Wednesday, December 11, 2013, 7:05 PM ET|Posted by Will Richmond
ESPN has reported a slew of viewership data for the 2013 college football season across both traditional TV and digital platforms. Of note, WatchESPN recorded a 20% increase in average live game usage vs. 2012, to 32,000 live unique viewers. Though that's a healthy increase, the incremental viewership WatchESPN represents is still quite small compared to TV viewing. ESPN said that its networks averaged nearly 1.9 million viewers for the 254 regular-season games that were broadcast. Across all of its networks, a total of 189 million people watched games.
(Two caveats on the comparison: first, as an ESPN spokeswoman clarified, TV viewership means people tuned in an average minute of an average game, while for WatchESPN, the metric is number of people that tuned in at any point in the stream. Second, WatchESPN was available to 53 million pay-TV subscribers, about 58% of total pay-TV households in the U.S. So if you grossed up WatchESPN's viewership assuming 100% availability, it would be closer to 55,000 viewers.)
Also worth noting is that WatchESPN notched 1.2 million live minutes viewed, a 31% increase vs. 2012, and 33 minutes per viewer, a 6% increase vs. 2012. For the full season, ESPN.com also had over 204 million video starts, a 29% bump from last year.
The WatchESPN share of live viewing suggests a few things to me: (1) TV Everywhere is still in its infancy, and needs much more promotion to educate consumers, (2) regular season college football games have "big event" appeal, with most fans scheduling themselves to be in front of a TV screen at game time and (3) when the TV isn't accessible, watching for relatively long durations on a smaller screen appears to be acceptable.
Note also that at last week's VideoSchmooze, Damon Phillips, who oversees WatchESPN, said that 64% of smartphone viewing and 82% of tablet viewing occurs in the home (though he didn't specify whether college football follows this pattern).
One reason that WatchESPN adoption is important to follow is because it's one of the marquee TV Everywhere apps. So its adoption helps educate viewers about device-based viewing, which in turn helps drive awareness and usage of other networks' apps.