Lauren Goode

Recent Posts by Lauren Goode

ESPN Retools Radio App, Launches on iPad

Rabid sports fans are about to get even less productive at work.

ESPN has reengineered its streaming radio app to offer improved sound quality, push alerts for when a favorite program is going live and content-caching for listening to podcasts without an Internet connection.

It’s also launching the app for the first time on iPad. The app is already available for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry; the updated version will hit Android in June, and a Windows phone app will be available this summer.

If you vaguely recall ESPN having just updated its radio app, you would be correct: The company retooled it less than 18 months ago to include new search and personalization features, as AllThingsD’s Peter Kafka reported here.

Marc Horine, ESPN’s vice president of digital and print media, says that with the newest version, the network is trying to refocus on what’s most important with a radio app — the listening experience. Files have been compressed for faster streaming and downloading, and the sound quality has been enhanced, Horine says. And the app includes DVR — which allows users to skip ads, by the way, though I doubt ESPN would encourage that — and the ability to download full podcasts for listening offline.

Most of the content on the app is commentary, though there are some live play-by-play game options, and there’s a SportsCenter update available every 20 minutes (for the really, really rabid sports fans). To lure listeners to the app, ESPN has mixed up its app offerings to include original, app-only programming with stuff that’s already broadcast on terrestrial radio, like “BS Report with Bill Simmons,” “Pardon the Interruption” and “Fantasy Focus.”

At $4.99, the new ESPN Radio costs two dollars more to download than the old version, and runs in-app ads as well as commercials throughout the podcasts.

Horine says the mobile radio app has been downloaded more than 740,000 times since it first launched two-and-a-half years ago. That’s actually a pretty small percentage of the 24 million weekly radio listeners ESPN claims across all platforms.

And the majority of listeners — 90 percent, Horine says — listen to radio while at work Monday through Friday. But now, with the ability to stop and start radio podcasts on your desktop and pick up right where you left off on the mobile app, ESPN envisions mobile will become a growing fraction of those listeners.

(Full disclosure: I worked as a non-Disney employee for ESPN from 2003 to 2006. I was not involved with network’s radio programming.)

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— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald