• 8 Sports App Development Standards Set by ESPN

    8 Sports App Development Standards Set by ESPN

    Alex Gurbo
    Alex Gurbo
    CTO & Co-founder

    ESPN Digital recently reported a new achievement: in March, they beat every other similar sports app in the US on every key metric. According to the company’s recent press release, they have left Yahoo-NBC Sports, at number two, far behind. 

    Just think about it: ESPN reached number one positions on

    • the number of unique visitors (95.4 million)
    • the number of new unique visitors (19.9 million)
    • the time spent by new users with the app (1.8 billion minutes)
    • the total time spent using the app (6.1 billion minutes).

    It is clear now that the media giant has successfully undergone digital transformation and now calls the shots in sports app development. Let’s break down its success.

    The Anatomy of ESPN’s Sports App

    Established in 1979, ESPN is a veteran sports TV channel network in the United States. The launch of ESPN+, their streaming service, alongside the ESPN app was a major leap into digital transformation for the company in 2018. Today, the mobile application demonstrates impressive growth.

    The application allows its users to watch live streams of sporting events, stay up-to-date with the latest news and scores, and get notified on the topics they subscribe to. In other words, the app functions as a digital extension of the TV service that ESPN has successfully provided for decades.

    The ESPN app has become the most downloadable in its category several times. However, it took some time before the company gained a non-arguable leadership on every crucial metric, which we saw in March this year.

    This latest success proves ESPN as a trendsetter in sports app development. Their product is certain to shape the expectations of sports fans. Given that, it makes sense for digital entrepreneurs and developers in this niche to take a closer look.

    ESPN’s Best Practices in Sports App Development

    When developing a sports app, you might want to leverage the best practices as set by the leader. Now that the leader is clear, let’s see what makes ESPN such an outstanding product.

    1. Easy Personalization

    The world of sports is rather complex. You have several sports types each featuring a range of professional leagues and teams. The ESPN app solves this complexity seamlessly. New users are asked to specify their preferences by simply tapping on particular options in each category. The user’s home page only displays the content that is curated based on the user’s selected variants.

    ESPN app picking team
    Picking the teams to watch

    This practice should definitely be adopted when developing a sports app: make it simple and personalized.

    2. Scores and news as top priorities

    Professional sport is all about competition. It is a fight for the first place and the highest scores. The ESPN app places game results on the user page as top-priority content.

    ESPN app Latest updates and scores as featured on the home page
    Latest updates and scores as featured on the home page

    No matter what exactly your sports app does and what sports it is built around, consider prioritizing this feature.

    3. Detailed athlete’s profiles

    This one is especially important for sports betting. A player’s physical qualities, stats, rankings, game log and career projections on the ESPN app allow users to make their own game forecasts. Users can check the performance of a particular athlete in the athlete’s every matchup and follow them to keep track of their professional career. The profiles also feature videos and articles related to this athlete.

    ESPN app an athlet's profile
    An athlete’s profile

    You might not need that much data on players in your app’s early days, but this certainly can serve as a fine example to follow.

    4. Profiles of teams, clubs, and leagues

    Every athlete’s profile on the ESPN app is associated with a club. All club members are featured in the Roster directory of the club’s profile. Besides Roster, these profiles include three more pages: Scores, News, and Standings. You can draw inspiration from this structure when creating your own sports application.

    ESPN app roster directory
    Roster directory

    5. Interactive game schedule

    The ESPN app users can get complete information about the upcoming games and past game results of their favorite club all in a single place. Users can set up notifications to make sure they don’t miss out on the next matchup.

    ESPN app game schedule
    Game schedule

    This feature looks obvious when developing a sports app.

    6. Live streams

    Sports fans watching a game live on their phone screens is no more wonder. For ESPN, a broadcasting media giant, live streams have become the core feature of their app.

    Rivaling this major broadcaster on the video quality department might be difficult, of course, but your sports app can still consider this feature. For example, you can enable user-generated live streams that can be shared and upvoted by other users.

    7. Automated forecasts

    Users might want to check their game score predictions against those generated by software—the one that pulls together data on every player and teams’ track records. The ESPN app gives its users just this opportunity. Their matchup predictor provides a forecast in the form of a diagram based on ESPN’s Power Index.

    ESPN app matchup predictor
    Matchup predictor

    This fancy data-heavy feature can be a bit too advanced for new apps. Still, it is good to keep it in mind as the next best step as your application is picking up steam.

    8. Third-Party widgets and services

    When checking up on the next game, the ESPN app users even get a weather forecast relevant to the stadium location. This is a simple yet clever feature because it saves you the trouble opening your weather app if you consider visiting the matchup. On the other hand, this is a testament to ESPN’s dedication to their fan base. It’s no wonder then the ‘time-spent-with-app’ metrics are skyrocketing—users just don’t need to leave!

    ESPN app weather forecast for the game day
    Weather forecast for the game day

    Another third-party service available within the app is for ticket purchasing. Users are redirected to a partner website while staying in the app, where they can choose and book seats at a particular game.


    The universe of the ESPN app is truly impressive. This article didn’t even start covering each and every small detail. We put together just the most interesting features that are becoming the industry standard before our own eyes. Check out these tips when building your own sports app.

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    Just a reminder: once you have an idea about your sports app in mind, don’t forget Lotasoft’s team is here to help you turn it into a ready-for-market product.