Mobile and online usage continues to soar for ESPN & MNF


The Dec. 2 Seattle Seahawks 34-7 blowout of the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football was a huge broadcasting success for ESPN, it was the No. 1 program on at that time not only on cable but also over the air broadcast — and it was also a smashing hit online as that audience continues to surge.

The Saints-Seahawks broadcast was strong enough to garner a 9.7 U.S. rating, numbers that represent an average of 11,289,000 households and 15,500,000 TV viewers, according to Nielsen.

ESPN, as all broadcasters are, is working hard at expanding and enhancing its digital offerings including tablet, smartphone and PC offerings and has seen those users expand as the technology and quality of the offerings continues to increase.

A look at how it has performed this year on Monday Night Football shows how well it is succeeding in that area. It reported that across all of its platforms its NFL-focused Digital Media that includes, mobile Web, apps and WatchESPN it has a 27% increase in viewership compared to the same period last year, with an average minute audience of 65,000 during each broadcast.

The most recent game showed how those numbers are continuing to grow as it represented the second largest online audience ever (the first being the Eagles-Redskins from earlier this year). The game had an average minute audience of 81,000 with a total of 225,000 unique views, numbers that represent an increase of 134% and 145% over a year ago respectively.

Overall digital media at ESPN is up strongly as well, 16%, compared to last year, according to ESPN. The strongest area last week was with mobile apps, with its new SportsCenter app enjoying an audience that registered 136,000 average minute users, up 55% from last year. Its Fantasy Football app had an average audience of 148,000, up 88%. The unique viewers for both were, respectively, 7.5 million and 3.9 million.

The broadcaster expects another big Monday Night audience next week When the Cowboys play the Bears and former Bears’ player and head coach Mike Ditka gets his number retired at halftime.

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

ESPN Intros SportsCenter Feed, a Twitter and Team Stream Competitor

Here at MSR we have praised Bleacher Report’s Team Stream app for doing a great job of aggregating content we care about, namely that about the teams we like. What we like a lot about Team Stream is its embrace of content from all sources, not just Bleacher Report, to give as full a range of news and opinions as possible.

Now from the other side of the coin we have the Worldwide Leader, which today introduced a beta version of something it is calling SportsCenter Feed, which does exactly what you think it might do — brings all of ESPN’s breadth of content into one Twitter-like stream, with a kind of cool big viewing window to the side.

Though nobody doubts ESPN’s ability to give you more sports content than you could actually consume, the question we have is whether or not sports fans really want to stay inside the ESPN bubble, or whether they might prefer creating their own “feed” on say, something like Twitter itself, which as we said earlier is already the default AP wire for all of sports. For many fans ESPN might be more than enough, while others might prefer to have opinions and takes that originate somewhere other than Bristol.

Where you might see SportsCenter Feed getting some love is outside ESPN itself, as (we think) the strategy is to license the APIs so that other content aggregators or sites — like say, a team or league’s home page — could license the ESPN content which it could then show in some kind of a streaming window. Some mobile sports apps like PlayUp are already experimenting with similar sports news feeds, so that users of those apps don’t need to log on to another app or site to get scores and other info.

What is clear is that ESPN is making good on its pledge to do things digitally first, even if that means sabotaging some of its current cash cows (if you sift through SportsCenter Feed, for instance, you may not need to turn on your TV to sit through the commercials on the regular SportsCenter broadcasts). So even as Twitter and other new options look for a sporting edge, the Worldwide Leader is going to be the Yankees in this arena as well. Not that the Yankees can’t lose, but you will need a good game plan to beat their killer lineup.

ESPN SportsCenter’s TebowTime programming goes No. 1 on Twitter

ESPN on Wednesday dedicated a full hour of SportsCenter to talk about Denver Broncos Quarterback Tim Tebow, and the programming caused #SCTebow to achieve the No. 1 trend ranking on Twitter.

TebowTime was the most successful effort to date by SportsCenter to tailor content to sports social media interaction, and could prove a template ESPN uses in the future to boost ratings during off-peak viewing times.

Here’s how ESPN promoted #SCTebow:

News + Highlights + Tebow RT @ Set your clocks: It’s #TebowTime at 2 p.m. ET on @ #ESPNFR



Billed as TebowTime, the SportsCenter programming aired between 2 pm and 3 pm EST.

TebowTime marked one of the first times SportsCenter dedicated the majority of its hour-long news format to a subject that wasn’t breaking news. On July 13, SportsCenter dedicated a large block of its format to the impact of Twitter on sports.

ESPN SportCenter enjoyed cross promotion for its TebowTime sports social media blitz, including this report

TebowTime included highlights of Tebow’s Denver Bronco and Florida Gators comebacks, live reports from the Broncos facility, Skip Bayless debating about Tebow’s merits and reports on Tebow’s impact on Fantasy Football. played SportsCenter’s Tebow Time on its home page, and ESPN’s Front Row blog included extensive coverage of ESPN’s decision.

TebowTime was the brainchild of SportsCenter segment producer Etan Harmelech and championed by coordinating producer Gus Ramsey, producer Tom DeCorte and senior coordinating producer Michael Shiffman.