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Week In Review: ESPN Hits 2M Subs For Plus, CBS Hits 2.6M Streamers For The Super Bowl

1. ESPN Hits 2M Subs For Plus

ESPN+ now has over two million viewers and Disney is understandably pleased with the results, given that the service is just 9 months old.

Why It Matters

As we detailed at the time, ESPN was very clever about how they launched Plus, piggybacking it onto the existing free ESPN app, the one millions of people already had installed and then, in an even greater stroke of genius, enlisting American Express to pay for everyone’s subscription for the first month.

That ensured both a whole lot of what the kids call “trialing” and what us older folks call “forgetting”—we’d be curious how many people subscribed to Plus that first month and then more or less forgot about it or couldn’t figure out how to unsubscribe, or figured that for just $4.99/month, it wasn’t worth investing the time to figure it out.

Plus is ESPN’s “kitchen sink” app—it’s got a somewhat random hodgepodge of offerings—library documentary series, sports from smaller college conferences, sports that are mostly played in college (lacrosse, field hockey), and some soccer and baseball too. It’s nothing anyone really needs but there are enough options that for $5/month a lot of people probably figure the subscription is worth keeping.

ESPN+ is one leg of Disney’s Magic Stool (because everything at Disney is magical) along with Hulu and the new Disney+ app. Which, as per this week’s earnings call, sounds like it’s going to be even more Netflixesque than anticipated, with movies and series from other studios, along with a passel of originals.

And so the Flixcopalypse begins

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re one of the Flixes or anyone else looking to launch a new app, look at how well ESPN+ is doing with that $5/month price point. Granted it’s a unique app and it had first mover advantage and all that, but it’s easy to justify $5/month (or even $6, as our friends at Hulu are finding out.) More than that and you’re getting into Churn Country and that’s not a place you want to be.

The other lesson from ESPN+ is that niche programming is valuable, especially if you’ve got a passionate audience who’ll pay to watch it. Aggregate enough of it, a la ESPN, and you might even get to 2 million users, a number that anime site Crunchyroll has also been bandying about.

2. CBS Hits 2.6M Streamers For The Super Bowl

While the TV Is Dead crew was fishing for clicks with “Super Bowl Ratings Sink” headlines as bait, back here in the real world, the news was that the Super Bowl’s year-over-year (YOY) streaming views were up 32% and that 2.6 million people had watched the game on one of the “official” apps like CBS Sports or YahooSports, and that another 12 million had watched it out-of-home (e.g., at a bar), which brought the grand total to 112.7 million, making it the third-most watched Super Bowl of all time.

Why It Matters

The Super Bowl, along with the Oscars, is one of the few events that vast numbers of Americans still watch on TV in real time. That 112.7 million number is probably even higher given uncounted vMVPD viewers and people watching via unofficial streams and Locast.

It’s interesting to look at these stats because the Super Bowl is a reminder to cord cutters of what they’re missing by giving up pay TV, and a reminder to broadcasters like CBS of how much good will they can buy by letting viewers stream the game on their app without any sort of authentication. (Which is as it should be, given that CBS and other broadcasters are, technically anyway, free.)

We will likely see numerous iterations of how Super Bowl ratings are calculated over the next few years. The panoply of ways people watch the game makes for a great case study of why just relying on old school Nielsen ratings no longer makes sense, and how we need to figure out a better way to count all those viewers.

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re a measurement company, the Super Bowl is a great way to show off your breadth and depth: it’s live TV, so no worrying about time-shifting, but the more you can show how you’ve got all the flavors of live viewing covered, the better.

If you’re an advertiser, consider the Super Bowl money well spent. There are very few events that draw this many people together all at the same time, people who are actually looking to be entertained by the ads.


PS: Look for me on Cheddar TV on Monday, February 11 at 11:45 AM Eastern