The Big Thing: ESPN Digital

No. 1 in Digital Sports Media


In 2016, no digital sports brand in the world reached a greater number of global sports fans than ESPN. Throughout the year, ESPN remained No. 1 in the digital sports category for average minute audience, total minutes and total visits, with an average of more than 110 million unique users per month, peaking at 136 million in September. ESPN accounted for 29% of all sports usage across digital platforms – more than the Nos. 2 and 3 sports properties combined.

The Only Global Digital Platform in Sports

The ESPN App and the redesigned – the most popular sports app and website of all-time – launched new, global products in 10 regions, including Argentina, Australia, Chile, Colombia, India, Mexico, United Kingdom, United States (in Spanish) and Venezuela. ESPN’s global platform delivered record performance and traffic for each region and enabled ESPN to more effectively and efficiently share and monetize content across global regions and devices. The result has been a record traffic and consumption, both in the U.S. and around the world.

Timeline of ESPN Digital 2016

  • Launched a dedicated Esports vertical on, delivering comprehensive coverage surrounding the world of competitive gaming and marking ESPN’s long-term commitment to service an audience that continues to grow.
  • ESPN participated in Instagram’s curated Video Spotlight for the College Football Playoff Championship, the first time that Instagram has integrated content from a media publisher among the compilation of curated videos.
  • Teamed up with Xbox to host Halo World Championship Tour esports competition Halo 5: Guardians at X Games in Aspen.


  • Announced Tencent collaboration on content in exclusive digital partnership in China, including a new ESPN section on QQ Sports, exclusive NBA, NCAA’s March Madness and X Games coverage.
  • Delivered live coverage of Blizzard’s Heroes of the Dorm esports tournament on ESPN3, with the Heroic Four and Grand Final airing live on ESPNU and ESPN2, respectively.
  • Launched live streaming access to ESPN networks on Sony’s PlayStation Vue subscription service.
  • Announced full season package of the 2016 IPL season on sale through subscription streaming service ESPN Cricket Pass.
  • Launched Australian edition of


  • ESPN Classic on-demand launched through WatchESPN on Apple TV and Roku.


  • WatchESPN access launched on Android TV.
  • Launched The Undefeated, a digital content platform on sports, race and culture.



  • ESPN2 televised the Street Figther V World Championship from the Evo final.
  • Announced the hiring of Tom Junod as senior writer.
  • ACC Network Extra launched to users with access to ESPN3, delivering more than 600 exclusive live events across the conference.
  • Announced a 33 percent stake in BAMTech to deliver and support DATG and ESPN streaming video and other digital products, including a new ESPN-branded, multi-sport, direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service in the future.
  • New WWE vertical launched, delivering comprehensive coverage of WWE and the world of professional wrestling.
  • New ESPN Fantasy app launched, allowing users to play fantasy football, baseball, basketball and hockey in the same app for the first time ever.
  • Multi-year extension through 2021 with Matthew Berry announced.
  • Launched WatchESPN on PlayStation 4, marking complete WatchESPN app accessibility across all major streaming devices.
  • In an industry-first, ESPN3 and SEC Network + was integrated into Sling TV’s programming guide.
  • New Analytics vertical launched, delivering all of ESPN’s analytics content powered by the company’s Stats & Information Group.
  • College GameDay weekly show on Snapchat debuted, marking Snapchat’s first sports show produced exclusively for the social platform.
  • ESPN App launched in Spanish Speaking Latin America (SSLA) with editions in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela.



    • Announced an agreement to deliver ESPN and DATG networks to Hulu’s new TV streaming service, set to launch in early 2017.
    • DIRECTV Now launched with ESPN and DATG networks.
  • Snapchat Live Stories for CFB, X Games, ESPYs, EURO 2016, World Cup of Hockey.

Keeping Good Company Around the World

ESPN also reached ground-breaking new collaborations throughout the world with other innovative media and technology companies. These included new long term-collaborations with Tencent in China for ESPNcontent production, localization, distribution and promotion. Sony Pictures Networks, for thousands of hours of programming and the launch of SONY ESPN-branded channels and digital properties in India; and with Econet in sub-Saharan Africa for the launch of an ESPN channel, localized SportsCenter updates and an African edition of and the ESPN app.

The Top 2 Apps in Sports

Measured by both reach and consumption, the ESPN App and the ESPN Fantasy App enjoyed a huge 2016, culminating in a record-setting October in which the ESPN App reached a category best 15.6 million unique fans, followed by the ESPN Fantasy App with 13.6 million. In terms of total minutes, ESPN Fantasy App was No. 1 with 3.5 billion, and the ESPN App was No. 2 with 1.4 billion.

WatchESPN and ESPN Radio in the ESPN App

Allowing sports fans to enjoy immersive, personalized experiences from scores, stats and news to live streaming, podcasts and radio, the ESPN App became a mobile powerhouse in 2016. The ESPN App serves billions of total minutes each month, a metric that continues to grow, while minutes for the rest of the sports category are declining.

More Fans Streaming More on WatchESPN and ESPN App

largesquareimages-espnappicon-1xNow fully integrated into the industry-leading ESPN App, WatchESPN continues to grow and increasingly contribute meaningful incremental audience lift to ESPN’s television offerings. In 2016, WatchESPN averaged 8.2 million unique devices and 1.8 billion minutes per month, up 31% and 52%, respectively, from a year ago.

Building for the Future with BAMTech

The Walt Disney Company acquired a 33% stake (with the option to acquire majority ownership in coming years) in BAMTech, an industry-leading technology services and video streaming company. In addition to BAMTech becoming a global technology partner to Disney and ESPN, it will also collaborate with ESPN to launch and distribute a new ESPN-branded multi-sport subscription streaming service in the future.

New Platforms for Innovative Content

Continuing to expand its reach to serve more sports fans, ESPN launched The Undefeated, as well as verticals for WWE and esports, while FiveThirtyEight’s popularity soared with the year’s political climate, espnW increased its presence across ESPN platforms, ESPN on SnapChat Discover continued to reach new audiences.

Growing Influence of espnW

As the line between sports and important and often sensitive topics continued to blur in the news and society this year, espnW further established itself as a leader of dialogue with voices such as SportsCenter’s Cari Champion (via her espnW podcast “Be Honest”), writer/reporters Kate Fagan, Jane McManus, Sarah Spain and others added to the conversation. Also, localized digital presence in Australia and Brazil were espnW’s first initiatives off U.S. shores.

One ESPN Fantasy App

ESPN Digital brought four fantasy sports – football, baseball, basketball, and hockey – into one new app with refreshed visuals and a new user interface. Not surprisingly, the ESPN Fantasy App had more minutes consumed (2.8 billion) than any other sports app in its first full month (September) and 3.5 billion in October. In December, ESPN launched “The Bachelor Fantasy League”, the first non-sports game based on ABC’s popular series, for the app and

The Fantasy Football Marathon

Driven by ESPN’s first ever televised Fantasy Football Marathon, ESPN Fantasy Football, already the industry’s No. 1 fantasy football game, enjoyed its two biggest days ever and signed up more players during each day of the event than any other day in the game’s 20-year history. Also, as part of the 28-hour marathon, ESPN counted 1,753,511 teams drafted, surpassing its goal of 1,000,000 for the event.

Sports Fans are Listening

ESPN Podcasts set usage records almost every month in 2016, paced by FiveThirtyEight and Fantasy Focus Football. ESPN’s first long-form podcast, the five-part “Dunkumentaries”, was named Podcast of the Year by RAIN (all topics, not restricted to sports). In one of ESPN’s most ambitious storytelling initiatives ever, the multiplatform “Pin Kings” was presented in 16 chapters on Audio, while television, print and digital pieces all told the story in formats that fit the specific audiences of each platform.

ESPN The Magazine: No. 1 in Print


With 6.9 million readers, ESPN The Magazine is the top publication in total reach (print and digital) among men 18-34, which is 25% higher than any other publication and up 10% over a year ago. Overall, the reach is 18.4 million, 12% more than 2015. The year was also notable for the appointment of Alison Overholt as editor-in-chief, the first woman to hold that title at a national sports magazine.

The Only Member of the 30/30 Twitter Club

ESPN became the first and only member of the “30/30 Club” on Twitter when @ESPN and @SportsCenter each surpassed 30 million followers.

More Big Things

ESPN Deportes

Nación ESPN

Launch of Nación ESPN


ESPN International

Rio 2016 Olympics

Russell Wolff, Executive Vice President and Managing Director, ESPN International

“The 2016 Rio Olympic Games brought together more than 850 employees, 2,800 hours of multimedia content, five different sets in Rio and thousands of stories from the 11,000 athletes…making 2016 one of the most memorable years for ESPN International.

“We are extremely proud of the hard work and collaboration that our teams around the world did to bring the event to more than 60 million homes in Latin America and the Caribbean. Rio 2016 was our biggest Olympic production to date and one of our most successful, record-breaking events ever, scoring our three most-watched weeks in the history of the ESPN brand across Latin America and becoming the highest-rated pay television Olympic broadcaster in Mexico and Central America.”

ESPN The Magazine

Alison Overholt, Editor-in-Chief, ESPN The Magazine and espnW

“They say you should never judge a book by its cover, but let’s be real: In the magazine business, that’s exactly what people do. Every time someone gets our ‘book’ in the mail or walks past a newsstand, the cover either makes them want to rip it open and read. . . or just keep walking.

“So this year at The Mag, we decided we wanted to raise the stakes on our covers. “Make every cover a poster” became our motto. Make fans feel like they want to hang them on their walls, share them on social, talk about them with their friends. Make it so that when we look back on each year, our covers look like a string of the year’s biggest sports moments, worthy of a gallery exhibit.

“We hit our mark several times this year, with the WNBA20 gatefold ‘evolution’ cover, showing 20 years of stars driving in progression toward Maya Moore with the final shot into the hoop; with Muhammad Ali’s smiling face on our “I Shook Up The World!” tribute cover; with Carmelo Anthony’s meditative activist pose on our NBA Preview issue.

“But I may be most partial to the cover that hits this week—featuring Olympian Simone Biles, the Cubs’ David Ross, and the Cavs’ JR Smith—because it so perfectly captures everything about the issue, our cover motto, and the year itself.”

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