SBD/Issue 238/Sports Media

ESPN Set To Unveil Wave Of New Mobile Applications This Fall

ESPN To Unveil Blackberry
Version Of Its MVP Service

ESPN is readying a significant wave of new mobile applications this fall, including a Blackberry version of its MVP service, which originally formed the core of the original Mobile ESPN phone service and now is available through Verizon, a fantasy football iPhone application, and another application that will make ESPN Radio content available to iPhone and Blackberry devices. The MVP application will carry a monthly subscription cost, while the fantasy football and ESPN Radio applications will be one-time paid downloads. Specific release dates and pricing for each has not been finalized. But the moves look to capitalize on a period of marked growth for ESPN’s mobile properties. The network registers 9 million unique users per month to its mobile sites, up 78% compared to the same time period last year. The net  has recorded 2 million downloads of its iPhone ScoreCenter application, sends out more than 63 million mobile alerts per month, and is now streaming roughly 1,000 live events this year to wireless devices. “We see this as a major growth area for us, and importantly, people seem more likely to pay for content on mobile than they are for the PC, so that opens up additional opportunities,” said ESPN Senior VP/Digital Media Production John Zehr. Zehr also made light of the network’s failures to run its own wireless service with the now-shuttered Mobile ESPN. “If anybody still wants an ESPN phone, we can probably ship you one,” he joked. “They’re probably still sitting in some warehouse.”

TWITTER POLICY: Several ESPN execs during the net's media workshop in Bristol Thursday also addressed recent controversies around the network’s internal Twitter policy, and said the measures are not designed to be limiting to company employees. Rather, the move was intended to get ESPN employees to treat the microblogging service as they would a live microphone or camera. Additionally, ESPN.com is actively exploring how best to integrate Twitter feeds, particularly those from its own talent, into the Web site, similar to efforts also being pursued at MLB.com and several other prominent sports media outlets. “We never said that our people couldn’t tweet,” said ESPN Exec VP/Content John Skipper. “It’s simply important to remember that Twitter is not private communication.” Skipper added he has spent some significant time lately on “internal adjudicating” with regard to Twitter rules, but added he remains encouraging of staffers, particularly columnists, to not stifle their voice via their tweets. ESPN.com VP, Exec Editor & Producer Patrick Stiegman: “This was not at all an attempt to be restrictive, but rather be more expansive -- but with guidelines. ... As a user, I shouldn’t necessarily have to go to another platform to find what an ESPN perspective is on a particular story of the day. I also want to make sure that this content is available on ESPN.com.”

Growing Subscription Base: ESPN360.com has grown to 42 million subscribing households in the U.S., up from 23 million a year ago. The service is sold through broadband Internet service providers.

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