ESPN sees surge in audiences on TV and digital thanks to Aussie stars in US

ESPN enjoyed a bumper audience for both its broadcast and website for Monday’s NBA decider, with more than 100,000 people on average watching the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors.

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 4.16.16 pmOzTAM preliminary results show the deciding game 7 of the NBA Finals, aired between 10:00am-12:30pm delivered 103,000 viewers for the pay-TV channel in Australia.

Haydn Arndt, general manager ESPN ANZ, told Mumbrella the result was a sign of real growth in the sport, buoyed in part by the number of Australians now in the competition.

“We have seen real momentum this year around the NBA,” said Arndt. “Both in our digital and TV assets and part of that is down to all the Aussie action, with some eight Australians playing we have been keen to highlight them.

“But there has also been a lot of mainstream media. I don’t think there was a news report or an update yesterday that didn’t have the NBA as a story. It has really taken off.”

ESPN also noted that the figure of 103,000 was set to rise when the digital figures for Foxtel Go/Play and ESPN app audience come out.

Both of the teams contesting the finals boast Australian players, with Matthew Dellavedova turning out for Cleveland and Andrew Bogut sidelined by injury for the Golden State Warriors.

The interest also lifted ESPN’s online properties with claiming that traffic for NBA Finals Game 7 provided the AU edition with a record 174,000 unique users on Monday.

Lance Peatey, director – digital product and partnerships ESPN ANZ, said he was pleased with the online audience growth of the NBA.

“This is really a multi-platform story in terms of how much penetration we are having on digital now,” he said. “Since the local edition launch on March 2, yesterday was our biggest day on the site.

“We are obviously playing to our strengths on the Australian edition and next year we are going to have more than 200 NBA games. Fundamentally it comes down to the fact we want to give the fans what they want.”

Peatey said he was pleased with some of the NFL’s results, which were boosted by the inclusion of Jarryd Hayne joining the San Francisco 49ers.

Denver, CO - December 28, 2015 - Sports Authority Field at Mile High: Demaryius Thomas (88) of the Denver Broncos during a regular season Monday Night Football game (Photo by Scott Clarke / ESPN Images)

Asked if that audience would diminish now that Hayne had quit the competition, Arndt said: “One of our highest-rating shows ever was when (Hayne) made his debut, but what we found is that the interest level (in NFL) has stayed high.

“Our highest-rating show ever was the Super Bowl 50 and clearly he wasn’t playing in that. The thing with Jarryd was there was this huge spike when he came in but much of that audience stayed on.

“I think we have got to a point where consumers don’t see Australian sport and international sport. Similarly, the NBA is fundamentally just the best basketball league in the world and the fans just want to see the best athletes in the world.

“It has now taken off to a new level where it isn’t just going to be a wave (of interest). I think it is going to be bigger than we expected.”

Peatey noted that ESPN was working on ensuring its Australian website featured both overseas and local sport, using Aussie player/commentator Nick Riewoldt for both the AFL and NFL.

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 3.44.48 pm“Bringing an Australian flavour to our NFL coverage has also helped and meant we are not reliant on Jarryd Hayne,” he said.

“We have found a nice niche in the market for our opinion and commentary on ESPN. Nick is just a mad NFL fan and lives and breathes the sport in the US.”

“He will certainly help us deliver this sport to a wider audience. We have also been aggressively trying to grow video – everyone is trying to grow that; but with the programming we have, video is a big part of our plans.

Adam Deutsch, the senior director of global digital strategy and sales at ESPN, will deliver a keynote at Mumbrella’s upcoming Sports Marketing Summit on July 28. Click here for more information. 



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