ESPN Releases API for Developers
 

Since our ESPN case study over a year ago, the world of 24/7 sports coverage has been pretty static. Recently however, ESPN announced that for the first time the website is going to make its stats and editorial content available to third-party developers.

Prior to this announcement and release, developers couldn’t access ESPN’s content. Even if you’re not interested in sports, it’s easy to see the potential a sports-tracking app could have if it had ESPN stats. Developers and entrepreneurs alike have been chomping at the bit to get access to this kind of data and now, it’s finally here.

ESPN is giving the public access to its Headline API. Developers will be able to get news and headlines from the site and do what they want with it in their own apps. The Research Notes API is the actual API that has stats compiled by ESPN employees. Right now, that is only available to certain ESPN partners. In the future, ESPN has plans to release APIs in private beta to the select few including a Scores and Schedules API. Details of that API include start times, venues, competitors, scores, and stats for every major sport. Additionally, standings, team, and athlete information will be available in future APIs as well.

Right now, developers have to go to the website and request a developer key to gain access. ESPN also plans on being at SXSW to show off its latest venture and help developers with these new resources.

Jason Guenther, Vice President of ESPN Digital Media Technology, told TechCrunch that getting the Developer Center up and running was a project seven months in the making. Last fall the project was in private beta for internal developers and some select partners. One such partner was Foursquare. The company’s app worked with the Research Notes API and users who checked into sporting events could get facts and stories from ESPN.

Another ESPN partner is Pulse. The company is essentially just an RSS reader, but it’s in front of a trend that makes RSS reading not such a chore to slog through. Pulse takes your RSS subscriptions and jigsaws the stories and pictures together, kind of like Pinterest. The goal is to turn RSS feeds into a more of a magazine experience instead of just a boring list of news on your RSS reader. Typically, these types of readers are designed specifically for tablets and smartphones.

RSS readers mimicking Pulse’s design have cropped up since its inception but Pulse was the first to land a private beta partnership from ESPN back in August. Instead of just reading sports headlines and stories, Pulse users get to see player photos and more visual content. Also, Pulse offers breaking up news into sports you actually care about. If you only want to read about tennis news, you can specify that within your ESPN feed in Pulse and you’ll see only tennis headlines. At the time of the partnership, Pulse had just surpassed the 5 million user mark.

In the future, ESPN is planning to put up a Labs section. That way, users can see what new products or features are coming down the line from ESPN, and more importantly, chime in with what they would like to see developed or improved.

The possibilities of what developers could come up with for this new API access seem promising. I can envision even more intensely integrated fantasy sports league integration. Companies that host fantasy sports leagues now offer apps to manage teams, trades, and stats, but getting all of that information directly from the touted “world leader in sports” could be a big selling point. Consumers know ESPN and the partner name on an app could be enough to get more downloads.

Again, if you want to read more about ESPN’s systems and how they came to be the “world leader in sports,” check out our case study.

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