SBD/November 22, 2013/Media

ESPN Launches SportsCenter App With Increased Emphasis On Video, Social

ESPN's SportsCenter app has a fresh new interface with a lighter, brighter look
ESPN Digital Media on Thursday launched the SportsCenter app for iPhone and Android devices. Users will receive the SportsCenter app as an update to ESPN's ScoreCenter app. Navigation is designed around three content pillars: Scores, News and ESPN Now. Other key features of the new app include Favorites, Clubhouses and Inbox. Advertisers for the SportsCenter app at launch include MillerCoors, Kay Jewelers and Bud Light (ESPN). AD AGE's Tim Peterson noted the rebranding of the ScoreCenter app to SportsCenter "coincides with a major update that aims to make the iPhone and Android app more of a full-fledged sports media destination than a source for the latest scores." An iPad version is "expected to be available" in Q1 '14. Given the new design's "emphasis on feeds, it shouldn't be surprising that ESPN is opting for feed-based ads." ESPN also is introducing "interstitial ads that will pop up as people swipe between sections in the app and can run videos or display static images." There also will be "preroll ads airing before game highlight clips and other videos" (ADAGE.com, 11/21). TECHHIVE.com's Susie Ochs wrote the launch represents "a great refresh of ESPN’s flagship app." It is "easy to use and lets you quickly find the information that you want." Even with "in-app ads and no way to upgrade to get rid of them, SportsCenter is a winner." It has a new icon and "a fresh new interface that jibes with the lighter, brighter look of iOS 7." That same "lighter palette is echoed on the Android side." The News tab provides "a really slick scrollable list of news and videos." It is "the best part of the app, just scrolling through and swiping a new article up from the bottom of each article you finish, especially since most of the articles have videos attached" (TECHHIVE.com, 11/21).

NEW & IMPROVED: ALL THINGS D's Peter Kafka noted ESPN is "taking the old app, which did a very good job of delivering scores, but not much else, to your phone and tablet, and is shoving a lot more content in there." There is "a lot of video, taken from ESPN’s cable service, often minutes after it aired." ESPN said that there "will be a lot of social stuff in there as well, though for now that mainly means Twitter updates from ESPN talent." The "challenge, of course, is adding all of that stuff without overloading the app's primary use case." Kafka: "I played with a test build for the past few days, and it seemed to zip right along" (ALLTHINGSD.com, 11/21). PC MAGAZINE's Angela Moscaritolo noted from the app's Scores screen, users can now "set alerts and access expanded information for each game with a simple tap." The ESPN Now section "integrates live scores and social updates for your favorite teams and leagues, letting you reply, retweet, favorite, share and e-mail posts" (PCMAG.com, 11/21). BUSINESS INSIDER's Ryan Bushey wrote the "essential aspects of SportsCenter have been strengthened." ESPN may "not have needed to overhaul the app, but sports fans will now be at a loss without it" (BUSINESSINSIDER.com, 11/21).

SMOOTH OPERATOR: DIGIDAY.com's John McDermott wrote the SportsCenter app "adds both a layer of personalization and mobility." Content-wise, the app is "nearly identical to its previous ScoreCenter iteration." But it is "easier to navigate thanks to a sleek new interface." The app also is "focused on helping ESPN's advertisers grow their own brands through in-stream native products" (DIGIDAY.com, 11/21). ANDROIDCOMMUNITY.com's Nate Swanner wrote the "once muddled interface is now cleaner, and usability is also said to be smoother." No more "getting stuck in dark corners, then having to force close and restart the app." It also has "a lighter color scheme, ditching the drab melancholy from the previous version." In addition, SportsCenter now "works closely with the WatchESPN app" (ANDROIDCOMMUNITY.com, 11/21). TECHCRUNCH.com's Ryan Lawler noted the SportsCenter app is "part of ESPN's consolidation of many of its standalone apps" under Senior VP/Product Development Ryan Spoon. When Spoon joined the ESPN, the company "had more than 45 different apps that it had built and maintained." ESPN has "whittled that down to about a dozen over the past year and a half" (TECHCRUNCH.com, 11/21).
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