ESPN adopts mobile first approach to recover from Premier League rights loss

ESPN is to use its suite of mobile apps to spearhead its charge to reposition itself among digital-savvy audiences after the loss of its top-flight British footballing rights, and the entry of big-spending BT Sport. 


The Disney-owned sports broadcaster had reportedly mulled an exit from the UK after losing TV broadcasting rights for Barclay’s Premier League matches from the 2013/14 season to BT Sport, plus the exclusive mobile highlights package to the Sun and Times publisher News UK.  

But it is now hoping the upcoming launch of its ESPN UK app, plus an overhaul of its ESPN Goals offering, will help establish the broadcaster among audiences that primarily use their mobile devices to interact with peers around sports content. 

ESPN paired with digital specialist agency DigitasLBi on how to position the app towards digital audiences, including which functionality and content to include, in order to tap into existing user behaviours.  

ESPN UK is a feed-based app, similar to Facebook or Twitter, that aggregates content from across the broadcaster’s portfolio of brands, such as ESPNFC and ESPNcricinfo, as well as third-party content, such as a fan’s favourite soccer team’s official Twitter feed.   

Anil Nair, ESPN’s director of mobile product development for EMEA, says: “We have a wealth of content across all our brands and this brings them together in a single place with a new interface.” 

The strategy of predominantly targeting ‘mobile first’ audiences for the first time represents a significant shift in its strategy, according to Nair. “It [ESPN UK’s target market] has the kind of people that always have Twitter and Facebook on their phones… the information just keeps coming at you,” he adds.   

ESPN also hopes to reactivate the 3.5 million users who downloaded the earlier version of its ESPN Goals app, which will now be “repositioned as a live scores app”, by using it to cross-promote the new aggregation app, according to Nair. Brands including William Hill, Lucozade and SkyBet are among the debut advertisers on the new app, plus ESPN claims it is in discussion with several others ahead of its scheduled launch later this week.   

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