Driven By Digital: 2007 A Record Year for ESPN Digital Media
Banner Year Marked by Growth: Traffic, Video, Audio, Fantasy Sports, Journalism
Plus: Mobile, Global Scope Expand
Horowitz Associates: Fans Choose ESPN.com Nearly 4X More Than Other Sites For Sports Video
ESPN experienced its most successful year ever in 2007, expanding its digital leadership online, through broadband (ESPN360.com), a broadening global scope (Soccernet.com, CricInfo.com, Scrum.com), with mobile and ITV initiatives, and across other digital platforms including downloadable content, video game consoles and more.
With ESPN.com at the core of ESPN Digital Media, the site experienced enormous growth in online video and audio use by fans, big growth in ESPN Fantasy Sports games and overall traffic to the site, and launched compelling social Web elements (SportsNation) that enable sports fans to participate in content creation and extend ESPN.com’s content across the expanding digital landscape.
ESPN Online Video
Perhaps the most dramatic growth for ESPN.com came in the area of online video, where the fans viewed more than 1.2 billion videos in 2007, a 54 percent increase over 2006. Fans, on average, viewed more than 105 million videos per month for the year (growing to an average of more than 127 million for Sept. – Dec.).
ESPN.com solidified its leadership position within the online sports video space, a fact reflected in a recent Horowitz Associates report. According to the report, ESPN.com was named most often (unaided) by those surveyed as the site they go to for sports video (with nearly four times greater unaided response than any other site named, including YouTube, CNN, Yahoo, Fox, MSN and others). The report also found that sports is among the most popular overall segments for online video – with one in five high speed Internet users watching sports video weekly. (Source: Horowitz Associates, Broadband Content and Services, Dec. 2007)
In September, ESPN.com launched a new ESPN Video hub (http://sports.espn.go.com/broadband/video/), providing a single, searchable destination for all ESPN.com on-demand video – including highlights, original programs, signature ESPN television programs, features, analysis, and more. Traffic to the ESPN Video hub has grown by nearly 70 percent since September. (Source: Hitbox Web Analytics)
Other ESPN Video successes in 2007 include:
* SportsCenter Minute, ESPN’s twice daily short-form extension of its signature news and information program, averaged nearly 900,000 views per day.
* Pro football content was the most-viewed video content (14.5% of video views), barely edging out pro baseball (14.4%). Pro basketball (10.7%), Soccer (6.9%) and college football (5.3%) rounded out the top five most popular categories (not counting SportsCenter Minute).
ESPN360.com, ESPN’s signature broadband sports network, relaunched in September with a new programming strategy and a dynamic new mosaic interface. Now a 24/7 live sports network, ESPN360.com features more than 2,500 live events annually. Driven by fans’ passion for that live programming, ESPN360.com:
* Averaged 134,000 monthly users between the service’s re-launch in September through the end of December
* Logged more than 500,000 user viewing hours in that time.
Additionally, ESPN360.com doubled its distribution since Dec. 2006, and is now available in more than 20 million homes nationwide via more than 25 Internet service providers around the country including AT&T, Verizon, RCN, Frontier, Cavalier, Charter, Mediacom, Conway, Grande Communications and more.
In 2007, overall traffic to ESPN.com grew to an average of nearly 19.3 million unique users per month (an increase of more than 1 million users per month), and ended 2007 with four consecutive months topping 20 million users. The site set a new single-month record in September with 24.2 million unique users. Other traffic highlights include:
* More than 153 million average monthly visits to the site;
* Nearly 1.2 billion average monthly page views;
* Average total monthly minutes spent by users grew 22 percent to 880 million;
* Average time spent per user grew 36 percent to nearly 46 minutes per user. (Source: comScore Media Metrix)
* 26 percent growth in total page views, despite the broader use of automatic refreshing technologies (ex: AJAX, Flash)
ESPN Digital Audio
2007 was a breakthrough year for Digital Audio. Over the course of the year, ESPN Radio listeners (including Web cam “watchers”) consumed an estimated 80 million hours of streaming radio and podcast content, according to Ando Media Web Metrics.
ESPNRadio.com page views and unique visitors were up 75 percent and 90 percent respectively from 20061, following a site redesign. Each month, more than one quarter million listeners tune into ESPNRadio.com’s live online radio stream. Total listening hours (TLH) for ESPNRadio.com’s live stream grew 46 percent to an average of more than four million per month, while average monthly cumulative audience (CUME) grew by more than 75 percent to more than 259,000.2 * (Source: 1. Hitbox Web Analytics, 2. AndoMedia Web Metrix)
ESPN podcasts also saw record growth in 2007 with a year-to-year increase of more than 300 percent (topping more than 8.2 million downloads in November via ESPN’s PodCenter and Apple’s iTunes). ESPN also launched video podcasts in May, which quickly grew from nearly 3,000 downloads per month to nearly 815,000 downloads (November 2007). (source: AndoMedia Web Metrix)
In April, the launch of a network of ESPN Radio affiliate station sites began with the roll-out of sites for ESPN’s five owned stations (New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, Pittsburgh). The increased localization and national integration of content led to:
* a 56 percent growth in local site page views since the launch; (source: HitBox Web Analytics)
* a 99 percent increase in unique users to local sites; (source: HitBox Web Analytics)
* A 700 percent increase in local ad sales for the stations.
* TLH and CUME stats available only July-Dec. 2006. Comparisons based on July-Dec., 2007 compared to previous year.
ESPN Fantasy Sports
ESPN Fantasy sports had its best year ever, led by the growth in participation of ESPN Fantasy Football (+30% vs. 2006), ESPN Fantasy Baseball (+900% growth in first season available for free) and Stock Car Challenge (+25%). Overall, visits to ESPN Fantasy Sports games and content grew nearly 170 percent, and logged more than 4 billion page views (+70% vs. 2006). Other specific successes include:
* Record participation for the ESPN Tournament Challenge bracket games (3.3 million entries)
* Baseball Challenge (+63% vs. 2006)
* College Bowl Mania (+47%)
* Eliminator Challenge [pro football] (+45%)
* Gridiron Challenge [pro football] (+27%)
* In February, ESPN acquired fantasy sports site TalentedMrRoto.com, and hired its creator Matthew Berry.
ESPN Mobile Initiatives
ESPN advanced its leadership in the mobile space, guided by continued growth of ESPN’s WAP site – the leading sports site on the wireless Web – which averages more than 9 million unique users per month. (Source: Hitbox Web Analytics) Other ESPN mobile successes in 2007 included:
* Since the February launch of a comprehensive mobile alerts service, ESPN has delivered more than 50 million alerts to fans’ mobile devices (now averaging nearly 3 million per week). Fans sign up for alerts on the ESPN WAP site, ESPN MVP and ESPN.com.
* In May ESPN signed an agreement to exclusively license its award-winning ESPN MVP application to Verizon, making it available to all V Cast subscribers at no additional cost.
ESPN.com’s reporting and journalism had a banner year as well, with the site adding to its journalistic ranks and earning numerous honors. Among the awards:
* Sports Emmy Award for outstanding broadband content, long form
* Two Editor & Publisher EPpy Awards (Best Sports Web Site, Best TV-Affiliated Site)
* Two finalist nominations (General Excellence, Investigative Reporting) for the Online Journalism Awards
* Finalist Nomination (General Excellence) in the ASME National Magazine Awards
* Pro Football Hall Of Fame Dick McCann Memorial Award (John Clayton)
* Military Reporters and Editors, Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Journalism (Mike Fish)
* Best American Sports Writing; two official selections and five “notable” selections
* Official honoree in nine categories at the Webby Awards
* Named to TIME Magazine’s 25 Sites We Can’t Live Without list
* New York Press Photographers Association, picture story of the year
Other Key 2007 ESPN Digital Media Milestones
* In February, ESPN.com launched ESPN Conversations, allowing fans to comment in real-time on the content they find on ESPN.com. Since the launch of ESPN Conversations, fans started tens of thousands of Conversations, posted more than 2 million comments, and generated more than 45 million page views;
* Also in February, ESPN acquired the blog TrueHoop.com and hired it’s creator, Henry Abbott;
* In June, ESPN acquired CricInfo, the world’s leading destination for cricket news and information;
* In August, ESPN acquired Scrum.com, a leading rugby news and information portal;
* In October, ESPN SportsNation launched Fan Profiles allowing sports fans to expand communication with each other, create their own blogs, develop groups, find new ways to celebrate rivalries and more. Since the launch, hundreds of thousands of sports fans have joined ESPN.com’s growing community.
* In November, ESPN and Microsoft announced a deal that delivers high- and standard-definition full-length games, television shows and video game programming to the X Box Live platform;
* In December, ESPN.com launched Widgetcenter, providing more than 4,800 ESPN Widgets that allow fans to extend ESPN.com content (news, statistics, scores, polls, rankings, standings across and more) across the Web.
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