ESPN Bows Major Sports Research Initiative


Hugging the touch line, Knowledge Networks will measure weekly and total exposure to World Cup action across all platforms, including away-from-home venues. The latter represents a significant opportunity for advertisers, as untold hundreds of thousands of fans who watch the games in bars and restaurants go uncounted. (Arbitron’s ARB-TV service tracks away-from-home viewership for a small stable of clients, including Turner Broadcasting System and CBS.)

“We were the only programmer to subscribe to Nielsen’s [now defunct] out-of-home service,” Bulgrin said, acknowledging the need for greater insight into viewership that takes place beyond the family room. “We’ll be picking up their [Life360] diaries ... and they will help provide a picture of where people are throughout the day as they consume the World Cup.”

Also roaming the pitch is the Media Behavior Institute, which will apply its USA TouchPoints service to ESPN’s World Cup coverage. The company also has developed an application that enables an iPhone to serve as a media diary.

Bulgrin said the ESPN XP effort kicks in as the network continues to expand its cross-platform deliveries. “Half of all ESPN Media users are using TV and some other platform of ours,” Bulgrin said. “That’s more than double the rate that we measured about five years ago, and that half represents 70 to 75 percent of all time spent with ESPN.”

Once ESPN has had a chance to parse the various data streams, the XP initiative will be revisited in the fall, in time to provide a clearer picture of the network’s Monday Night Football and NCAA football properties. Bulgrin hopes a fully developed system of measuring cross-platform usage will be in place by 2012.

“The goal is to drive a scalable metric,” said Bulgrin, adding that it will be some time before ESPN’s sales team will make any guarantees against the research. “It’s not a metric. At some point we hope to have some more serious discussions with our advertisers when we can say, ‘this is viable, you can use this.’”

ESPN’s World Cup coverage kicks off Friday, June 11, with a Group A match between host nation South Africa and Mexico (9:30 a.m. EDT). The title match will air Sunday, July 11, on ABC.