ESPN Developer Center Launches, Opens Sports APIs to App Builders

The self-proclaimed “Worldwide Leader in Sports” launched the ESPN Developer Center on Monday, for the first time allowing software developers to use APIs providing a plethora of information from around the sports universe.

“The play for us is making sure we have our content in all these different digital ecosystems,” Jason Guenther, ESPN’s vice president of digital media technology, told Mashable last week. “Connected devices are only going to proliferate in every aspect of life, so it’s important that we can reach fans no matter the product or place.”

ESPN’s Headlines API is now available to the public through the Developer Center. It connects apps to ESPN’s huge amount of daily news stories, columns and analysis pieces covering a wide rage of sports leagues, teams and athletes. The Research Notes API is available for ESPN partners and gives access to historical notes, trivia and factoids.

Foursquare got special permission to use a version of the Research Notes API last August, and provides an example of how ESPN’s treasure trove of data will enhance other apps. When Foursquare users check into a sports-related event or location, they can receive relevant bits of complementary information courtesy of ESPN. Pulse and Flipboard have also been using ESPN APIs already.

Other APIs are still in private beta but should become more widely available soon. One organizes daily logistical information such as scores, schedules and venues. Another updates league and division standings, and others provide feeds to information on teams and players.

“The end result is that you can create any experience with any device with the information we give you,” Chris Jason, director of ESPN’s API program, said in an interview.

But Jason and Guenther say the Developer Center and API program aren’t just designed to provide ESPN content and information to outside developers. They emphasize that the initiatives also streamline and strengthen ESPN’s in-house development processes. Like many media companies, ESPN has increased its digital emphasis in the past few years, and recently held a multi-site hackathon to help speed innovation.

“One thing I’m most proud of is these APIs shining a light on some of the talent we have internally and giving them an easier road to create new products for the company,” Jason said.

The Headlines API is free for non-commercial use in apps performing up to 2,500 API calls per day. As outside apps that use ESPN APIs increase in user base, developers enter individual partnership agreements with the company. If you want to use ESPN’s new APIs, visit the Developer Center and request a developer key.

Do you think this is a smart move by ESPN? Let us know in the comments.

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