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ESPN scores on mobile, amid a plethora of big events

Coverage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, NBA Finals, NBA Draft, U.S. Open, Wimbledon, and MLB?s regular season propelled ESPN in the digital-sports category. Bristol, CT-based ESPN reached 80.7 million unique users across computers, smartphones and tablets, a single-month record, and a 56 percent jump from a year ago. The results highlight the sports fan?s growing appetite for mobile-delivered content, and especially for big events.

?As devices proliferate and people spend more and more time on their smartphones, on their tablets, you do get this confluence of activity anchored around these premium events which certainly drive a huge amount of interest and huge amount of usage in our sports, but also the steady overall increase in usage that is very much about device adoption,? said David Coletti, vice president of digital media research and analysis for ESPN.

?The World Cup is an unprecedented event,? he said. ?At the same time, we see persistent growth that is less about the events and just about the appetite for the sports genre coupled with the increasing ownership of the devices that facilitate the usage.?

User engagement
ESPN has spent the past few years ramping up its mobile offerings for fans and using the medium to drive user engagement.

Its projects have included updating its March Madness ESPN Bracket Bound app for iPhone and Android devices, establishing its ESPN Alerts SMS program to receive real-time information on game standings and breaking news and launching an ESPN Fantasy Football iPad app.

ESPN's Sports Center app.

Last month, fans spent 7.4 billion minutes using ESPN digital properties, a June category record and up 62 percent from a year ago.

ESPN accounted for 35.2 percent of all sports category usage on digital platforms, according to the network.

June also was the 10th consecutive month in which more people visited ESPN on smartphones and tablets than on desktop and laptop computers. It also was the third straight month in which more than half of ESPN?s unique digital users exclusively accessed ESPN content on smartphones and tablets.

Fifty-seven percent of all time spent with ESPN digital content was consumed by mobile device users.

Among males 18 to 49, ESPN was the eighth most-used digital property in the U.S. during the month, according to the network.

Fans watched 472.7 million ESPN digital video clips in June, an all-time high and up 65 percent from a year ago. Nearly 81 million video clip starts came from mobile phones, also a record, and up 123 percent from a year ago.

Sixty-eight percent of all clips were viewed on computers, 25 percent on phones and tablets, and 7 percent on connected TVs.

Confluence of events
The numbers partly result from mobile allowing fans to consume information and content when they previously just would not have been able to.

?We had a wonderful confluence of events in June in the World Cup which saw unprecedented levels of interest in the US, along with the NBA Finals and US Open,? Mr. Coletti said. ?That said, we also saw that June marked the fourth straight month where the app attracted a record of visitors to our mobile platform. The month prior we were at 51 million, down from 59 million in June. 

?Certainly it was the calendar and these premier events drive consumption but at the same time we?ve seen a heavy growth of mobile in particular throughout the year that is somewhat apart from just the dynamic of the sports calendar.

?Sports is the genre that is really tailor-made for usage on the mobile platform,? he said. ?There is an urgency and an immediacy to sports news and information and the like that mobile devices facilitate and a very large factor in the growth that we have seen.

"It?s a symbiotic relationship of the technology and the sports content.?

Final Take

Michael Barris is staff reporter with Mobile Marketer, New York.