With a continued focus on long-term agreements for major programming series and distribution across multiple platforms – along with an eye on creativity that serves fans in its programming and via technology – ESPN enjoyed a successful and prosperous 2012.
In addition to a new rights agreement with Major League Baseball, the year was highlighted by ESPN securing deals with the ACC and Big 12 conferences, the Rose, Orange and Sugar Bowls as well as the new college football playoff, all of which extend well into the next decade. On the distribution side, agreements between The Walt Disney Company and the second, third and fourth largest affiliates in the country – Cablevision, Cox Communications and Charter Communications, respectively – include ESPN content delivered via TV, internet, tablets and handheld devices; the full suite of authenticated WATCH products; ESPN3 and ESPN 3D. In addition, the WatchESPN app was made available to Comcast Xfinity customers and posted its best month ever in June (1.1 billion minutes viewed), boosted by Euro 2012, the NBA Finals and ESPN’s first exclusive Wimbledon.
In other highlights:
- ESPN marked its highest-rated day (4.4, January 2) and equaled its record 24-hour rating of the last two fiscal years (0.9) while leading all cable networks in delivery of men,
- the fans’ appetite for digital offerings remained robust,
- a new slate of the critically acclaimed “30 for 30” documentaries launched (supplemented by “30 for 30 Shorts, a 30-part series of short films online debuting monthly on Grantland.com accompanied by a podcast and essay) including the highest-rated ever (You Don’t Know Bo, 2.6),
- SportsCenter aired its 50,000th program in September,
- and the company produced a record 18,008 hours of live event programming in 2012, plus a record total of 11,903 live/same-day studio hours.
“ESPN – where we leverage technology to present championship events, news, analysis and storytelling – is deeply woven into the lives of sports fans, yet we continue to seek new avenues to inform and entertain,” said John Skipper, who assumed the role of ESPN President on January 1 upon George Bodenheimer’s elevation to Executive Chairman. “But as always, our best strategic advantage remains the people and the culture of ESPN.”
- In addition to ESPN’s fiscal-year record rating and its highest-rated day, the BCS Championship provided cable’s second-biggest audience of all time and ESPN’s second-biggest rating (behind only the 2011 BCS Championship), Monday Night Football was once again cable’s most-watched series, the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship was the highest-rated since 2004, the network’s men’s college basketball season was its most-watched, the NBA season was ABC’s highest-rated and ESPN equaled its best, the NASCAR Nationwide race from Daytona drew cable’s biggest audience ever for the series, ESPN posted cable’s highest two ratings for the British Open, and ESPN’s first telecast of the Wimbledon Gentlemen’s Championship was its best rating ever for tennis.
- ESPNU and ESPN Deportes recorded their most-watched fiscal years, and ESPNEWS did its best since 2008.
- 193 million Americans watched ESPN TV content (based on “reach data” for ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS & ESPN Deportes plus ESPN on ABC) in the fourth quarter to date (89% of U.S. TV homes).
- Indicative of the company’s focus on the Hispanic fan in the U.S., ESPN Deportes enjoyed its highest-rated event (Euro 2012 Championship), month (June) and quarter (April-June) and its most-watched fiscal year. It continues to be the most-watched and highest-rated Spanish-language sports network in the U.S. The network secured multimedia rights agreements with UEFA Europa League and Brasileiro & Paulista Championships. Studio and original programming also expanded with the launch of the network’s first live, morning weekday show, Raza Deportiva, a simulcast of ESPN Deportes Radio’s soccer debate program; El Bar, a series that brings together the worlds of sport and entertainment; and Capitales del Futbol, documentary-style profiles of some of the greatest soccer destinations in the world. With new affiliates in New York, Chicago and Houston, ESPN Deportes Radio is now available in the top 10 U.S. Hispanic markets, reaching 80% of the Hispanic population. Digital offerings expanded with the launch of a new broadband network, ESPN Deportes+, a programming extension of ESPN Deportes and ESPN3 dedicated to serving sports fans with live events in Spanish-language. The company debuted the first Spanish-language “This is SportsCenter” promo, featuring Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees.
- Longhorn Network celebrated its first anniversary in August and televised more than 400 hours from 200 University of Texas sporting events in its first year (highlighted by 150 hours of football programming including two games), plus more than 900 hours of academic/cultural programming. In addition, the channel not only secured distribution with national provider AT&T U-Verse increasing its reach to more than 5.5 million homes, but also was recognized for its production excellence, earning eight Lone Star Emmys.
- ESPN.com continued to lead the Sports Category with an average minute audience of 77,000, 52 percent higher than its closest competitor (source: comSCore). Growth was driven by its robust variety of offerings including news, video, commentary, analysis, fantasy, digital audio, ESPN Insider and more.
- The five ESPN Local sites (New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago and Dallas) continue to grow, averaging 8.8 million unique visitors per month (up 6 percent) while total minutes and average minute audience were both up 15 percent.
- Grantland.com – led by its quality long-form writing of thoughtful prose and humor about sports and pop culture – celebrated its first anniversary in 2012 averaging 2.2 million unique visitors and 26.8 million total minutes per month. It includes an all-star lineup of writers and editors as well as a strong listenership with the Grantland Podcast Network led by The BS Report with Bill Simmons with over 42.6 million complete downloads in 2012 (through November).
- WatchESPN distribution rose significantly this year with three long-term carriage deals (Comcast Xfinity TV, Cablevision, Cox Communications) that include live access to ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN3 and ESPN Goal Line/Buzzer Beater. It is now available to 46 million households nationwide on computers, smartphones, tablets and Xbox to fans of an affiliated video provider. Additionally, average monthly minutes to ESPN3 and WatchESPN on computers are up 44 percent (source: Omniture).
- ESPN Mobile continued its leadership in Sports, ranking #1 across the mobile Web and apps for total minutes (642 million), unique visitors (13.3 million), and an average minute audience of 14,600 (source: Nielsen). New apps launched in the past year include the ESPN College Football app as well as new versions of ScoreCenter, ESPN Radio and ESPN Fantasy Football optimized on more devices and platforms than ever before.
- ESPN Audio celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2012 and is comprised of the country’s largest sports radio network (ESPN Radio, providing more than 9,000 hours of talk and event content annually, reaching 24 million listeners a week via 450 affiliates — close to 360 of which are full-time including owned and operated stations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas), ESPN Deportes Radio, ESPNRadio.com, and ESPN Podcasts. This year a new ESPN Radio App for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch debuted; an agreement was finalized to present multi-platform coverage of the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic beginning in January 2013, and the strategy to pursue FM distribution was reinforced by moving the New York outlet to 98.7 FM.
- ESPN Regional Television (ERT), the nation’s largest syndicator of college sports programming with 1,700 events and 3,800 hours of live/original programming, debuted the Armed Forces Classic presented by Sears, the first-ever men’s regular-season basketball game played overseas – Michigan State vs. Connecticut live from Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany.
- ESPN the Magazine delivers more than 14 million readers with the average issue. It remains the only publication to reach over 10 million male readers with 40 percent of readership coming from men 18-34. Digital-only consumption jumped 50 percent to nearly a million readers per issue.
- espnW, which connects young women with the sports they love and follow, played a major role in the companywide multi-platform initiative recognizing the 40th anniversary of Title IX with programming and events on campus, The Power of IX. On the actual anniversary date, ESPN3 launched an espnW channel dedicated to live women’s sports. ESPN President John Skipper and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the U.S. Department of State and espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program, placing emerging female leaders from around the world with American women in sports fields of all types.
ESPN International includes ownership — in whole or in part — of 35 television networks outside of the United States, as well as a variety of additional businesses that allow ESPN to reach sports fans in 191 countries and territories across all seven continents. ESPN International business entities include television, radio, print, internet, broadband, wireless, consumer products, and event management. The company and its holdings maintain offices or production facilities in key locations around the world including Bangalore, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, London, Melbourne, Mexico City, Miami, Mumbai, New York, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Singapore and Sydney.
Globally, the company has been at the leading edge of nearly every digital content, advertising and technology development since the mid-1990’s, and the company operates a leading collection of online and mobile sports products in the world (online and mobile Web sites, broadband sports streaming services, mobile and tablet apps). Notable among them: ESPNcricinfo (the world’s leading cricket website), ESPNFC (football/soccer news, analysis, opinion and multimedia, re-branded in 2012), ESPNscrum.com (rugby), ESPNF1 (Formula One racing), and ESPN web sites tailored regionally as well as ESPN.com from the States.
For 2012, Latin America was the focus of a company priority and the region saw much activity, highlighted by airing 1,700 hours from the Summer Olympics in in Portuguese and Spanish on six high-definition networks throughout that continent. New services included ESPN3, Spanish-speaking Latin America’s first authenticated broadband network, WatchESPN in Brazil and a high-definition simulcast of the ESPN Brasil network. The year also saw the launch of an ESPN The Magazine app in Spanish-speaking Latin America (with local versions for Argentina and Mexico), ESPNTennis.com and the growth of broadband ESPN Play to 31 players. Rights renewed include the EPL in Brazil and the UCL, The French Open, and FA Cup in Spanish-speaking Latin America. Also, ESPN established the Copa do Brasil U-20, Brazil’s first under 20 football event.
SALES & MARKETING
- The long-term agreements with Cablevision, Cox and Charter provide consumers broad access to the nation’s top sports, news and entertainment. The comprehensive agreements include more than 70 Disney 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.
- ESPN continued to grow its groundbreaking WatchESPN product, now available to 46 million homes via Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks, Verizon FiOS, Comcast Xfinity TV, MidContinent Communications, Cablevision and Cox Customers.
- The Customer Marketing and Sales group continues to lead in multiplatform deals, seeing unprecedented growth across mobile and digital platforms. This includes innovative programs which incorporate social media like the Hall of Fans, created in cooperation with StubHub. The company introduced new, innovative ad units across mobile, tablet and online properties and strategic sales partnerships with Twitter, Microsoft Xbox, YouTube and Google, among others. ESPN also executed the first deal in the industry that was guaranteed on “viewability” between ESPN, Horizon media and Real Vu. The company grew its global business with a 50 percent increase in multi-country deals from the prior year. Among those growing their business with ESPN globally were brands like Rolex and MasterCard as well as P&G, Nokia and Samsung.
- Consumer Marketing continued to deliver award-winning creative, with several campaigns recognized for exceptional creativity and effectiveness. In 2012, the venerable ‘This is SportsCenter’ campaign, now in its 17th year, broke new ground by creating its first spot in Spanish. A SportsCenter spot featuring NFL analyst John Clayton generated massive social traction, garnering millions of online views in just a few days, even before it aired on TV. ESPN also introduced a new campaign around Monday Night Football with the tagline, “It All Comes Down to Monday Night,” which included industry-leading media innovation and digital elements that helped drive social engagement. Separately, an integrated campaign for ESPN Fantasy Football contributed to record high sign ups. The company continued the brand campaign started in 2010, “It’s Not Crazy, It’s Sports,” with buzz-worthy spots, like “Team Spirit“, directed by Errol Morris, which included an eight-minute short film, along with ”Michael Jordan” and “Shake on It“, which won Bronze and Silver Lions at Cannes, respectively. “Shake on It” was also recognized with the highest honor at the 2012 PromaxBDA Sports Media and Marketing Awards – a Titanium Award for Best Spot.
- As part of ESPN’s groundbreaking ESPN XP research initiative, the company announced a new project with Arbitron and comScore to develop the first-ever five-platform measurement initiative that will provide an unparalleled view of changing consumption of video, audio and display content across radio, television, PCs, smartphones and tablets. In addition, The Disney Media & Advertising Lab executed more than 16 projects on behalf of ESPN’s advertiser clients, furthering the company’s commitment to advise clients on building effective campaigns across the company’s many screens.
- 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 12th consecutive year, and for the eighth year in a row operators considered ESPN the most important network in selling broadband or interactive TV services.
ESPN’s technology team continues to develop new and innovative on-screen enhancements, often focused on the increased importance of mobile technology and social media in the lives of sports fans.
- ESPN Emerging Technology launched the X Games Scoring Team, eliminating the need for a third-party vendor to assist with scoring at X Games events around the world.
- ESPN Digital Media Technology launched the Developer Center allowing developers access to an ESPN API.
- ESPN Facebook Live Voting App debuted during First Take.
- ESPN Innovation hosts the ESPN ALPS initiative, an experimental Open API for acquiring live scoring and statistical data for local and collegiate athletics.
- ESPN Emerging Technology debuts the StatBat application, a native iPad application that provides a real-time mashup of the data feed from MLB with Elias splits data and NST notes from ESPN Research. Combined data provides an extremely in-depth, real-time view into what is happening across all games in timely, responsive interface for on-air talent.
X GAMES / OWNED EVENTS
- After the 2011 announcement of an ambitious expansion to six events around the world and a formal bid process, ESPN announced in May it would be expanding the X Games franchise to Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil; Munich, Germany, Tignes, France, and Barcelona, Spain – joining X Games Los Angeles and Aspen to form a six-event schedule in 2013.
- Winter X Games Aspen 2012 enjoyed double-digit usage growth across ESPN’s networks and distribution platforms, including TV, smartphones, tablets and online through digital and social media. The TV rating increased 32% from the previous year, boosted by the highest-rated and most-watched Winter X Games telecast ever on ESPN.
- In 2012, ESPN remained actively involved in core corporate outreach initiatives and philanthropic efforts. Most notably, ESPN made $1 million commitments to the Boys & Girls Club and Family Center of Bristol’s new facility and to The V Foundation for Cancer Research’s endowment fund helping to enable 100% of donations going to research.
- Throughout the year, ESPN raised more than $4 million for cancer research led by the 12th annual ESPY Celebrity Golf Classic, ESPN Radio’s “Don’t Give Up ESPYs V Foundation Auction” and the annual Jimmy V Week for Cancer Research.
- Additionally, ESPN’s award winning annual Veterans Week Salute to Our Heroes generated wishes for servicemen and women and their families through the USO Wishbook. Team ESPN volunteers assembled more than 1,200 USO deployment kits for troops in Connecticut and New York.
- Over the past year, Team ESPN spent more than 14,000 documented hours at more than 300 volunteer events improving the lives of those in their local communities, and supported disaster relief programs.
2012 IN REVIEW
Jan. 1 John Skipper becomes ESPN president; George Bodenheimer is now Executive Chairman.
2 ESPN’s highest-rated day ever (4.4), led by The Rose Bowl (11.8), and Fiesta Bowl (9.7), breaking the record set on January 1, 2011 (4.3).
9 BCS National Championship: cable’s second-biggest audience (avg.: 24.2M viewers) and ESPN’s second-highest rating (16.2) for Alabama’s 21-0 victory over LSU.
26-29 Winter X Games Aspen 2012 on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 posts a 29% increase in audience, including ESPN’s highest-rated and most-viewed WXG telecast ever.
Feb. 29 ESPN announces NCAA basketball’s “Championship Week” will be available on Facebook via a syndicated ESPN3 player, ESPN’s first live events distributed via a social networking platform.
March 26 ESPN’s multi-platform initiative recognizing the 40th anniversary of Title IX, The Power of IX, debuts on espnW.com. Content will also appear in ESPN The Magazine and on TV, culminating with a variety of programming on the anniversary date, June 23.
April 3 ESPN’s telecast of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship, Baylor defeating Notre Dame, is the highest-rated and most-watched since 2004 (3.2 rating, 3.137 million homes).
4 ESPN’s first Spanish-language “This is SportsCenter” promo debuts, “Handshakes” with Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees. The latest of the 400+ mockumentary-style spots since October 1995, it also is aired in English.
30 ESPN Radio in New York moves from 1050 AM to 98.7 FM. In September, the 1050 signal will become a 24/7 ESPN Deportes Radio affiliate.
May 8 WatchESPN is made available to Comcast’s more than 22 million Xfinity subscribers online and on mobile devices. In less than two years, WatchESPN reaches 40 million homes.
9 ESPN and the ACC announce a new, expanded multi-media and worldwide agreement through 2026-27 for football, basketball and Olympic sports.
24 ESPN International announces agreement to televise the Summer Olympics live from London throughout South America in Portuguese and Spanish on six high-definition networks.
June 6 News Corporation and ESPN announce News Corporation will buy ESPN’s 50 percent equity interest in ESPN STAR Sports (ESS), providing ESPN more independence and flexibility in support of The Walt Disney Company’s overall efforts in Asia.
21 ESPN President John Skipper and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announce the U.S. Department of State and espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program, connecting emerging female leaders from around the world with American women in sports fields of all types.
23 On the 40th anniversary of Title IX and the culmination of a companywide initiative celebrating its impact, ESPN3 launches an espnW channel dedicated to live women’s sports.
24 ESPN Deportes concludes its highest-rated month and most-watched quarter ever (up 43% from 2011), boosted by Euro 2012.
28 ESPN reaches a 12-year extension to televise the Rose Bowl Game (2015-2026).
28 – July 1 X Games 18 in Los Angeles is highlighted by a 47% increase in viewership for the ABC broadcast, significant growth across digital platforms and the highest attendance in eight years.
30 WatchESPN/ESPN3 posts its best month ever – 1.1 billion minutes viewed (up 360% year-to-year) boosted by Euro 2012, NBA Finals and Wimbledon.
July 1 The UEFA Euro 2012 championship match (Spain 4, Italy 0) is the most-watched game ever for the tournament on U.S. television (more than four million viewers). On ESPN Deportes, it posted a 12.9 Hispanic rating, the network’s highest rating ever. For the 31-game tournament, the ESPN/ESPN2 audience is 51% higher than 2008 (ESPN/ESPN2/ABC).
8 ESPN’s first exclusive Wimbledon concludes with the network’s highest tennis rating (2.9) for the Gentlemen’s Championship, an overall increase in audience over the split coverage of 2011 with strong growth among the key male demos, plus nearly triple the digital usage.
12 The 12th 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 $1.76 million for The V Foundation for Cancer Research.
August 21 ESPNFC debuts as ESPN’s multi-platform, multi-language global soccer brand.
28 ESPN finalizes an eight-year MLB multiplatform rights extension which significantly enhances TV (with additional games and studio programing), digital, radio and international rights 2014-2021, including a Wild Card game.
Sept. 7 ESPN and the Big 12 announce an agreement through 2024-25 with additional football and basketball games across ESPN’s television networks in the U.S. and abroad and ESPN3.
7 ESPN Deportes+por ESPN3 launches, a Spanish-language extension of ESPN Deportes and ESPN3 on ESPNdeportes.com to become a featured channel on ESPN3 and via WatchESPN.
13 SportsCenter airs its 50,000th episode, the most of any television show in U.S. history, at 6 p.m. ET on ESPNEWS.
Oct. 4 ESPN and Cablevision announce a comprehensive agreement to deliver Disney’s sports, news and entertainment content across TV, internet, tablets and handheld devices, including several new services, including the full suite of authenticated WATCH products, ESPN3 and ESPN 3D.
Nov. 14 ESPN announces a 12-year agreement for the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans beginning January 2015.
15 ESPN reaches a 12-year agreement with the ACC for the Orange Bowl beginning in January 2015 to be played either December 31 or January 1 with the conference champion against an opponent from the SEC, Big Ten or Notre Dame.
21 ESPN finalizes a 12-year agreement to present the new college football playoff – two semifinals and the championship, plus the other bowl games part of the semifinal rotation – each January from 2015 – 2026.
Dec. 8 You Don’t Know Bo, one of the new “30 for 30” films as the critically acclaimed series was revived this year, earns a 2.6 rating, ESPN’s highest ever for a documentary.
13 ESPN and Cox Communications finalize a comprehensive agreement to deliver Disney’s sports, news and entertainment content across TV, internet, tablets and handheld devices, including several new services, including the full suite of authenticated WATCH products, ESPN3 and ESPN 3D.
31 ESPN and Charter Communications finalize a comprehensive agreement to deliver Disney’s sports, news and entertainment content across TV, internet, tablets and handheld devices, including several new services, including the full suite of authenticated WATCH products, ESPN3 and ESPN 3D.