ESPN XP Reveals World Cup Cross-Platform Findings

ESPN not only broadcast all 64 games of the 2010 FIFA World Cup but also measured how fans watched them, talked about them, and consumed them across platforms. Through its ESPN XP cross-platform research initiative, the network measured how fans consumed the World Cup on TV, radio, Internet, mobile, and print, both in and out of the home, and presented its findings this week at a meeting of the Advertising Research Foundation in New York City.

“Our goal is to move cross-platform research from special project to standard practice,” says Artie Bulgrin, SVP of research and analytics for ESPN. “We used the World Cup as a lab to attempt to measure cross-platform usage, develop better metrics to inform plans, and grow our audiences.”

Fans Flock to New Platforms
Using metrics compiled internally and with help from 15 partners — including Nielsen — ESPN found that non-TV platforms added a million viewers to ESPN’s average audience. More than half of that (61%) was Internet use, and one-third of the total was from Internet video.

“On weekdays, 21% of our consumption was occurring in out-of-home locations, and, as a result, 26% of our usage was coming through non-TV platforms,” says Glenn Enoch, VP of integrated media research for ESPN. “The average multiplatform user was consuming us on 2.3 platforms. While the multiplatform user is only 26% of our users, they represent nearly half of our consumption because they are the heaviest users.”

Throughout the World Cup, more fans became multiplatform users, with 22% of consumers of World Cup content saying that,  during the tournament, they tried an ESPN platform for the first time. The most frequently used platforms were ESPN.com, ESPN Radio, and ESPN3.com.

“People are using new media simply because they can in what we call new markets of time,” Bulgrin explains. “Digital media particularly is giving us the opportunity to consume media in new and different ways. As a result of that, media use is not a zero-sum game.”

New Metrics for Digital
While ESPN was enjoying record TV ratings, fans were tuning into digital-media platforms as well and spending their time with devices that barely existed during the previous World Cup.

“Almost 40% of the minutes that were consumed on digital media came from emerging digital media, such as live online video, mobile devices, and mobile TV,” says David Coletti, senior director of digital media research for ESPN. “These devices barely existed in 2006 and certainly were not driving much usage to digital-media platforms.”

To quantify the record audiences on those digital platforms, ESPN settled on the concept of average-minute audience, which has long been the currency for measuring traditional-media use but has not been used in the digital space. From June 11 to July 11 110,000 people, on average, used ESPN digital media to consume the World Cup every minute of the day, which is a metric that Coletti describes as platform-agnostic. During that period, ESPN’s digital audience was larger than 23 Nielsen-measured cable networks.

“The average audience per game on ESPN3.com was 113,000 people per minute,” Coletti says. “When Spain played Germany on a weekday afternoon, we had 350,000 people watching online per minute. These audiences showed the viability of live online video and also showed that this platform could deliver TV-like audiences online.”

A Measurable Digital Lift
ESPN also measured the lift that digital yielded in audiences beyond TV’s and found that, on average, ESPN3 delivered an audience 6% greater in both minutes and users than television alone. On certain games, the difference rose to 11%, representing an audience that was not going to consume the game in any other way.

“That number is wholly incremental, non-duplicative,” Coletti adds. “The other emerging start on the digital side was mobile. We had almost a million people view live games on their mobile device, and. for the first time, we began to see the viability of the mobile platform.”

The Next Generation of XP
ESPN will continue its XP research initiative through the current college and NFL football season, making slight tweaks to ESPN XP 2.0.

“We are talking with other vendors to fill in the gaps in the research,” Enoch says of XP 2.0. “The nice thing about football is, it’s months long, so we don’t have everybody on board yet that we’re going to have. But, in a big way, we’re recapitulating the World Cup study, and we’re going to add some more elements that we did not have before.”

Although, at this point, ESPN XP remains a special project, the research team hopes to quickly bring this type of analytic analysis into standard practice.

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