ESPN’s British Open Coverage Scores on Cable, Internet, Mobile

There must be an algorithm somewhere to write the inevitable press releases for broadcasters after any big event now, that begins with “record viewership” and then plugs in the terms online and mobile. ESPN’s coverage of the British Open last week and weekend certainly fits in, with big gains in just about every measurement category, including a 140 percent growth in the amount of live coverage watched on ESPN’s mobile and online platforms.

But — it could have been a lot bigger. Remember, ESPN limits its mobile access to people who pay for cable plans from Verizon FiOS, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks, and Comcast. How much bigger could the audience be if ESPN allowed non-cable subscribers the right to see things with a one-time fee? (Right now, the WWL’s answer to that is it’s not gonna happen.)

One guess is that since ESPN added Comcast to its list of approved cable-contract partners whose customers get access to all WatchESPN and ESPN3 content, the jump in online viewership was probably a given since the Comcast deal added about 40 million potential new viewers to the number that could see ESPN’s online streams. Even without any new partnerships that number should easily grow again next year, when ESPN should have support for Comcast customers with Android platforms, who were shut out this year.

I still think that ESPN could vastly improve its online coverage of big events, especially golf, by mimicing the excellent presentation done by the folks at the Masters. Right now the event coverage like the British Open is lumped in next to every other thing that ESPN covers, which as you know is quite a lot, so the experience dims. It would also be great to have an integrated chat/social experience on the same screen, so you could perhaps talk golf smack to friends and other fans without having to switch between multiple screens. I’d add in a window to keep track of the excellent ESPN Majors fantasy game, and my online golf experience would be complete. Well, we’d need the TigerCam too. But I’m not greedy.

ESPN Press release on its awesome British Open numbers.


  1. Richard Garner says

    ESPN coverage of the 2013 British Open sucked, though Tirico, Azinger and Judy Rankin are
    an A Team. The telecast needed more live action not taped, it’s just not the same. Whoever
    is producing the coverage is lazy. Get off your butt and give us live action and more live action
    not “while we were away”. Too much cutting away to videos promoting ESPN coverage of the
    event, hell I’m watching and have been since Thursday! Too much time wasted that could be
    used for more live golf. Too much dwelling on just a few players. Even some of Phils’ shots
    on the final 9 weren’t covered. ESPN coverage is like the Masters, that the problem. Fewer
    players covered, less live action, too much self promoting. At least ESPN had the sense to,
    leave the tedious, ill informed, self promoting Chris Berman home and there’s your good thing.

  2. Richard I think you have to cut ESPN slack on the British Open coverage. I don’t know it for a fact but am guessing the infrastructure of trying to cover events at those courses is slimmer… no place to run cables, etc. … so fewer cams. And since ESPN only does 1 big tourney a year (they are starting to do more US Open but as you noted, ugh Berman) they don’t have the bench strength producer-wise. I think that will change. Scott Van Pelt is really moving up in terms of being a great host/director a la Jim Nantz. I think you are maybe a bit spoiled by the Masters, one of the best produced events anywhere. I thought British went well for ESPN and loved the fact that I could see the same stuff online for free… I bet we see the WWL moving bigger into golf soon.

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