This article was published 9 years ago

ESPN goes overboard to compete with the so-called second screen

ESPN megacast ESPN2 College Football Playoffs Oregon Alabama
ESPN’s megacast of the College football national championship between Alabama and Oregon. ESPN2 had college coaches dissect plays. – Image credit: ESPN

ESPN had a hit last year with the megacast of the 2014 College Football National Championship game between Florida State and Auburn: one channel was college coaches dissecting the game – including correctly guessing a Florida State fake punt before halftime – and another channel was showcasing athletes tweets as well as Tim Tebow practicing his college football analysis skills before the launch of the SEC Network. This year: ESPN doubled last years’ success and it went too far.

Taking the success of last year’s film room analysis, ESPN doubled down on analysis dissection with one channel devoted to college football coaches talking about the game and another channel was devoted to former college football players reenacting big plays of the game.

Then there was whatever was on ESPNU, which consisted of streaming tweets from athletes and ESPN talent talking about the game as well as arguing about referees throwing flags, sometimes eating on-air, guess how much a helmet weights and someone picking his noise.

Then there’s the rest on ESPN3: the overhead spider-came, fixed cameras on the student sections of Oregon and Ohio State, radio broadcasts synced with the ESPN telecast, Spanish broadcast, etc.

So to recap: there will be 12 ways to watch one game on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN 3, ESPN Goal Line, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, ESPN Deportes, and ESPN Classic.

Why are they doing this? To capture not only TV viewers but those that watch with a second screen – a smartphone, tablet or even a computer. ESPN wants you to not only watch the game on TV but also to have the second screen on an ESPN property.

Does the second screen experience increase ratings? Studies show that they do – only for live events like the Grammys and the Oscars but some are starting to cast doubt that they have an impact on TV ratings.

Example: ESPN averaged 25.5 million viewers for last year’s telecast. Combined TV ratings for ESPNEWS and ESPN2 for the 2014 BCS National Championship game was 489,000. WatchESPN – ESPN’s online streaming service for smartphones and tablets – had 773,000 online viewers.

ESPN better hope that more than 1 million viewers tuned in to one of the 12 versions of the game broadcast. If not, they need to start looking at what was a success (Film Room) and what was a waste (Whatever was on ESPNU).