For New Soccer Season, Betting Funds ESPN’s Mobile Ambitions

Last soccer season, ESPN (NYSE: DIS) debuted ESPN Goals, an iPhone and Android app that, for £3.99 per month or £29.99 annually, offered mobile video highlights within minutes of goals being scored.

This season, ESPN Goals will be free, the sportscaster told reporters last week. So how will it finance the project?

With betting.

Powered by Bet365, a “bet now” button will feature on the app’s live scores page. Bet365 will also get banner ads and pre-roll video ads around the goal clips. It’s all a sponsorship deal, rather than an ESPN betting service, however.

ESPN won’t say how many downloads ESPN Goals has achieved whilst payments were required, suggesting it wasn’t many. ESPN is moving the app from paid to free with sponsorship in order to reach scale.

“In its first season, ESPN Goals established a brand and built a base of UK football fans using the app, which has allowed us to demonstrate the unique value of mobile to advertisers and partners – both on its own and as a compliment to our television and web coverage of the Premier League,” ESPN tells paidContent. “As we continue to build ESPN’s presence in the UK we want to connect with as many football fans as possible, on all the screens they use. Being able to now offer ESPN Goals to fans for free will help us advance those aims.”

This will be the first season in which BSkyB (NYSE: BSY) customers can watch their Sky Sports and Sky Sports News channels, with live match coverage, on mobile and tablets with the Sky Go application.