In a sense, ESPN has always been about mobile media. In the early 1980s, George Bodenheimer, now president of ESPN and ABC Sports, would drive taped games to the network’s Bristol, Conn., studios from a nearby airport. Things are a little more efficient these days.
Now, “the worldwide leader in sports” is on your phones and tablets, and it’s a business it is committed to growing. Some 98% of all pro sports are now watched live, and ESPN will increasingly push content onto mobile devices, Bodenheimer said today at the VC in the Rockies Conference in Beaver Creek, Colo.
In the United Kingdom, ESPN’s apps track the English Premier League for denizens of dedicated fans. The network will soon launch, in conjunction with the University of Texas, a network solely dedicated to the Longhorns’ sports program.
Going mobile isn’t ESPN’s lone presence on the Web. Prior to Disney’s $763 million deal to acquire game developer Playdom, ESPN had already paired with the developer to launch its ESPN College Town — which already boasts more than 2 million members. Next, Bodenheimer told the VCIR audience, ESPN will launch a social game called “ESPN Sports Bar.”
“We’re excited about opportunities in the social space,” he said.
While Bodenheimer acknowledged the mobile business is a growing part of ESPN’s revenue, he declined to discuss projections.
During his Q&A session, he said there is no “formal” process for how venture capitalists and entrepreneurs can engage the network for deals or to collaborate on projects, but he noted that ESPN is always looking for new mobile and social gaming opportunities.
After his speech, Bodenheimer acknowledged it is a goal for the network to extend its live mobile games coverage to more mobile devices, including the iPhone, eventually. He did not offer a timetable for that.