ESPN has officially killed off WatchESPN, first launched in April 2011 to provide pay-TV customers authenticated access to live games, in a move to simplify its app portfolio and consolidate access to all content into one service. On Monday, the Disney-owned sports programmer pulled WatchESPN from Apple’s App Store, Google Play and other platforms.
All ESPN streaming content now lives exclusively on the ESPN app, and everything previously available on WatchESPN has migrated over to the new platform. Over the last several weeks, the cabler has been notifying users who were still using WatchESPN that they should download the ESPN app.
The handwriting was on the wall for the end of WatchESPN last year. In April 2018, ESPN introduced a redesigned app that provided the same access to authenticated pay-TV users, along with free content like scores, news and video highlights and ESPN Plus — the $4.99 per month subscription service that provides access to thousands of events not available on TV.
“This move is in line with our larger, ongoing strategy to create a one-stop app destination for all things ESPN and allows us to maximize resources to create the best experience possible for fans,” Lori LeBas, SVP of affiliate partnership development and operations for Disney and ESPN Media Networks, said in a statement.
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According to LeBas, it’s a win for pay-TV subscribers because in addition to everything they were able to access via WatchESPN they’ll get additional content and enhancements that were only available on the ESPN app. For ESPN, it’s also an opportunity to upsell sports fans on ESPN Plus, which includes exclusive access to some UFC programming and other content not available on the pay-TV side of the house.
When it launched eight years ago, WatchESPN was one of the industry’s first “TV Everywhere” apps, available to customers of participating cable, satellite and telco TV operators to provide access to select live programming streamed over the internet. According to ESPN, viewing on mobile and connected TVs has grown, currently providing 10%-20% lift in viewership among viewers in key demographics.
In a separate move, last summer ESPN phased out the 20-year-old ESPN Insider product, migrating subscribers of the premium sports analysis and data service to ESPN Plus.