ESPN’s WatchESPN app has been wildly popular on every new device that it’s launched on. But until recently, you had to log in as a cable subscriber to be able to actually “watch” ESPN on the app. Now the company is launching a new version of WatchESPN for Android that not only brings its tentpole Monday Night Football games to Android tablet users for the first time, but also provides on-demand clips for everyone.
The new WatchESPN app was built to run on Android version 2.3 and above, making it available to a huge number of users. And while the previous version required users to authenticate — i.e. to log in with their cable provider’s credentials — the new version has content even for those who aren’t cable subscribers, or whose cable provider hasn’t reached a deal with the Disney-owned sports network.
That’s a big deal for the company, and well, for everyone who loves sports. While live WatchESPN content is available through eight of the top 10 pay TV providers in the U.S., representing 55 million households, that’s a little more than half of the cable or satellite subscribers in the country. Now even those who aren’t represented will have something to watch.
So what new content is available? The app will have new on-demand clips that include all the latest news and highlights from various sports leagues, allowing viewers to keep track of what’s going on even if they’re not tuning in live. According to Damon Phillips, VP of WatchESPN and ESPN3, that’s important because mobile has been a huge driver of growth for the company, as users look for snackable clips to check out on their phones and tablets in their spare time.
Anyway, the app was designed to be highly responsive whether users are on a phone or tablet, and was built from the ground up natively for Android, unlike the previous version, which was more of an iOS port. As a result, it takes advantage of some Android features, like the app drawer, which Android users are already familiar with.
For tablet users, there’s another bonus: WatchESPN will now have Monday Night Football games available to view live for those devices, so long as they’ve logged in with their cable or satellite TV credentials. (Android phone users won’t have access due to an exclusive deal for mobile streaming between ESPN and Verizon.)
For ESPN, the addition of on-demand clips is something the company has been doing across a number of devices and platforms where the app is available. Viewers can view them on Apple TV, Xbox Live, and now Android.
Conspicuously missing from the list is the WatchESPN iOS app, but Phillips said that was just due to where the app fit in the company’s planned development cycle. iPhone and iPad users should expect the same features and functionality rolled out for their devices soon.