ESPN Inc.:
2017 in Review

Leadership Through Innovation

In 2017, ESPN strategically strengthened its position as the clear No. 1 in sports media, unparalleled in scope, consumption and brand strength.With the leading portfolio of marquee sports rights, ESPN's innovative forward thinking was in evidence in many ways throughout the year - its first Academy Award, rising ratings in prime time, leading the industry to evolutionary measurement practices and expanding digital offerings, notably ESPN+ coming in 2018.

“No other media company could win an Oscar, Emmy and the National Magazine Award for General Excellence in a single year,” said John Skipper, ESPN president.  “Every day I am struck by the energy, creativity and focus of our people to stay in front.  As we enter 2018, I like our hand.”


ESPN is the Nation’s Leading Sports Media Entity

The ESPN brand is both widely popular and deeply embedded in the daily lives of sports fans.

And the Oscar goes to....

For the first time, ESPN. O.J.: Made in America, a 7.5-hour epic, won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.  The critically acclaimed product of ESPN Films swept the major awards from film critics and festivals.

You Need a Backbone to Stand Tall

The backbone of a sports network is its live event portfolio, and this year's programming acquisitions and renewals - highlighted by the return of top-shelf Top Rank Boxing matches and Formula One coming in 2018, plus renewals with the Big Ten and FIBA - bolstered ESPN's unrivaled collection of sports properties.

Key Programming Breaks through the Clutter

More than ever, live sports are of unsurpassed value to advertisers as appointment programming that is viewed live.  Viewership highlights of 2017:

ESPN Digital - Truly the Worldwide Leader

Over the past 12 months (Nov. 2016 – Oct. 2017), no sports brand in the world reached a greater number of global sports fans than ESPN Digital – an average of more than 117 million unique users a month, peaking with 133 million in October.  That kept ESPN no. 1 in sports in average minute audience, total minutes of usage and total visits, and accounted for 17% of all sports usage across digital platforms – more than the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 sports properties combined.

Stream On

ESPN continues to grow its meaningful streaming audience. Viewership across computers, smartphones, tablets and OTT devices averaged 9.6 million unique devices and 2.1 billion minutes per month, up 18% and 33%, respectively, from a year ago.

Excellence in Journalism

Always the Standard,
Now Available in New Ways

SportsCenter has served as the template for sports news since its 1979 launch and its evolution now includes applying the strength of its brand name to the digital ecosystem in various ways.  SportsCenter Right Now segments are now seen during daytime hours as well as halftime of prime-time events. 

In November, SportsCenter debuted on Snapchat with two shows per day (once per day on weekends), the first ever daily sports show on the platform.  The episodes are three to five minutes in length and present sports news, highlights and commentary in a fast-paced, high energy format heavy on personality that is produced specifically for Snapchat and designed explicitly for its users with original content. 

More than 35 million people follow SportsCenter on Twitter.

Late Night Sports > Late Night Laughs

The weekday midnight ET SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt consistently generates higher ratings among 18-34-year-old men than late-night talk shows on broadcast or cable.

In Digital Fantasy Sports – It’s Now One-stop Shopping

ESPN is the clear leader in the competitive digital sports information/highlights/fantasy category.  ESPN Fantasy consolidated its major fantasy apps – football, baseball, basketball and hockey – into a single app in August 2016. The results were immediate and record-breaking. Since then, total players for ESPN Fantasy’s major games have increased significantly: Basketball is up +67% and Hockey is up +36%, while ESPN Streak is up +68% for 2017.  In fact, in the last year, all 15 of ESPN Fantasy’s games enjoyed significant increases in number of players, with 14 of the 15 setting all-time records.

Leaving the Competition in the Rear View Mirror

This growth puts ESPN even further ahead of the competition.  This September, the ESPN Fantasy App produced more minutes than the Yahoo Fantasy, NFL Fantasy, DraftKings and CBS Fantasy apps combined. The ESPN Fantasy App was also the No. 1 fantasy app that month with 9.1 million unique users, 2.7 million more than the Yahoo Fantasy App at No. 2.

Quality, and Quantity

While the quality of ESPN’s productions is unsurpassed, it is all the more impressive when seen against the backdrop of the quantity:  In 2017, ESPN will present 16,000 live events and 65,000 total live hours of studio and event programming – TV and digital combined.

Sales and Distribution

A “Blueprint” Affiliate
Agreement Boosts College Networks

A major affiliate agreement (Altice) - notable for the addition of the SEC Network and the ACC Network to come in 2019 - was universally heralded for what it portends (including as a "blueprint"), especially in this time of shifting media landscape and evolving technology.

U.S. Television - Enduring Strength Now More Available and Measured

ESPN led the industry to adopt evolutionary measurement practices, combining TV and streaming and including out-of-home viewing.  The early results – a 14% lift to average audience, including 23% among millennials (28% in prime time) for the seven weeks beginning September 25.

No Such Thing Anymore as
"I missed the show"

Making programming more accessible is an on-going emphasis, and a number of studio shows – some daily, some weekly – are now available on demand via the ESPN App, including College GameDay, First Take, The Jump, Pardon the Interruption, Around the Horn and more to come in 2018.

How to Find Young Men

ESPN remained cable’s best option for advertisers seeking the important and hard-to-reach young male viewer, despite the ever-increasing growth in video options and competition.  The current quarter will be the 18th consecutive in which ESPN has been the No. 1 full-time cable network among Men18-34, 18-49 and 25-54 (starting in Q3 2013).

They Like Us, They Really Like Us!

The Beta Research Corp. survey of cable executives ranked ESPN and ESPN2 the top two major ad-supported cable nets in perceived value.  ESPN led all networks for the 17th consecutive year, and ESPN2 was No. 2 for the 12th straight year.  Other findings from cable operators:

New Year Brings More Choice

In 2018, the curtain will rise on the biggest digital initiative, ESPN+, with a robust lineup of sports programming – approximately 10,000 live regional, national and international games and events a year.  Programming will include MLB, NHL, Major League Soccer, Grand Slam tennis, boxing and an extensive array of college sports. Individual sport packages will also be available for purchase, including MLB.TV, NHL.TV and MLS Live.

The new service will be accessed through an enhanced version of the current ESPN app. In addition to the multi-sport service, the ESPN app will include the news, highlights and scores that fans enjoy today. Consumers who are pay TV subscribers will also be able to access the ESPN television networks in the same app on an authenticated basis. For many sports fans, this app will become the premier digital destination for all their sports content.

Reaching Fans in All Ways, at All Times, in All Places

There are, of course, many more “ESPNs” than those mentioned above to connect with sports fans, in the U.S. and around the world.

ESPN Radio – the nation’s largest sports radio network – celebrated its 25th anniversary and reaches more than 20 million listeners per week on more than 500 affiliates. The national Network said goodbye to Mike & Mike after nearly 18 years, and hello to Golic and Wingo, for morning drive with Mike Golic and Trey Wingo, with Mike Golic Jr. 

Also, a new weekday lineup begins in 2018, expanding The Stephen A. Smith Show to full national distribution.

In Chicago, ESPN Radio 1000’s Waddle & Silvy –– hosted by former Chicago Bears receiver Tom Waddle and Marc Silverman – was the No. 1-rated sports talk show during afternoon drive.  In Los Angeles, ESPN710 launched L.A.’s only local morning sports talk show with Keyshawn Johnson, Jorge Sedano and LZ Granderson.  In New York, ESPN 98.7FM was awarded three top honors by the New York State Broadcaster’s Association: Best On-Air Broadcast Personality/Team (Hahn, Humpty & Canty), Best Station Sponsored Event (The Michael Kay Show) and for the second year in a row Outstanding Commercial.

ESPN Podcasts grew its audience while focusing on core categories, led by fantasy sports, notably football.  The move into storytelling was highlighted by the debut of the “30 for 30” series, an offshoot of the critically acclaimed film productions and ranked No. 5 on Entertainment Weekly’s Top 10 of 2017.  Now measured by PodTrac, ESPN ranks among the nation’s leaders in overall downloads and the key download per user metric while leading among sports offerings with almost five million unique listeners per month, more than double its closest sports competitor.  In 2018, new offerings will debut from Bomani Jones, Jalen Rose and David Jacoby, and Katie Nolan.

ESPN The Magazine had several crowning achievements in 2017, as noted by its editorial peers, the advertising community and, most importantly, readers and fans.  With more than 100 million unique readers and visitors each month, ESPN again easily outpaced every other magazine brand (sports or other). The magazine’s print reach of 18.5 million is up 12% over two years ago.  Editorially, ESPN received a prestigious National Magazine Award for General Excellence in the highly-competitive news, sports and entertainment category, its third win in its 19-year history.  Additionally, AdWeek named ESPN The Magazine the hottest sports or automotive magazine.  In 2018, ESPN The Magazine will celebrate two major milestones—its 20th anniversary and the 10th anniversary of The Body Issue—with content for every screen.

ESPN International reaches every continent and includes television, radio, print, internet, broadband, wireless, consumer products and event management.  The year’s highlights:

ESPN Deportes serves Spanish-speaking fans in the U.S. with culturally-relevant programming of interest to Hispanic sports fans.  The World Baseball Classic Final between Puerto Rico and the U.S. delivered the largest audience ever for a baseball game on any Spanish-language network, and the entire tournament saw its audience increase 67% over the previous edition, in 2013.  On WatchESPN, its average of 197,000 viewers was ESPN Deportes’ largest non-soccer streaming audience of the year.

espnW continued to increase its presence across ESPN platforms, including writer/reporters Kate Fagan and Sarah Spain appearing more often across ESPN’s platforms, including Outside the Lines and Around the Horn and a national evening ESPN Radio show for Spain. Julie Foudy’s Foudy’s Find digital series had a hit with a feature on the San Diego Splash, which to date has had more than 15 million views on Facebook alone. In October, espnW hosted its eighth annual espnW: Women + Sports Summit at a new venue and headlined by Jeanie Buss, Sheryl Crow and Stephanie McMahon.

ESPN also owns some of the events it televises, providing tremendous marketing opportunities.  In addition to the ESPYS and X Games – Summer in Minneapolis for the first time, and Winter in Aspen, Col., for a 16th year – through ESPN Events the company operates more than 31 events, highlighted by 14 college bowl games and 11 college basketball events.  New for 2017:  the PK80, a 16-team early-season men’s basketball event played over Thanksgiving weekend in Portland, Ore., to honor Nike co-founder and 2012 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Phil Knight in advance of his 80th birthday.

Corporate Citizenship

ESPN’s Corporate Citizenship department seeks a strategic approach encompassing all areas of the philanthropic discipline, including volunteerism, charitable giving, reputation management, cause marketing and sustainability.

  • ESPN and X Games launched the Shred Hate bullying prevention program in Colorado during the Winter X Games  By year’s end, it reduced bullying by 94% in schools. With this early success, Major League Baseball joinedShred Hate, and more than 25,000 students will be impacted in the 2017-18 school year.
  • ESPN built multifunctional sport courts in underprivileged neighborhoods in Mexico City, São Paulo, and Bangalore, India. The program also helps at-risk youth acquire marketable job expertise by building on six core sport-based skills.
  • ESPN raised over $9 million for the V Foundation for Cancer Research in 2017, bringing the 24-year total of contributions to $76 million.