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ESPN celebrates TikTok milestone ahead of sportsbook launch

| By Richard Mulligan
ESPN has become the most-followed brand on TikTok as it posted impressive multi-channel figures just weeks before its sportsbook launch.

The US sports media group now has 41 million followers on the influential video sharing app. ESPN’s blend of in-game highlights and behind-the-scenes moments has proved a hit with the next generation of sports fans, ESPN said.

Disney-owned ESPN’s impressive performance across the board comes ahead of the launch of its Penn Entertainment-backed ESPN Bet in November. As well as steady growth in TV viewership, ESPN saw double-digit increases in consumption of its digital and social channels.

Overall TV viewership was up 2% year-on-year, with a 4% rise experienced in the second and third quarters. ESPN noted even greater success within its key demographic of those aged 18-49, with viewership up 5%.

Thanks to those figures, ESPN maintained its historical position as the No1 sports network by average audience. It was the third biggest cable network overall, trailing two news networks.

Sports fans flock to ESPN+

ESPN+, its over-the-top subscription video streaming service, heralded its best-ever performance since launch in 2018. For the fiscal year, ESPN+ finished up double-digits in both unique viewers (+11%) and total minutes viewed (+15%). In uniques and minutes, the platform showed tremendous growth each quarter, up 37%, 19%, 11% and 7% and in total minutes, 13%, 26%, 7% and 14%, respectively.

ESPN Digital, its portfolio of websites and apps, saw its best usage ever, averaging 111 million unique visitors each month. This, it said, represents a 4% growth from fiscal year 2022 and bests the nearest competitor by 49%.

Next generation of sports fans

ESPN Social had its best year of social engagement ever with 8.7 billion social engagements across all accounts, up 25% year-over-year. This segment, which includes its thriving TikTok channel, has enjoyed over 24 straight months of being number one for engagement in sports media. The group said its TikTok success underscores a commitment to engaging with sports enthusiasts in a platform-specific manner.

Omar Raja, ESPN social strategist, said: “It’s exciting to see how we’ve been able to successfully connect with the next generation of sports fans. This milestone represents a long-standing goal we set four years ago and we’re only going up from here.”

Penn president and CEO Jay Snowden recently confirmed the ESPN Bet app will launch in November after a five-month development period. Penn and ESPN signed a $1.5bn deal in August that will see Penn relaunch Barstool Sportsbook as ESPN Bet.

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