Buoyed by the increasing preference for sports on the digital platform, American sports broadcaster ESPN is aggressively working to tap this demand with more content, says a top company official. The broadcaster, which has been present here for over quarter of a century, owns two digital properties — ESPNcricinfo, a cricket content platform, and a co-branded multi-sport content offering ESPN.in, with its joint venture partner Sony Pictures Networks India that was launched 15 months earlier. Besides, it also has two co-branded sports channels with Sony Pictures Networks India. “We believe that India is a mobile-first market and data confirms that. Almost 78 per cent of all our traffic is either on the mobile web or the app. We also believe that over time people are shifting from mobile web towards app,” ESPN International executive vice-president and managing director Russell Wolff told PTI here. For ESPN, digital video consumption has been growing at 150 per cent, while mobile video demand has been growing even more dramatically, at a rate as high as 350 per cent, Wolff said. He said the company has been producing more videos for mobile and digital platforms, given the growing interest in digital content. And he is bullish about the demand, saying “we expect growth in both the amount of content we produce and the consumption of that video to continue at a pace.” Between January and September this year, ESPN.in has seen a 22 per cent year-on-year increase in traffic to 122 million a month and the unique views have grown 24 per cent year-on-year to 25 million a month.
Terming India as “an amazing, complex market that is driven by cricket,” Wolff noted that the interest in other sports is also increasing and the company is quite bullish on the prospects here. ESPN.in football content had a 43 per cent year-on-year increase in unique views, tennis video content witnessed soared 160 per cent, while that for badminton surged 200 per cent over last year. The unique views for NBA (basketball) rose 60 per cent, according to the data from Kantar Milward Brown and Adobe Analytics. On an average, an Indian user spends about 500 minutes a month on ESPN digital properties, with app users generally spending a good deal more than those who visit only via the web, Wolff said. On local language content, he said they are exploring the possibility of incorporating Indian languages on its apps. India, which has one of the largest editorial teams and the largest technology teams outside the US for ESPN, is a key part of their growth plans in the Asia-Pacific region and globally.
“It is definitely a market we are focused on. Our editorial and product teams in Bengaluru and Mumbai not only drive our India business but also are an integral part of ESPN around the world, contributing significantly to our global digital platform, products and business,” Wolff said. “Our focus is on creating high quality, compelling content and products, as well as developing robust technology, as we continue growing our presence in India,” he added.