ESPN360.com, the live sports broadband network of ESPN, is pushing the distribution envelope with an online strategy that has produced more than 150,000 viewing hours since its re-launch in September.
In November, the network will deliver at least 267 live sports events in a schedule that features the NBA, college football, and the first of more than 900 men’s and women’s college basketball games this season. Additionally, the online network will distribute global sporting events including the UEFA Champions League soccer, Venezuelan and Mexican baseball, URBA Rugby, Argentine Open Polo Championships, Hurlingham Open Polo and exclusive coverage of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.
In September, ESPN360.com, operating on a 24/7 schedule of live events, debuted a new user interface, improved video quality, a mosaic of screens that lets users follow multiple events simultaneously and expanded controls including live-event pause, rewind and fast forward.
Aiding ESPN in the revamped online initiative are new rights this season from the NBA. Of vital importance is the right to stream NBA games live on ESPN360.com.
“Part of the point is that when we get exclusive games, we can broadcast them anywhere,” John Skipper, the executive VP for content at ESPN, told the “New York Times.” “When we have a Friday doubleheader, you can watch it on TV, on your phone or you can watch it on your computer on ESPN360.com.”
ESPN’s digital rights were negotiated in an eight-year media agreement that was announced in June. The rights will let the sports network stream games on its mobile TV service that is now available on Verizon’s MediaFlo, as well as on ESPN360. It will also allow live and on-demand streaming of its NBA studio shows on ESPN.com and mobile TV, and live audio streaming of its radio and TV games, as well as live look-ins to games, on ESPN.com.
Skipper told the “Times” that the broadband capabilities — in terms of speed, capacity and resolution — have improved on ESPN360 since the deal was announced four months ago. “360 can do things that couldn’t be done before,” he said. “We’ve been ramping up with more applications and more software.”
In a 12-month period, ESPN360.com said it would deliver more than 2500 live, global sports events (more than ESPN and ESPN2 combined). The service is available at no additional charge to fans that receive their high-speed Internet connection from an affiliated service provider.
ESPN360.com has more than doubled its distribution since August 2006, and is available in more than 17 million households nationwide via more than 25 Internet service providers around the country including AT&T, Verizon, RCN, Frontier, Cavalier, Charter, Mediacom, Conway, Grande Communications and more.