Despite Underdogs Ruling This Weekend’s NCAA Men’s Tournament, ESPN’s Tournament Challenge Wins the App Title



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ESPN Tournament Challenge is the App of Choice for More than 500k NCAA Tournament Fans in the U.S.

ESPN Tournament Challenge Defeats the Underdogs

ESPN’s Tournament Challenge app was the clear winner of the app bracket, with more than 500,000 downloads in the U.S. across Apple and Android devices in the 7 days leading up to the start of the tournament. Several lower-seeded underdogs may have overcome the odds and moved on to next weekend’s Sweet 16, but when it comes to apps, ESPN had almost 300k more downloads across devices than the next highest seed, CBS Sports’ app, which had a total of 222.4k downloads.

Looking a bit deeper at the numbers, the ESPN Tournament Challenge App saw the 3rd highest growth in overall download numbers (+541.5k) and 3rd highest growth % (+2.7k%) over the last 7 days in the U.S. on Apple devices. It also ranked #8 overall on the top Apple app download charts in the U.S. for the week. On Android devices, the ESPN Tournament Challenge App is 2nd in growth percentage over the past 7 days in the U.S. (+1.5k%).

Almost 1 Million Download Bracket Apps

Looking at the statistics for the largest four apps that allow you to submit a bracket and see if you’ve predicted the tournament correctly - ESPN’s Tournament Challenge, CBS Sports App, NCAA March Madness Live and Yahoo Fantasy Sports - there were a total of almost 1 million downloads of NCAA tournament-related apps in the past 7 days in the U.S. Overall, there were 772.7k downloads of one of these four NCAA tournament apps on Apple devices, and 149.4k downloads of an NCAA app on Android devices, for a total of 922.1k downloads.

Overall App Downloads Down 36% Since 2019

There were more downloads the last time they ran the NCAA basketball tournament in 2019; in fact, the overall number fell 36% from 1.43m in 2019 to 922.1k in 2021 (there was no tournament in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

The decrease in downloads can be attributed to the nature of remote work, where running an office NCAA bracket challenge is more difficult than before. The feeling of camaraderie, the challenge of beating co-workers and the holding of water cooler discussions about the games just aren’t there this year. In fact, numbers were likely inflated by the fact that many offices across the U.S. would break on Thursday and Friday to allow employees to watch the games - but this year, having television on during the workday is nothing new for a workforce just over a year into a pandemic-driven work-from-home situation.

Additional findings of note include:

  • CBS Sports, NCAA March Madness Live and Yahoo See Excellent Numbers - These apps may not have been able to pull off an upset of ESPN, but they did see a tremendous number of downloads in the 7 days leading up to the start of the tournament:
    • CBS Sports had 164.5k Apple and 57.9k Android downloads

    • NCAA March Madness Live had 137.2k Apple and 33.9k Android downloads

    • Yahoo Fantasy Sports saw 13.7k Apple and 5.8k Android downloads

  • A Majority Download the NCAA Apps in the Week Before the Tournament - There were huge increases in downloads for the four apps - ESPN, CBS, NCAA and Yahoo - over the 7 days prior to the beginning of the tournament:
    • ESPN’s Tournament Challenge app saw a 3000% increase in Apple downloads, and a 2000% increase in Android downloads.

    • The NCAA March Madness Live app saw a 2000% increase in Apple downloads and a 1000% increase in Android downloads

    • CBS Sports saw a 832.4% increase in Apple downloads, and a 109.6% increase in Android downloads.

    • Yahoo Fantasy Sports saw a 341.3% increase in Apple downloads and a 287.2% increase in Android downloads.

  • Tops in the Sports Category by Far - ESPN, NCAA and CBS are the number 1, 2, and 3 apps overall, respectively, in the U.S. sports category in the last 7 days. Yahoo is #15 (Apple). On Android, ESPN is #1, CBS is #2, NCAA is #5 and Yahoo is #35 in the U.S. sports category over the same time period.

  • Global Interest in NCAA Tournament is Growing - There were 9.6k Apple and 120.9k Android downloads of the ESPN Tournament Challenge app outside of the U.S., showing growing interest worldwide in the NCAA basketball tournament. The CBS Sports app saw 6.1k Apple and 123.3k Android downloads outside of the U.S. the past 7 days as well.

“These download numbers are tremendous, although it’s clear that the pandemic and related work situations have had an effect on the overall number of downloads,” said Tim Armes, Airnow Data Client Services Director. “The continued strength of these apps each March goes to show how a strong app marketing strategy combined with a well-designed and easy-to-use interface can capture the attention of a fervent fanbase, especially during a championship tournament.”

About Airnow Data

Airnow Data, part of the Airnow Group, helps customers including brands, app publishers, advertising agencies and mobile networks to better understand their market by researching, benchmarking and tracking over 5 million apps available from Apple and Google Play stores across 55 countries. Airnow Data provides clients with six years’ worth of continually updated data categorised into the core products of App Intelligence, Keyword Intelligence, Market Intelligence and Usage Intelligence. Together, this delivers a wide range of valuable metrics including Downloads, Revenue, DAUs (Daily Active Users), MAUs (Monthly Active Users), ARPDAU (Average Revenue Per Daily Active User) and Retention.

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