As we wait for the return of live major sports, many fans have turned to collections of classic games and events on ESPN+, which include an extensive archive of official Masters Films, the Indianapolis 500, UFC, boxing, NFL, MLB, and NHL games, and much more.
The latest example is the Chicago Bulls Classic Games collection, which has been among the most viewed VOD (Video On Demand) content on ESPN+ over the last three weeks in conjunction with The Last Dance. Front Row asked Vice President, Digital Media Programming, John Lasker, to explain how his team presents the collections on ESPN+.
When did ESPN+ begin to put classic collections together?
Leading up to the launch of ESPN+ in April 2018, in addition to the focus on live events and premium originals, we identified historical and archive collections as an opportunity for us to bring more value to ESPN+. It’s become an important component to how we acquire rights to live events and our overall programming strategy for NFL, UFC, Top Rank, The Masters, Wimbledon, US Open Tennis, PGA Tour, etc. Having these rights allows us to get creative in programming curated collections across our digital platforms.
The classic collections have been among the most streamed content on ESPN+ over the last several weeks, but there’s a lot of original, archival, and other on-demand content on ESPN+. How do you decide what to highlight and present to fans on the platform?
We have more than 5,400 hours of on-demand archived programming on ESPN+ led by the high-quality ESPN Films library, including every 30 for 30 film, College Football 150, Basketball: A Love Story, Nine for IX and more.
Not surprisingly, the sports calendar is our primary guide for how we prioritize, but it’s always a collaborative effort between our Programming, Editorial and Marketing teams because the value of archive content is in its relevance to broader priorities across ESPN. The Classic Bulls Games collection, along with the Detail: 1998 Chicago Bulls series, is a great example of a curated collection fitting perfectly with ESPN linear, news, and editorial coverage around The Last Dance. Other recent examples include the Peyton Manning birthday marathon and the Tom Brady marathon, which were both supported by VOD collections on ESPN+. All of these create a highly “bingeable” experience for fans on our digital platforms as an extension of what fans see on ESPN.
Of course, we all want live sports to return, but what can you tell us about plans for more VOD collections on ESPN+?
We will continue, even when live sports return, to tap into the ESPN+ archive in the same ways we have with the sports calendar, editorial, and other programming priorities at ESPN. In addition, we plan to continue to build the depth of our archive for NFL, MLB, UFC, Top Rank, and other sports properties, while focusing on providing fans with meaningful, curated collections tied to postponed or canceled events like EURO 2020 and Wimbledon.