Karl Taro Greenfeld for Businessweek:
Today, 70 percent of sports content consumed on mobile devices comes from one of ESPN’s mobile apps. The latest, WatchESPN, allows you to watch whatever is on ESPN anytime, anywhere, provided you are a cable subscriber. It’s been downloaded more than 10 million times. Many games broadcast on it aren’t yet carrying advertising, showing instead a 30-second ESPN logo during breaks in the action, since advertisers weren’t offered those rights when they bought time on the network a few months ago. In other words, ESPN has invested in creating content for a platform before business exists to support it. John Kosner, executive vice president for digital and print media, says, “We weren’t afraid of cannibalizing our [television] business if the fan liked it … even though the ad-serving technology just isn’t ready yet. We’re not afraid to be ahead of the market. You win by delivering what fans want, and then that becomes a fantastic advertising proposition and a great business.”
ESPN has consistently been pushing the bounds of what’s available, and this profile shows why. They are in constant competition with other networks, and know that if they don’t have a reason for viewers to continue to return, they’ll go to another network. They realize they are more than a channel, they want to become the resource for sports anything.
They are pushing the bounds in mobile, and as a fan, it’s appreciated. I have no doubt that sports is the place that we will see the most innovation in television over the next decade.