Behind The Scenes

IFTTT’s ESPN Channel helps fans create ‘recipes’ to get the latest customized sports news and alerts

Examples of IFTTT recipes for sports fans using ESPN alerts and social media
Examples of IFTTT recipes for sports fans using ESPN alerts and social media. (Courtesy IFTTT)

We all know about recipes for cooking, and we’ve heard about recipes for success. But a recipe for customizing your own mobile alert system for sports scores? Not so much.

That’s changed now as ESPN Digital Media has teamed up with a company called IFTTT, which stands for “if this, then that” to develop the ESPN Channel.

Utilizing ESPN APIs to create “recipes” for sending emails, texts or even placing automated phone calls, the IFTTT ESPN Channel keeps fans current with the sports news and information they care about most. It’s a simple idea, but also a little complex to explain, so we asked Zach Block, Director of Business Development, to help us understand the “recipe.”

What is an IFTTT recipe, and what can sports fans do with one?
An IFTTT recipe is really just a way to stitch together two web services. For sports fans, the ESPN Channel we developed with IFTTT allows anyone to customize how and where they receive ESPN alerts and news. For example, a fan who drafted Mike Trout to their fantasy baseball team might want to receive an email every time there is breaking news on the Angels. He or she can do that by creating an IFTTT “recipe” that pairs their email with the ESPN Channel. Basically, IFTTT recipes are an easy way to give fans control of their sports experience, and it’s just one of the many ways ESPN is personalizing sports and information for fans.

How does the IFTTT ESPN Channel work?
The IFTTT channel is built off of two core ESPN APIs: the Headlines API and our Alerts API. Users create recipes on the IFTTT site by selecting the ESPN Channel and then selecting an element to use as the building block for their recipe: general breaking news, breaking news by sport, or breaking news by team; or game start, game update, and final score. The fan can then decide how they want to consume or distribute the content: via e-mail, SMS or posting to Twitter or Facebook. All the ESPN content delivered through IFTTT contains ESPN branding and links back to related content on ESPN products.

What are some of the best examples of IFTTT recipes using the ESPN Channel?
It’s still very early with the new ESPN Channel, but we’ve been testing it for a while. My favorite recipe so far was actually created during the the London Games this summer. One of our software engineers, Brian Jackson, came up with a recipe that used SMS to trigger a cell phone to play the Star-Spangled Banner every time the U.S. won a gold medal. Since we launched the ESPN Channel last month, a lot of fans have been creating IFTTT recipes to text them breaking news about the NCAA basketball tournaments. There are many examples. And apparently, there are a lot of Texas Rangers fans who use IFTTT, because one of the most popular new recipes will send a tweet every time a Rangers game starts.

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