ESPN Digital in 2020: 34 Straight Months at No. 1, ESPN App Grows Leadership Position by 42 Percent, ESPN+ Tops 11.5 Million Subscribers, Social Climbs to No. 1 for Best Year on Record
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In 2020, ESPN Digital was the No. 1 U.S. sports category property with an average of 91.4 million unique visitors and 5.0 billion minutes per month (source: Comscore), 20.9 million and 1.2 billion more than the next closest competitor (+30% and +31%, respectively, over Yahoo Sports-NBC Sports Network). The year extended its leadership position to 34 straight months.
ESPN Digital also leads among key demographics, including its growing reach among female fans (+4% year-over-year) and Black/African Americans (+1%).
Globally, ESPN Digital also had a milestone year, setting a sports category record of 161.6 million users worldwide in October.
ESPN App & ESPN+
Specifically, the ESPN App widened its margin as the No. 1 U.S. sports app by 42 percent in 2020, leading the nearest competitor in average unique visitors and minutes per month by 14.1 million and 550.0 million, respectively.
The new ESPN Stories feature on the app, launched in late summer, has also shown positive growth in monthly average views, up +64% month-over-month, and total actions growing 2.5 times since its debut (source: internal).
ESPN also recorded its best streaming year on record with total minutes streamed up +1% YOY (source: Adobe Analytics). This included its best month ever in September with total unique devices and time spent viewing both up +15% YOY, driven by both ESPN+ and TV Everywhere streaming.
ESPN+ was the company’s fastest-growing video product, topping more than 11.5 million subscribers and recording all of its Top 10 most-viewed events ever, establishing new records for viewing of on-demand programming, and growing average monthly readership of ESPN+ subscription written content by 26% YOY (with growth accelerating late in 2020 with the expanded offering).
Authenticated TV Everywhere also saw unique authenticated devices reach a record high in September (up +26%).
The year also saw ESPN Social climb to the No. 1 sports media publisher for engagement with 4.2 billion total actions across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (source: Shareablee) – the highest among all sports publishers in 2020 and up +64% – and 16.7 billion video views across YouTube and Facebook (up +35%).
Facebook and Twitter – ESPN’s primary social media accounts, @espn and @sportscenter, experienced significant increases in average social engagements per post on both platforms, up +55% and +20%, respectively.
Instagram – The @espn and @sportscenter accounts generated more than 2.8 billion total social engagements (up +76%) and was up +54% in average social engagements per post.
Specifically, the SportsCenter Instagram account – driven by ESPN digital and social content commentator and House of Highlights founder Omar Raja in his first year as the leading voice for the account – now has over 20 million followers with more than 40 posts garnering over one million social engagements apiece.
TikTok – ESPN more than quadrupled its following in the past year alone (+335%) to 13.3 million followers with a 47% female audience (source: internal).
The most popular social posts of the year by platform in 2020:
- Facebook: Rebounding dog (1.3M Social Engagements; 26.6M Video Views)
- Twitter: Dear Kobe (656K Social Engagements, 8.1M Video Views)
- Instagram: ESPN’s Jay Williams on Kobe (1.97M Social Engagements, 8.3M Video views)
- TikTok: This mom surprising her daughter and boyfriend when she came home from Kuwait is everything (1M Likes, 62M Views)
Snapchat – ESPN introduced two new shows – SC Now and ESPN: The Throwback – in addition to programming news content for Snapchat’s new “Happening Now” product leading to +11% yearly growth of unduplicated unique viewers across all shows (source: internal).
ESPN Digital & Social Shows
ESPN’s digital production team produced over 700 shows and 350 million total views across the ESPN App, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – up from a record 620 shows and 252 million views in 2019 and the largest area of growth off-platform this year.
Specifically on YouTube, ESPN garnered 3.6 billion views and 14.4 billion minutes watched (source: internal), driven by ESPN’s growing lineup of digital and social shows.