ESPN Adds Live Video Streaming to Main App

Viewers seeking live sports on the go no longer have to flit over to the WatchESPN app


Sports lovers no longer have to take timeouts on their ESPN app surfing whenever they want to watch the game.

Starting Thursday, subscribers will be able to stream live events previously offered via WatchESPN directly within the main ESPN app, the network said in a blog post. A software update brings the feature to ESPN app users with Apple mobile devices and gadgets running Google’s Android operating system.

Currently, only those who authenticate that they pay for ESPN as part of cable or satellite service can access live-streamed sports on the go. The network hopes that teasing app visitors with the ability to watch games on their phones will reinforce the value of paying for that TV subscription in the home.

Earlier this year, Bob Iger, chief executive of ESPN parent Disney, said that a direct-to-consumer streaming ESPN was inevitable but not in the next five years. Ryan Spoon, ESPN’s senior vice president of digital product management, told TheWrap Thursday that the latest enhancements to the main app’s live-streaming capabilities were made to emphasize authentication, not to take a baby step toward a la carte pricing.

Spoon added that his goal is to see the WatchESPN app phased out. “It’s in everyone’s interest to have one great app, if you can get it to one,” he said.

ESPN’s two apps are powerhouses in mobile sports. ESPN’s main app is currently the most popular one for sports on Apple’s iOS, and WatchESPN is No. 2, according to tracker App Annie. On Android, WatchESPN is No. 1, followed by NFL Mobile and ESPN. The company said that the namesake app attracted 20.6 million unique visitors in September, and the WatchESPN app reached 11 million, a record for a month that lacked World Cup coverage.

After viewers log in to the ESPN app with a video subscription username and password, they will receive one-tap access to live streaming events through the rebranded WatchESPN tab or by tapping Watch Live within a detailed game page. During WatchESPN playback on iPad, fans will also be able to navigate away from the app with picture-in-picture viewing, allowing them to multitask while watching.

The WatchESPN app isn’t going anywhere for now, though. Picture-in-picture functionality will also continue to be available for the WatchESPN app on iPad.