ESPN’s 2011 was highlighted by record consumption of ESPN’s core television business and across digital platforms, as well as a series of value-rich agreements with the NFL, NCAA, Wimbledon, Pac-12 and Indy 500, along with a long-term and wide-ranging pact with its largest distributor, Comcast. ESPN’s “best available screen” strategy – marrying compelling content with evolving technology, notably the WatchESPN introduced this year — serves the sports fan of today on the move in the U.S. and around the world. ESPN’s results demonstrate sports fans’ need for the latest and best information – wherever they are – remains unabated. In the most recent survey across ESPN media platforms, 113.4 million people interacted with ESPN during the average week (Spring 2011).
With a passionate fan base and the powerful nature of live and unscripted action, ESPN continues to grow. Thanks in part to the addition of college football’s five BCS bowl games the ESPN network posted its most-watched telecast, day, week, month, quarter and fiscal year. Also, the six domestic linear networks combined for a record fiscal year audience.
In November, George Bodenheimer announced he would step away from the day-to-day responsibilities as ESPN president after 13 years to be ESPN’s executive chairman, effective January 1, 2012. John Skipper, who joined ESPN in 1997 from The Disney Publishing Group and has served as ESPN executive vice president, content, since 2005 will assume the role of ESPN president and co-chair, Disney Media Networks.
Bodenheimer’s 13 years as president of ESPN have been marked by expansive growth domestically and internationally across every available metric and media platform. Today, ESPN is comprised of eight U.S. television networks, five HD services, the first 3D TV network, 48 international networks, 13 international editions of SportsCenter, 18 web sites, 750 radio affiliates, the largest mobile sports operation and 7,000 employees worldwide. ESPN’s Bristol, Conn., headquarters has increased to 116 acres, with a state-of-the-art digital production center and a second digital center under construction.
“It is a significant understatement to say I have thoroughly enjoyed my years at ESPN and am very proud of all the company has accomplished,” Bodenheimer said. “Success at ESPN has always been measured collectively, and it is the people of ESPN who made this company what it is today. It has been my privilege to have worked for them as president. As I assume my new role, I thank each and every person who has contributed so much to fulfill our mission of serving sports fans.”
• In addition to ESPN’s most-watched telecast in history (BCS Championship attracted cable’s biggest audience ever, 27.3 million viewers), day, week, month, quarter and fiscal year, the network set numerous sport-specific marks for full seasons, including the NBA (which also set a record on ABC), men’s college basketball, the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament and College GameDay, in addition to single-telecast records for soccer (the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final between Japan and the U.S.) and for a documentary, Fab 5.
• Other ratings successes: NASCAR Sprint Cup (ABC and ESPN) and NASCAR Nationwide Series (ABC, ESPN, ESPN2) both saw audience increases on every ESPN network with races; the six games of the NBA Finals on ABC each posted the highest rating of the night, a streak now reaching 25 consecutive times; ABC’s Saturday Night College Football helped the network win the night seven times; MLB on ESPN saw an increase; and the weekday morning duo on ESPN2 of Mike & Mike in the Morning and First Take continued to grow more popular.
• The company’s six domestic linear networks that are measured – ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, ESPN Classic and ESPN Deportes – combined for a record fiscal year audience.
• 198 million Americans watched ESPN networks (based on “reach data” for ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS & ESPN Deportes) in the fourth quarter to date (85% of cable homes).
• Including ESPN on ABC, in fourth quarter 229 million Americans watched ESPN content on TV.
• Surveys of cable operators by Beta Research Corp. ranked ESPN and ESPN2 the top two major ad-supported cable nets in perceived value. ESPN was #1 for the 11th consecutive year, and for the seventh year in a row operators considered ESPN the most important network in selling broadband or interactive TV services.
• Program acquisitions and renewals were highlighted by long-term agreements featuring expanded rights with the NFL, NCAA, Wimbledon, Pac-12 and the Indianapolis 500, which will remain on ABC, its home since 1965.
• ESPN Deportes became the fifth ESPN network in the U.S. with a high-definition simulcast service and maintained its postion as the most-watched and highest-rated Spanish-language sports network in the U.S. Programming acquisitions were highlighted by the 2011 Pan American Games and live multimedia rights (TV, ESPN Deportes Radio and ESPN3) to two of Spain’s top soccer events, the Copa de Rey Final and the Spanish Superecopa. The addition of San Francisco’s KTRB made ESPN Deportes Radio available in eight of the top U.S. Hispanic markets, reaching over 62% of the U.S. Hispanic population with a total of 42 affiliates. ESPNDeportes.com averaged 3.4 million unique visitors per month, up 47 percent from 2010, and ESPNDeportesLosAngeles.com launched.
• Longhorn Network debuted, focusing on athletics at the University of Texas, one of the most successful programs with a tremendous following. The lineup features 200 exclusive events from 20 sports, original series and studio shows.
• ESPN.com remained number one among sports fans for average audience, setting a sports category record in September. Growth was driven by its robust variety of offerings – news, live scores and keen analysis – and increases in video views, ESPN Insider subscriptions, fantasy sports competition (including the first seven offerings on ESPNdeportes.com, ESPNsoccernet.com and ESPNcricinfo.com) and podcast downloads from ESPNRadio.com.
• In less than two years, the five local sites (Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and New York) have quickly established a strong presence, bringing ESPN’s journalistic excellence and brand strength with fans and advertisers to the local level. A Spanish version of the L.A. site, ESPNDeportesLosAngeles.com, was added. Near the end of the fiscal year, a dozen more local sites –focused on colleges – were announced, with five already launched.
• ESPN’s online portfolio was enhanced with Grantland.com with long-form writing of thoughtful prose and humor about sports and pop culture. It is the new home for ESPN.com’s popular “The Sports Guy” Bill Simmons and boasts an all-star lineup of writers and editors, as well as strong advertiser support.
• ESPN3 – formerly ESPN3.com – took on a new name recognizing it is a multiplatform product available online, on mobile and tablet devices. The service grew to 70 million households, live events totaled 5,100, and monthly users and total hours both set records. The network posted its two most-watched events (excluding the 2010 FIFA World Cup) with the BCS Title Game and the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup championship. ESPN on Xbox LIVE was updated through a deal with Microsoft, bringing ESPN3’s live events, ESPN.com video-on-demand clips, sports highlights and other interactive features to Xbox LIVE Gold Level members on the Xbox 360.
• ESPN Mobile continued its exceptional prominence, attracting 70 percent of users seeking sports content. Page views, alerts sent and the use of apps – notably ScoreCenter and ESPNRadio – contributed to its leadership position. Two important agreements will put ESPN’s core apps in the hands of more users, both in the U.S. and globally. A multi-year partnership with Nokia will see delivery of an exclusive experience preloaded on Nokia devices, the ESPN Sports Hub, plus new Windows Phone 7 apps for Bowl Bound, Fantasy and more.
• ESPN Radio presents the best in sports talk, news and events to 24 million listeners a week via more than 700 stations nationwide. 2011 was highlighted by the June 1 ribbon cutting for new studios, including six control rooms. The USA-Japan 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final broadcast joined a lineup which included the MLB and World Series, NBA and The Finals, the five BCS games, and golf’s U.S. Open Championships.
• ESPN Regional Television (ERT), the nation’s largest syndicator of college sports programming, increased its output to 1,700 events and 3,800 hours of live/original programming and debuted a new event, the Champions Classic, an early season doubleheader of top college basketball teams at Madison Square Garden.
• ESPN the Magazine hit a new high with a record of nearly 16 million readers per issue in Fall 2011, and was the top magazine among men 18-34 for the fourth consecutive year.
• ESPNHS (High School) became the new name of ESPN Rise, providing the flexibility to package all high school sports content – for both student-athletes and fans – across all platforms.
• espnW, targeted at female athletes and fans, introduced more in-depth content on its web site and increased social interaction, attracting new advertisers to reach consumers beyond ESPN’s male-centric audience.
ESPN International spans 200 countries and territories on all seven continents and includes 48 television networks reaching over 350 million subscribers in 16 languages, plus wireless, interactive, print, radio, broadband, event management and consumer products. The year was highlighted by growing the brand around the world, particularly in Latin America, highlighted by a multimedia rights agreement with the German Football Bundesliga, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), the UEFA Europa League (UEL) and the UEFA Super Cup. A new network, ESPN3, was launched in both SD and HD, ESPN’s first TV network offered as an authenticated network outside the U.S. Overall, the emphasis in the region was on new original programming specific to indigenous sports and athletes – surfing, soccer, tennis and more. Also, ESPN Deportes’ new Nacion ESPN, modeled after ESPN’s SportsNation and produced in ESPN’s Los Angeles production facility, was imported and a version of Outside the Lines was unveiled in Brazil.
In Australia, ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD joined ESPN/ESPN HD to provide more choice of both international and U.S. sports. In the UK, ESPN and ESPN America both saw distribution rise, while in the Pacific Rim, an ESPNEWS channel debuted, as did a high-definition simulcast service of ESPN.
Online growth around the world was highlighted by ESPN’s UK web sites, mobile sites and the ESPN Goals app (more than 1.5 million downloads, provides highlights from all 380 Barclays Premier League matches within minutes) all becoming more popular with fans and advertisers. ESPNCricinfo.com and its app experienced tremendous usage during the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup, boosted by fans in the winning country, India. The company’s emphasis on digital content was also rewarded with strong increases in usage in Latin America and Australia.
SALES & MARKETING
• The Walt Disney Company signed a long-term agreement with Comcast, the nation’s leading provider of cable television and broadband services, giving consumers broad access to the nation’s top sports, news and entertainment. The comprehensive agreement includes 70 networks and services – including many of ESPN’s linear and digital platforms, advances the successful multichannel business model and serves customers across multiple screens through access to new authenticated services.
• The WatchESPN app for iPad, iPhone and iPod launched, allowing mobile access to ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN3 for subscribers to Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Verizon FiOS, the first live, streaming cable channels available in the U.S. on mobile devices. It has been downloaded 4.5 million times.
• The Customer Marketing and Sales group achieved unprecedented growth across mobile and digital platforms, driven by its ability to offer clients innovative projects with scalable audiences. Increases in NFL and College Football revenue helped the company lead the market in multiplatform deals, with nearly 75 percent of all deals of $2 million or more including at least one medium other than television. Beta Research’s survey of ad execs indicated that 54 percent would increase their ad spend on ESPN and the Jack Myers Survey of Advertising Executives on National TV Sales Organization Performance showed that ESPN had the top performing sales organization among 48 evaluated.
• Consumer Marketing continued to create award-winning creative for initiatives with several campaigns recognized for creativity and effectiveness, including those for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, ’30 for 30’ and ‘Monday Night Football – Is it Monday Yet?’ The company continued the brand campaign started in 2010, “It’s Not Crazy, It’s Sports,” with buzz-worthy spots such as “Roll Tide” and social extensions like “Fanwiches.” Marketing via social media – a fast-growing focus – is successfully engaging fans and highlighting the brand’s sports authority and personality. The iconic “This is SportsCenter” campaign walked away with three Bronze Lions at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
• ESPN’s leading research group expanded its groundbreaking ESPN XP research initiative to include full seasons of NFL, Regular Season College Football and the BCS Championship. In addition, The Disney Media & Advertising Lab executed more than 16 projects on behalf of ESPN’s cross-media clients, furthering the company’s commitment to advise clients on building effective campaigns across the companies many screens.
Mindful of the need to stay ahead of the curve of ever-expanding means of distribution, ESPN has sharpened its focus on providing content via emerging technology:
• ESPN 3D became a 24/7 service.
• Even more than these innovations, the biggest commitment to technology – known and as yet unknown – was the August groundbreaking for a second digital center at the Bristol, Conn. campus. At more than 190,000 square feet, when finished in 2014 it will be ESPN’s largest building, intended for production of both U.S. and international studio programming, including ESPN’s flagship program, SportsCenter. In addition, as home for exploration of new digital formats and emerging technology, the building will serve fans and fuel ESPN’s business in ways yet to be imagined.
• The X Games franchise announced ambitious plans to hold six premiere events annually at sites around the world, chosen through an application process which attracted xx bids.
• The Winter X Games set an attendance record (114,000 spectators) in Aspen, Colo. Hours viewed on ESPN3.com climbed 30% and usage grew on ESPN Mobile, You Tube and in social media. X Games 17, available on more platforms than ever with 29 hours on digital outlets, generated record multimedia growth. Attendance, tv audience reach and social media engagement all grew.
• While remaining busy on all fronts of sports media in the U.S. and around the world, the company continued to grow ways to give back to others. ESPN employees raised nearly $4 million for The V Foundation for Cancer Research; expanded multifaceted Boys and Girls Club and military / veterans initiatives; and provided coverage of the Special Olympics World Games from Athens, Greece, to name a few of many outreach efforts.
• The ESPYs events, including the 11th annual ESPY Celebrity Golf Classic and ESPN Radio’s “Don’t Give Up ESPYs V Foundation Auction,” raised more than $1.86 million and Jimmy V Week netted 1.2 million, all for cancer research.
2011 IN REVIEW
Jan. 1 ESPN’s highest-rated day ever (4.3), led by The Rose Bowl (13.8, and the third largest audience in cable history behind two ESPN MNF games) and Fiesta Bowl (7.1).
2 ESPN’s ends its highest-rated week ever (2.2) (first week of Nielsen’s 2011 calendar).
10 BCS National Championship: cable’s biggest audience (avg.: 27.3M viewers), ESPN’s highest rating (17.8) and ESPN3.com’s fourth most popular event (after three FIFA World Cup matches).
19 ESPN, the University of Texas and IMG College announce a 24-hour network dedicated to UT. Launching August 26, it will offer more than 200 exclusive sporting events annually, original series, studio shows, historical programming and academic and cultural happenings. (Named Longhorn Network April 4).
27-30 Winter X Games set an attendance record (114,000 spectators) in Aspen, Colo. Hours viewed on ESPN3.com climbed 30% and usage grew on ESPN Mobile, You Tube and in social media.
Feb. 1 ESPN surpasses the 100 million homes mark (100,002,000).
14 ESPN 3D becomes a 24/7 service.
March 11 Fab Five earns a 2.1 rating, ESPN’s best ever for a documentary.
27 First quarter ends – ESPN’s highest-rated Q1 and the most-watched cumulatively across ESPN networks.
30 ESPNFrontRow.com, a corporate blog focusing on ESPN news, people and behind-the-scenes activity and also serving as a platform to address issues making news, debuts.
April 1 ESPN2 surpasses the 100 million homes mark (100,004,000).
7 WatchESPN App for iPad, iPhone and iPod launches, allowing mobile access to ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN3.com for subscribers to Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Verizon FiOS, the first live, streaming cable channels available in the U.S. on mobile devices.
May 4 ESPN and the Pac-12 announce a 12-year agreement for more than 80 events a year across ESPN platforms starting in 2012-13, highlighted by football (including the conference championship every other year), men’s and women’s basketball (including conference tournament action) and Olympic sports.
June 1 ESPN Deportes begins rolling out an HD service.
12 NBA Finals on ABC conclude as the second most-watched since 2004, ending with the most-viewed Game 6 ever on ABC, the 25th consecutive time The Finals posted the highest-rated show that night.
July 5 ESPN acquires exclusive rights to live U.S. coverage of Wimbledon in a 12-year agreement which includes ESPN3.com and all other platforms. TV hours will rise from 100 to 140.
12 The 11th annual ESPY Celebrity Golf Classic, a Team ESPN event in Industry Hills, Calif., combined with ESPN Radio’s “Don’t Give Up ESPYs V Foundation Auction,” raised more than $1.86 million for The V Foundation for Cancer Research.
17 The Women’s World Cup Final (Japan defeated the U.S.), is the second most-watched daytime telecast in cable history, behind only ESPN’s Rose Bowl on January 1.
19 ESPN STAR Sports launches India’s first 24/7 HD sports networks, ESPN HD and STAR Cricket HD.
28-31 X Games 17, available on more platforms than ever with 29 hours on digital outlets, generated record multimedia growth. Attendance, tv audience reach and social media engagement all grew.
August 1 ESPN will now brand its high school sports initiatives ESPN High School (ESPNHS) to provide flexibility in packaging all high school sports content across all platforms.
2 ESPN breaks ground on Digital Center 2, just east of DC 1. It will be the largest building at ESPN and will go online in 2014.
10 ABC and the Indianapolis 500 extend one of sport TV’s longest relationships (1965), keeping the race on ABC, plus four other IndyCar races 2013-18. The deal also includes expanded use of in-car camera angles on ESPN3.com and international rights for the entire series.
15 ESPN International acquires footytips.com.au, a popular site in Australia for competitive sports predictions, notably AFL and NRL.
15 ESPN announces it will create college-focused web sites. The first to launch: Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas and USC.
26 Longhorn Network launches.
31 WatchESPN.com is the new name for ESPNNetworks.com, and ESPN3.com is now ESPN3.
Sept. 8 ESPN and the NFL announce an eight-year extension (2014-21) for Monday Night Football plus expanded NFL studio programming, the Pro Bowl and NFL Draft, 3D rights, and enhanced international and highlight rights, both on TV and online.
25 ESPN – and the family of networks collectively — posted its most-watched fiscal year for the fourth consecutive year and tied its record fiscal year rating, set in 1990 and tied last year.
Nov. 22 Robert A. Iger, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company, announces ESPN President George Bodenheimer will become Executive Chairman of ESPN, and John Skipper ESPN President and Co-Chair, Disney Media Networks, effective January 1, 2012.
30 ESPN3 launches in both SD and HD in Spanish-speaking Latin America, ESPN’s first TV network offered as an authenticated network outside the U.S.
Dec. 15 ESPN and the NCAA announce a multiyear agreement through 2023-24 for worldwide, multi-media rights to 24 NCAA championships and exclusive multi-media rights outside the United States, its territories and Bermuda for the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship.
30 ESPN and Comcast sign an historic, wide-ranging and long-term distribution agreement for Disney Media Networks, including multiple products and platforms.
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