ESPN: March Online Highs, Par 3 Contest Lows

Is this any surprise? ESPN announced Wednesday that it had a “record-setting month in March, with new highs for mobile web and app usage, as well as video content and alerts.” We will get into the numbers below but — after all ESPN is the World Wide Leader and in an era of digital, mobile explosion its online numbers should be like Apple’s quarters: Every time, more.

Here is the snippet from ESPN PR on the online explosion:

ESPN mobile web and apps served an average minute audience of 103,000 in March, with an average of 5.1 million daily unique visitors (an increase of 22 percent over March 2011) and 3.1 billion total minutes for the month. ESPN apps in March had 3.6 million average daily uniques (up 125 percent over March 2011) and 1.5 billion minutes (up from 595 million in March 2011).

ESPN Mobile delivered 45 million video starts in March, including 24.6 million from mobile web and 19 million from the ESPN ScoreCenter handset and table apps, both record highs for a single month. In addition, ESPN delivered 1.5 billion alerts in March, also a record high for any month.

Yet for all its online savvy, ESPN found itself the victim of Mother Nature Wednesday at the Masters, when rainstorms turned its highly hyped live coverage of the Par 3 Contest into a rainout discussion with Mike Tirico at the helm. Now I like Mike Tirico. But I’m not wasting bandwidth watching Mike talk to Andy North about who might win the Masters. Jack and Arnie and Gary trading barbs and small iron play? I was just getting hooked when the toondershowers took over. I was surprised that ESPN had no backup other than having the studio guys start talking. And when they did, I clicked off the online stream and… went back to work.

No golfers ready for live interviews? No Dan Jenkins with some lore? In my mind ESPN whiffed a bit on a prime opportunity to show its Masters chops. (I also have had trouble all day with ESPN’s video feeds not loading properly — anyone else notice this?) But we have seen this before — ESPN doesn’t always do so well when there isn’t a script to follow. Let’s hope the WWL is back on its industry leading form on Thursday. Because we all will be watching.

Watching Golf This Week: The Masters

OK golf fans, time to get interactive and help us out. We know there is no way in hell that we are going to find every outlet covering the Masters this week, but we’ll try. And with your help we can do that sharing thing that everyone loves about the Internet. So here is our “first draft” attempt, going out on Wednesday since there is going to be coverage of the par 3 event Wednesday and who doesn’t want to watch that? But instead of typing it in this post we are going to simply say:




OK, that takes care of 99 percent of your questions. Now. Unless you’ve been under a rock you know all the story angles — Tiger vs. Rory, Tiger vs. Phil, Rory vs. Keegan, who the heck is Charl Schwartzel — so we don’t need to repeat those here. The only big question left is how to watch — on broadcast or cable, where there are so few commercials you might want to keep an empty jug handy next to the couch if you know what I mean; online, where and will have seven different live streams of video; or at any one of the many live-blogging outlets. If you know of one that we don’t have listed, add it to the comments; we’ll update this post throughout the week.

Here’s where to follow the action:


(all times Eastern)
Wednesday, April 4 (par 3 Contest, live) — ESPN, 3 p.m. — 5 p.m.
Thursday, April 5 — ESPN, 3 p.m. — 7:30 p.m.
Friday, April 6 — ESPN, 3 p.m. — 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 7 — CBS, 3:30 p.m. — 7 p.m.
Sunday, April 8 — CBS, 2 p.m. — 7 p.m.

SIRIUS XM (Satellite)
2 p.m. — 6 p.m., Thursday-Sunday
Sirius will also have several feature shows. Check this schedule for more.
There will be a live streaming radio report on the site.

Full live video coverage at and Different cameras start at different times each day, so… check the schedule to see when they go live. Right now tentative start times for Thursday are: Amen Corner camera, 10:45 a.m.; Holes 15 & 16, 11:45 a.m.; Featured Groups 1 & 2, 12:00 p.m.

ESPN’s live ESPN3 coverage of the Par 3 contest

ESPN: The Worldwide Leader will be at the Masters in force, with its live coverage Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and more online coverage goodies. Here is ESPN’s Tournament Central link. This is also a good place to check for live ESPN online coverage, via ESPN3 or the WatchESPN app for mobile devices. Remember, the WatchESPN app only available for cable subscribers of Bright House Networks, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon FiOS TV. Comcast customers are still out of luck.

ESPN also has the Putting at Amen Corner game online, as well as the popular Best Ball Majors fantasy game, which plays just like the NCAA hoops brackets. We’ll have an MSR group to join, stay tuned or follow me on Twitter @PaulKaps for more info. is going Masters overboard, with more content than you could possibly read. But the Sports Illustrated group of writers hanging out there may be the best covering the game right now.

There will be NO Shot Tracker at the Masters. Too bad.

Dan Jenkins — golf’s Shakespeare. From Texas. Hope he is on form for the Masters. If you don’t know who he is, hit Google. And buy a few books.
Geoff Shackelford — well known golf writer is slinging Masters lore and great links.
Golf Channel — official Golf Channel feed
@PGATOUR — official PGA Twitter feed
@StephanieWei — great golf writer who is a Twitter fiend

The Augusta Chronicle knows how to play the biggest event of the year. A good bookmark.

Here’s an incredible service: The Masters course page has video flyovers of each hole. I think I will only spend about 80 hours on this page alone.

Want to check out the historic clubhouse? Sports Illustrated’s has a video that takes you inside.

Do you need a refresher? It was Mr. Four Birdies in a row to close, Charl Schwartzel.

1. Hunter Mahan, 1,314 points
2. Johnson Wagner, 1,056
3. Rory McIlroy, 1,015
4. Phil Mickelson, 988
5. Kyle Stanley, 954

See the full standings for the FedEx Cup points list.

1. Luke Donald; 2. Rory McIlroy; 3. Lee Westwood; 4. Hunter Mahan; 5. Steve Stricker.
See the official World Golf Ranking list.

It’s Madness Time: Join the MSR Bracket, Follow the NIT @ ESPN

Is anyone getting any work done today, or is everyone filling out brackets? If you are looking for a place to show the world your NCAA hoops savvy look no farther than the inaugural MSR Bracket Challenge. Hosted over at ESPN, of course, the group is public so come one come all. If you are searching for the group its title is the “MSR Bracket Challenge.” We’ll think of some cool prize for winning; if any sponsors want to step up with some schwag hit me with an email to kaps at

Also: If your team didn’t make the dance (Sorry Washington fans!) you will probably be headed over to ESPN since the WWL has the rights to the National Invitation Tournament, including some games shown only online at ESPN3. Here’s the full NIT broadcast schedule.

And here’s a great post from The Big Lead showing NCAA broadcast times and (most importantly) which announcing crews will be on hand.

UPDATE: How cool is this? A CBS Sports interactive map of the tournament field.

ESPN: Online Audience for College Hoops Soaring — Now Just Wait Until the iPad 3 Arrives!

Even before the new Apple iPad arrived to save humanity and burn through wireless data plans, ESPN said that people watching college hoops on small screens this season set new records, with 1.6 billion total minutes and 283 million visits across the worldwide leader’s various online entities, representing increases of 16 percent and 5 percent respectively compared to 2010-11.

While these stats aren’t really unexpected — I mean, what’s not to like about watching hoops on an iPad? — it is pretty amazing on one hand to consider that in just a few short years mobile devices like the iPhone, Android phones and the iPad and its imitators have become fixtures in the sports-audience landscape. Want more stats? The most-viewed game online this year, according to figures provided to us by ESPN, was the Duke-North Carolina game on Feb. 8, with 4.4 million online minutes generated across computers, smartphones and tablets.

ESPN called that event the “most watched college basketball game ever” for online, but we are betting that it gets quickly eclipsed sometime during the upcoming NCAA men’s tournament, when all those shiny new iPad 3s get turned on and tuned in.

ESPN Scores With Digital Australian Open Viewers

We’re still waiting on some final viewer numbers but according to ESPN digital viewing of the recent Australian Open is up over last year, with the “average minute audience” for the various ESPN platforms covering the event (, the ESPN mobile Web, ScoreCenter, ESPN3 and WatchESPN) up 12 percent from last year.

The digital increase makes sense, especially among a U.S. audience since the Australian Open is one of those U.S. prime-time challenged events, taking place in the wee hours of our mornings when you might be more likely to be sitting in front of a PC screen, tablet or phone instead of keeping everyone else in the house awake with the TV on. Here’s more from ESPN on the digital viewership:

During the two weeks, the tennis section on was up 91 percent in average daily unique visitors and up 177 percent in average daily visits. The ESPN mobile Web tennis section also saw a 54 percent increase in average daily unique visitors and an average minute audience up 36 percent. ESPN3 and WatchESPN generated 113.2 million minutes consumed, up 88 percent compared to the previous year.

Who Will Build a Kindle for Sports? Millions of Fans Await the Answer

One great comment I heard at CES in Las Vegas this week was that tablet computers are “the killer app for watching video.” To that I would add a caveat: Tablets could also become the complete killer app for watching sports in a mobile fashion, if and only if the leagues, cellular providers and broadcasters could come to some workable agreement on viewing rights. What could make all that happen quickly? Why not something like Amazon’s Kindle, but instead of books, have it devoted to sports?

The real revolution started by the Kindle isn’t the cool technology behind the device itself. Instead it’s the simple pricing and content procurement method which eliminates the need for consumers to care about the cellular connection and simply allows them to pay for the books they want to read. If only sports could be so simple.

In the real world, we know it’s far from easy to get sports content on your mobile device. Just trying to definitively describe how you could get Monday’s BCS Championship game to show live on a mobile device took a weekend’s worth of reporting and numerous email exchanges with the supremely helpful ESPN folks. It’s not all ESPN’s fault that its mobile offerings are so constricted, but the fees ESPN charges cable providers play a part in the snarl of rights and access barriers that make mobile sports viewing such a pain in the rear.

The hope here at MSR is that all parties concerned learn some lessons from the digital music business, where a simple store and powerful simple device — iTunes and iPod — led to an explosion in sales of music, videos, podcasts and now books too. The Kindle is an extension of the iPod/iTunes simplicity to the mobile ecosystem, eliminating the concerns about how much data you’re downloading and whether or not you are exceeding your monthly mobile limits. Why not build one tailored for sports, with the connectivity costs and rights fees built in? If half a million people went through the maze of tasks necessary to watch the BCS game online, what could the size of that audience be if folks could walk down to Best Buy, pick up a “KindleSports” and start watching immediately?

At another CES panel I heard representatives from the major motion picture houses talk about how mobile video is no longer a future thing, but a booming business already grabbing millions of viewers and the associated advertiser interest. It’s time for sports entities to get into the game in a similar big way, and a KindleSports would be a great way to start. I would be just one of the millions waiting in line to buy one.