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Cable Technology Feature Article

May 10, 2012

ESPN Launches Online Channel for Comcast Customers

By Devin Lavery, TMCnet Contributor

Twenty-two million Comcast (News - Alert) subscribers have now been provided with access to ‘WatchESPN’, a version of the popular sports television channel for viewing on mobile phones and Internet.

 The cable company is hoping that this move will serve as an incentive to their customers in order to keep them paying for their regular television service at home.  The decision to make the channels available online is the result of a 10 year deal between Comcast and the owner of ESPN (News - Alert) networks, the Walt Disney Company. The launch of WatchESPN could increase the number of people with access to the channel to 40 million, effectively doubling the previous number of viewers.  

WatchESPN offers up to as many as six channels of sports including, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, and ESPNU. ESPN Goal Line will be available during college football season, as well as ESPN Buzzer Beater during college basketball season. A similar idea called ESPN3 was launched in 2001, however the content featured on that channel was not as mainstream, including Le Mans auto racing and English Premier League Soccer.

WatchESPN will give viewers access to all of the regular ESPN programming including Monday Night Football. At this point, there is little or no advertising on the site. However Disney (News - Alert) is currently experimenting with interactive ads to be used on WatchESPN at a later date.

Along with Comcast, Time Warner Cable Inc., Bright House Networks, and Verizon (News - Alert) FiOS customers have also been extended the ability to access the site. Users must prove that they subscribe to these networks to watch online.  

Comcast’s Xfinity service will also carry WatchESPN. Xfinity includes both a website and a smartphone app for iPad, iPhone, and Android (News - Alert) that has been downloaded 5 million times. Comcast senior vice president of digital and emerging platforms, Matthew Strauss noted that at least a quarter of Comcast’s customers had tried watching on their computers or smartphones so far.  

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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