If only the touch-sensitive iPad screen were more responsive to those wearing a foam finger, sports fans would have just about everything they need.
Score Media Inc. launched its exhaustive iPad application on Saturday, building on the Toronto-based media company’s offerings for other platforms beyond its specialty TV station.
Score Media has already had cross-border success with its smart phone apps for devices such as the iPhone and the BlackBerry. On the bigger screen of the iPad, it offers the usual stats and box scores, as well as blogs, videos and articles on sports ranging from college basketball to Frisbee and Red Bull Flugtag (a competition for “human-powered flying machines”).
With the launch, Score Media enters an arena where other media companies have been relatively slow to develop products. The Score’s biggest competitors in specialty television, Sportsnet and TSN, both have apps for the iPhone, but nothing specifically developed for the iPad yet.
ESPN has a similar product in ScoreCenter XL, but it costs $5 to download, while theScore iPad edition is free. Major League Baseball’s app is even pricier, at $15. Since its launch on Saturday, theScore is now the top free sports app and the second-most popular app overall in the Canadian iTunes store. In the U.S. store, it’s ranked second in the free sports category, just behind Sports Illustrated.
The divergent paths of paid vs. free are being navigated by media companies beyond just the sports realm. The Wall Street Journal, which has had success charging for its content on the Web, offers a free download for its iPad app, but then prompts users to subscribe, or register for free for a limited amount of content. BBC News is just one outlet with a rich, well-constructed free app.
For media companies that are not publicly financed, as the BBC is, such free apps depend on advertising for financial support. The Globe and Mail’s app, which launched Sunday, is one example, dominated so far by automotive ads. Score Media has a similar business model in mind, but ads are not yet launched on its app.
“We’re in front of our advertising partners right now with it, and the reaction has been positive so far,” said Benjie Levy, executive vice-president and chief operating officer of Score Media. The company has been successful selling ads for its mobile offerings – which have been downloaded 4.5 million times so far across the BlackBerry, iPhone and Android devices. Mr. Levy expects many of the same advertisers targeting young men, such as beer companies and fast food restaurants, will also be drawn to the iPad.
“Making it free turns the app into a more widespread marketing vehicle,” said independent technology analyst Carmi Levy. While paid apps can turn away part of a potential audience, he added, the right free apps could be the “ideal means of connecting audiences to media outlets more closely than ever before.”