Putts at Augusta. Pucks from Buffalo. And punches in Los Angeles.
Those three referenced events alone – The Masters, The Frozen Four and pound-for-pound king Vasiliy Lomachenko facing Anthony Crolla in a unified lightweight boxing match – would mark a significant weekend of live events for any network. For ESPN, it’s one more stretch of super-serving sports fans and it’s buffeted across the networks by the start of the NBA Playoffs, UFC 236, Major League Baseball from Mexico, The F1 Chinese GrandPrix, an MLS matchup from Minnesota United’s brand new stadium and a bevy of top-ranked college teams facing off in softball, baseball and lacrosse.
From Friday April 12 through Sunday April 14, ESPN is literally all over the map (see below), a result of the expansive live event rights ESPN possesses and a prime example of our unmatched, year-round leadership surrounding live sports. Weekends like this are not some “happy coincidence,” they are the result of our strategy of acquiring attractive rights, smartly scheduling key events across all platforms and then effectively collaborating to promote the assets to the widest possible audience.
What’s even more exciting for us that this weekend coincides with the one-year anniversary of ESPN+’s launch. Our innovative, direct-to-consumer offering has had a strong first year, with more than 10,000 events having been served up to the service’s two million subscribers.
The momentum ESPN carries into the spring is unsurpassed in the industry and proven vividly in the vitality and strength of ESPN’s upticks in event ratings. Our Monday Night Football package was up eight percent (compared to a five percent gain industry-wide); men’s college basketball saw a 15-percent lift (10 percent above what other networks experienced); the women’s Final Four was up eight percent; the first year of UFC on ESPN finds the property up significantly from FOX’s presentations; and Formula 1’s second season with us has had record audiences for 2019’s two events. Oh, and ESPN aired the six most-watched cable telecasts of 2018.
In many ways, the variety and quality of the live games, bouts and matches of these few days is business as usual for us at ESPN. Likewise, our digital offerings surrounding the events – both on- and off-platform – will provide complementary coverage to over 18 million daily average users (ESPN.com and ESPN app) with an off-platform reach of 85 million-plus. That type of penetration is what leads to astronomical numbers like the over one billion digital impressions surrounding Zion Williamson during the college basketball season.
Every day in sports holds the promise of fantastic finishes and unparalleled drama, but it’s the special weekends like this one where ESPN proves just how meaningful it is in sports fans’ lives. All we ask is that you sit back and enjoy.
To learn more about ESPN’s live event strategy, read Brian Steinberg’s feature published today in Variety.
Emily Archacki produced the illustration.