Austin delivers crowds to X Games; TV mixed
ESPN’s decision to take Summer X Games to Austin, Texas, for the first time helped energize event attendance and sponsorship but delivered mixed results on TV.
The inaugural X Games Austin attracted 160,000 spectators over four days, making it the most attended X Games since 2004 (see chart). ESPN held Summer X in Los Angeles for 11 years, from 2003 to 2013, and averaged 134,404 spectators per year. Last year, it drew 92,000 spectators in Los Angeles.
Austin was the most attended X Games since 2004.
Average viewership for four telecasts on ESPN dipped by
In addition to benefiting from being in the Austin market for the first time, ESPN executives said X Games benefited from efforts to turn what historically had been a sports event into more of a multiday festival. It had 39 musical acts perform over the four days, including Kanye West, The Flaming Lips and Pretty Lights, a popular DJ. It also had festival village areas spread throughout the Circuit of the Americas venue, so that attendees could ride go-karts, slide on zip lines and do other activities.
Tickets ranged in price from $39 for single-day access to the X Games to $165 for a three-day ticket that included access to the amphitheater pit for concerts.
“We took a new approach to the event and provided a much broader offering for the audience and fans,” said Tim Reed, X Games senior director of events and content. “Austin clearly embraced it. It was refreshing and there was a lot of good energy around the venue.”
ESPN managed to sign seven exclusive sponsors for the event, including top-tier sponsors Ford, GoPro, Monster Energy and the U.S. Navy, as well as new exclusive sponsors Dos Equis, Dr Pepper and Harley-Davidson.
“X Games continues to work for us as an effective platform, and COTA was a success based on measurements,” Allison said.
The event ran into a few issues on the ground in Austin. Wind gusts on June 7 forced ESPN to delay its BMX Big Air and freestyle motocross competitions by more than an hour. Both events were slated to be featured during that day’s live broadcast.
Spectators also complained that some general-admission areas, which were filled on a first-come-first-serve basis, were crowded and too full for them to see some competitions.
Reed said that ESPN will address those issues and others that arose when X Games returns to Austin next year. ESPN signed a four-year deal with Austin and COTA that runs through 2017.
“It’s great to be in a place where they love the culture and the sports,” Reed said. “We’re excited for three more years here.”