ESPN’s WatchESPN iPad App Adds A Live Toolbar With Scores, Stats, And On-Demand Clips

Cable sports network ESPN has added a few new features to its app for streaming live video on the iPad today. The company’s WatchESPN app now has what it’s calling a “live toolbar” which will provide complementary info while viewers are streaming live TV on the tablet. It’s also making live streamed video of its ESPN3 channel available free to users on military and educational networks.

The WatchESPN app is designed to let cable subscribers stream all their favorite shows and live events from a variety of ESPN networks while they’re on their iPad. That includes ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNU, and basically whatever ESPN networks I’m forgetting. That streaming works whether they’re on their home network or on the go, as long as they’ve logged in with their cable credentials.

But up until now, pretty much all they could do on the app was watch video. That changes today, with an update to the WatchESPN app that adds a toolbar to the bottom of the screen while viewers are watching live videos on the app. From that toolbar, viewers will now have access to live scores and stats, so they can dig deeper into what’s happening around their favorite sports leagues or teams. The idea is to let sports fans keep track of what’s going on, without having to leave the app.

Also new to the app are on-demand clips and highlights, which are also available through the live toolbar. For the first time, WatchESPN iPad app users will not only be able to watch action live, but they’ll also be able to check out short video segments from within the app. That way they can watch — and re-watch — game highlights and amazing plays right alongside the live video, in split-screen mode.

In addition to the new live toolbar, ESPN is opening up its live ESPN3 channel to viewers on military and educational networks. Now college students or members of the military who try to access the app from on-campus (.edu) and on-base (.mil) networks will get access to ESPN3 on the iPhone and iPad app — even if they’re not cable subscribers. Previously, that was only available to Xbox Live Gold members.

And now, live sports events that broadcast on ABC network will also be featured on the app. Users won’t be able to watch them directly on WatchESPN, but they’ll be redirected to watch those events in the WatchABC app instead.

Ever since it first launched its WatchESPN app two years ago, cable sports network ESPN has been working on making the live streaming video service available to more subscribers in more place. That means increasing the number of devices it can be viewed on, as well as striking agreements to make it available to more subscribers.

On both counts, it’s been doing pretty well. Now, more than 55 million pay TV subscribers have access to WatchESPN from operators that include Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks, Verizon FiOS TV, Comcast Xfinity TV, Midcontinent Communications, Cablevision, Cox, Charter and AT&T U-verse.

And it’s been quickly expanding the number of devices WatchESPN can be, uh, watched on. That includes Apple TV, which WatchESPN launched on in June, and Xbox, where it launched last fall.

We can expect the WatchESPN experience to become even more ubiquitous over time, as more pay TV providers sign on to make it available and more device manufacturers support it. But for those 55 million subscribers who can access it now, the new iPad app isn’t a bad choice.