Killer Desktop Apps, Part 3: Sweet ESPN Motion

We’ve all heard about the myth of the missing 18-34-year-old males of late. Perhaps they’re no longer watching network television shows. Maybe they still are. Maybe they’ve moved online. Or maybe they’re watching the Cartoon Network or “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

If you’ve been looking for those 18-34-year-old males, hoping to reach them via television, I’ve found a few of them for you, and you can still reach them with a television-like message.

Just look to ESPN.com — 66 percent of its 15 million monthly visitors are males ages 18-34. One way it’s capturing the attention of that audience is through ESPN Motion.

ESPN Motion is an application users can download for free. Multiple times per day, new sports video content is downloaded to the user’s computer. When the new video content is fully loaded, an icon appears in the user’s system tray alerting him the latest sports highlights and news are just a click away. Because the video loads in the background, as opposed to streams, quality is exceptional. If you haven’t downloaded the application, you should as soon as you’re done reading this column. It’s worth checking out.

We’ve got quite a number of 18-34-year-old males working in our office, so I asked some of them what they thought about the application.

“I downloaded it as soon as it came out,” said one. “I’m a fan.”

“I like the quality and the content,” said another.

Some had issues with the Motion player’s configurability or with the fact video was pushed to them when they visited ESPN.com for features other than video. But everyone I talked to about Motion knew about it and had experienced it. (Granted, perhaps Internet developers aren’t what you’d call a representative focus group when it comes to issues like this.)

Earlier this month, I met the guys who started Motion. I’m a board member for the Dallas/Fort Worth Interactive Marketing Association, and we invited them to speak at our monthly meeting. I was impressed with what I heard.

John Kosner, senior VP of business operations and programming, and Riley McDonough, VP of advertising sales, spoke at our event. It was really interesting to hear about the start-up phase of this application and how the app was born in the Disney Imagineers’ labs (the group usually associated with the design of Disney theme park rides).

Kosner and McDonough did a great job explaining the current and future opportunities in the application. Calling it an application may be somewhat limiting. The potential exists for it to become a highly dynamic platform on which to deliver all kinds of content and marketing messages. Disney’s more recently launched FamilyFun TV is one such example.

It’s still largely potential, but as we hear more about video on the Web, this platform becomes increasingly interesting. Inventory on Motion was actually purchased upfront this year. Which makes sense. What you have with ESPN.com and Motion is a good number of passionate, highly engaged people waiting to be exposed to your marketing message.

Background

In 18 months, Motion has generated over 3 million downloads. There are over 2 million unique Motion users each month, and they watch millions of videos a day. Most of those users are, you guessed it, males ages 18-34.

The Ad Platform

Currently, ESPN Motion runs a 30-second spot prior to the sports content the user requests. If the user chooses to view more video clips, he’s served additional ads every two to three clips.

Why It Works

There are a ton of sports junkies who can’t wait to get their eyeballs on the latest highlights, scores, and news. ESPN’s TV channels are a built-in content factory. On top of that, the video quality on the computer screen is such they want to keep watching.

The Future

My one complaint about Motion is it doesn’t allow the user to interact much with the advertiser. The video isn’t clickable, nor are there corresponding ad units on the static Web page. I understand ESPN’s desire to keep users engaged with Motion and ESPN.com. There must be a way to allow users to express interest in the marketing message, interact with a brand, then, when they’re finished, continue with their sports fix.

ESPN has on its hands a broadcast platform that can be used to deliver all sorts of content and marketing messages. It may want to consider licensing the technology to other online publishers. Imagine original programming, regularly scheduled programs…

Interactive video is in your future. I’d love to hear your opinions about its role in the marketing mix.

OK, you can download it now: ESPN Motion.

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