SBD/November 26, 2013/Media

App Review: ESPN SportsCenter For iPhone Offers Deep Content, Needs Fine Tuning

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SportsCenter's Inbox feature offers a fan-focused experience for users
ESPN's revamped mobile application released last Thursday offers more than its predecessor, ScoreCenter, but the newly-titled SportsCenter app is not without oversights. The newly introduced on-brand app, developed in-house by ESPN Digital Media, delivers live scores, play-by-play, second-screen tools, news, video and social integration for over 20 major sports. Of the app's main features, the SportsCenter and Inbox sections are the most notable, containing the bulk of the content. The SportsCenter section offers daily scores by sport and match-up. Clicking on a live game reveals the app's second-screen offering, GameCast. For some sports, this feature includes an interactive rendering of game play along with a play-by-play feed, live stats, game video, photos, league scores and a Facebook-based social discussion. In addition to GameCast, the app displays a condensed scoring summary, game leaders, venue, line and over/under for live games. Also notable is the addition of the Now tab, located within the SportsCenter section. This feature displays an ESPN-centric Twitter feed with posts from the likes of Trey Wingo, Jay Harris and Darren Rovell. The Inbox feature, displayed on the far right side of the app's lower navigation, is a high quality fan-focused experience. Based on the user's favorite team selections, the app populates a news feed complete with headlines, live scores and recent results. Live game video for favorite teams also appears within the feed. Users can set alerts by team and view team-specific scores, news, Twitter updates and standings in the Favorites section. This week's review was conducted on an iPhone 5 version 7.0.4, with AT&T wireless and Xfinity cable service.

TOUCHDOWNS: The layout of the app's Inbox feature nails mobile news consumption on the head. This is a one-stop shop for team news that could easily be subbed in for the default SportsCenter section. Also fan-focused are the alert opt-ins, represented by bell icons, that are found throughout the app. Alerts offered include basic news, game start, scoring plays, close games and final score. ESPN has succeeded in weaving an effective advertising strategy into this app's interface. Small, nicely designed ads are intertwined with content, making them impossible to miss and tempting to tap. Pre-roll ads are also done in a tasteful way; they are present, but barely noticeable and with very few repeats. During the review period, one pop-up ad was served per session.

TURNOVERS: To sign into the app, users can register with ESPN or log in with Facebook. Assuming users have the Facebook application already, the initial connection to the social site is seamless requiring no additional information. However, joining game conversations within the app requires an additional log-in to Facebook that requires username and password. This is clunky. Staying within the social sphere, game-specific Twitter feeds are buried within the GameCast feature, making them easy to overlook. Moreover, none of the Twitter touch points within the app offer fans the opportunity to participate in the discussion. This is a missed opportunity. The GameCast offering is inconsistent across sports. For example, the NBA GameCast includes an interactive rendering of the game including a shot chart and a game flow graph. The NHL experience is text-based with many features linking to the ESPN mobile website. Lastly, while some sports do offer a link to watch live, there is no on-air broadcast schedule within the app. It would be nice to see which games are available either on TV or within WatchESPN, the brand's live streaming app. This is a recommended addition for future releases.

BOTTOM LINE: SportsCenter offers everything under the sun when it comes to live scoring, headlines, game video and statistics. The depth of information alone is impressive. The addition of the Inbox feature is unique, offering users a sleek, customizable platform to consume their news. Social touch points can be found throughout the app, but the developers did not go all the way, leaving out a full Twitter integration and skipping over some technical hurdles with Facebook. Some fine-tuning along with more live viewing information would bring this app to the next level.

Amie Sheridan (amie.sheridan31@gmail.com) is a writer in Philadelphia.

See Sheridan's previous App Review submissions for THE DAILY
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