Avid Sports Fans Keep ESPN.com Traffic Spiking

ESPN uses a variety of technologies to deliver a myriad of sports to millions of users.

BRISTOL, Conn.—Many people know ESPN for its broadcast television offerings, which feed almost every sport you can imagine into the TVs of more than 93 million homes worldwide.

But ESPNs digital assets are booming, too. ESPN.com gets roughly 18 million unique visitors per month, and could get more this week as the Colorado Rockies prepare to face the Boston Red Sox for the World Series on Oct. 24 at Fenway Park in Boston.

John Zehr, senior vice president of ESPN Digital Media Production, and his team are tasked with making it possible for people to enjoy the sports viewing experience through platforms other than TVs.

During a meeting at the companys sprawling campus here, Zehr explained to eWEEK how he is responsible for the video on ESPN.com, interactive television and the organizations mobile phone sports offerings.

Zehr is particularly fond of ESPN360.com, a global video-through-PC service that offers 2,500 events over a 12-month period, which is more than the companys flagship channels ESPN and ESPN2 combined. Imagine watching TV through your PC, but instead of watching one sporting event on one channel, ESPN360.com enables users to recreate ESPNs TV control room.

In other words, ESPN360.com enables your PC to become your mission control console, where you can view up to ten different events on six mini-screens, switching back and forth between events and pausing and resuming play in a TiVo-like fashion.

ESPN360.com incorporates Flash and a streaming video technology from Move Networks, an American Fork, Utah, startup that breaks video into small files called streamlets and delivers it over traditional HTTP Web traffic protocols.

"It allows us to CDN (content delivery network) like Akamai or Limelight a lot more effectively and cache some of those assets and lowers the cost and allows you to do higher quality," Zehr said.


Akamai facilitates Web 2.0 traffic. Click here to read more.

Moreover, Zehr and his team will soon be adding TiVo-like capabilities by mashing up play-by-play data with the ESPN360.com video applet. For example, ESPN will put markers where scoring plays happen, and viewers can go back and replay the plays that are marked.

"You can produce your own highlight reel," Zehr said.

ESPN also sees mobile as a major focus for its consumers, offering a client-side application called MVP. Available only through Verizon, MVP runs on Web-based mobile phones, playing video and rendering real-time scores.

Next page: How ESPN Uses Technology to Deliver Sports