

Disney ceo-in-waiting Robert Iger says: "Brand value will become more important than ever, as consumers are now fragmented to such a great degree that brands must build a new relationship with them. Content will remain king, while technology will become its powerful prime minister."

ESPN could also offer special content to owners of its TVs. As digital sets begin to enter the market with standard Ethernet connections and inbuilt personal video recorders, there will be more opportunities for content providers to offer programming to a captive audience.

Says digital technology analyst Richard Doherty: "An ESPN-branded TV could arrive tuned to ESPN. It would be dumb to send out a TV with a built-in PVR if the PVR was empty."

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by WARC staff