ESPN has been searching everywhere and trying everything to try to increase SportsCenter’s ratings on linear television. We’ve seen new timeslots, new hosts, new formats, new episodes, and much more to try to bring SportsCenter to a new audience.
While there are those of us who grew up as children of the 90s that long for the highlight shows of the good old days, it hasn’t worked in contemporary times. NBCSN and FS1 have tried more highlight-focused shows that ultimately failed.
But ESPN and SportsCenter may have struck on a formula for highlights that may finally be working. They just had to get away from television to do it.
In the latest column from Jim Brady, the ESPN Public Editor takes a closer look at SportsCenter on SnapChat. Thus far, the shortened format for the mobile app is doing quite well. Extremely well even. In fact, it reaches 2 million visitors every day. And a stunning 75% of that audience are teens or young adults.
Overall, it’s a nice, breezy product, though certainly not one that would satisfy the obsessive needs of a devoted sports fan on a daily basis. But that’s not the point of the Snapchat SportsCenter offering. It’s designed for a content grazer with a short attention span, and, to that end, the product meets the consumer need.
According to Nate Ravitz, ESPN’s vice president of audience development, one of the reasons the Snapchat relationship has been successful is because both sides have been fully engaged since the partnership began.
“Snapchat has been an exceptional partner in working on this project together,” he said. “They created a totally custom CMS, improved it over time, and have been receptive to feedback. … It’s night and day from three years ago to what we have today. They’ve been terrific.”
The Snapchat SportsCenter show is getting more than 2 million unique visitors per day, and, according to ESPN, 75 percent of viewers are between the ages of 13 and 24.
ESPN has to be very encouraged because that’s the exact audience that has moved away from the traditional SportsCenter format (and traditional television as a whole). While they may not be sitting in front of a television screen to watch ESPN, they are on their smartphones all the time.
The SportsCenter-Snapchat partnership is a godsend for ESPN because it takes the product to a new platform and a new audience. It’s a forward-thinking move for ESPN that takes an alternative approach to the traditional ratings struggles that everyone in television is dealing with at the moment. SportsCenter might not be useful on ESPNEWS anymore, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for it that is still relevant.
This is likely just step one in the continued digital revolution that we’re seeing at ESPN. And if this successful partnership is any indication of what lies ahead, it could be some much needed good news for the company at just the right time.