ESPN sets mobile consumption records; why do you think we started Mobile Sports Report?

According to this stunning press release from ESPN the Worldwide Leader in sports is now also the worldwide mobile leader, with sports fans consuming 4.1 billion minutes of ESPN content in November on smartphones and tablets.

Read that again: 4.1 BILLION minutes of content consumed in November, on smartphones and tablets. With mobile usage accounting for 54 percent of all ESPN digital traffic — and with 28.6 million fans only hitting ESPN through mobile devices — you are now getting stats to back up the reason why we started this here Mobile Sports Report site. Sports is not just going mobile, it’s already there. And it’s not coming back.

Neither, apparently, is ESPN. We’ll just let ESPN brag with the money quote from its release, vis-a-vis its digital platform competition:

“ESPN Digital Media accounted for 35% of all sports category usage across computers, smartphones and tablets in November, more than the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 sports properties combined (Yahoo! Sports-NBC Sports Network, NFL Internet Group, and Bleacher Report-Turner Sports Network), according to comScore Multi-Platform data.”

For stats freaks there’s a lot more to dig into here — like, the fact that ESPN is claiming 26.5 million Twitter followers of all ESPN Twitter handles, but only 2.6 million interacted (liked, shared, etc.) with either the ESPN or SportsCenter Facebook pages. Does that mean Twitter is killing Facebook in sports?

I also like this factoid: “ESPN videos were viewed 39.2 million times on YouTube, up 66% from a year ago.” I guess ESPN isn’t too worried about losing viewers to YouTube. Instead it got another 39.2 million ad views. Cha-ching!

Bottom line: People still want to watch sports on TV, but when they’re away from the TV they still want sports. And more often than not — already — they’re using a tablet or smartphone to get that sports content, not a laptop or a desktop computer. Make sure you understand that fact: ESPN’s mobile site usage is ALREADY bigger than desktop traffic. Mobile sports, people. Mobile sports.

Will mobile SportsCenter become the go-to stadium app for fans?

New version of ESPN SportsCenter app

New version of SportsCenter app

Now that ESPN’s mobile viewership has overtaken web readers, the worldwide leader in sports is ready to put its most iconic brand — SportsCenter — onto its main highlights mobile app. Our question: Can that app now become the go-to app for fans in stadiums who want to track activities at games they’re not at?

With today’s news that the old “ScoreCenter” app is now being called simply “SportsCenter,” ESPN seems to be going all in with its mobile strategy, which was already aggressive in the past. The main holdout was the ScoreCenter app, which while it conveyed a lot of information (mainly scores and headline links) the very fact that it was called something other than SportsCenter — the name for the network’s mainstay highlights show — seemed to signify that ScoreCenter wasn’t a full and complete offering.

Ryan Spoon, ESPN’s SVP for digital media, was part of a panel I moderated last week at the Open Mobile Summit, where he told attendees that this fall, for the first time, ESPN’s mobile traffic surpassed web traffic, a trend we’ve seen happen for other sports properties. In an interview with GigaOM Spoon said the new SportsCenter app is meant to be “a very strong relative of the TV show,” and our initial download shows a stream of tweets from ESPN personalities along with the kind of news updates you might get while watching an episode of SportsCenter on TV.

Old 'ScoreCenter' app scores page view

Old ‘ScoreCenter’ app scores page

What will be interesting to see is if the mobile version of SportsCenter can become the go-to app for fans sitting in stadiums, since it’s a good guarantee that most of them go home and watch SportsCenter after the game, or on any other day in their life. With fantasy football fans and regular fans who just want to keep abreast of other games and other sports, SportsCenter is usually the starting place for highlights and news.

The real challenge as I see it in the stadium-fan space will be whether or not ESPN is able to provide real-time or at least close to real time replays and highlights, or whether teams and leagues will keep those away from mobile versions of SportsCenter so that their own apps have more pull. One of my biggest beefs with ESPN and online video is that it often puts videos of ESPN commentary inside stories instead of highlight videos, with misleading or unclear labeling that sometimes forces you to watch way more of Lou Holtz babbling than you ever wanted to. But if ESPN can deliver timely highlights to its app the same way it gets them on SportsCenter, other stadium apps might never be able to catch up.

Old ScoreCenter headlines page.

Old ScoreCenter headlines page.

New 'Now' page with Twitter feeds

New ‘Now’ page with Twitter feeds

Better TV info should help with college games

Better TV info should help with college games