Two weeks ago, ESPN announced it would launch a new ESPN Radio app for the iPhone and iPad. It costs $4.99.
The reaction? "One of the sleaziest ESPN corporate deals I have seen," writes one reader. "Money grubbing assholes," says another.
Let's back up. ESPN already released one radio app for the iPhone, back in September 2009. It's free to download, but if you want to hear live radio feeds with it, ESPN has been charging $2.99. Lots of folks have already spent that $2.99, but now they're being told that they have to buy the new app or ESPN will cut off the feeds they've paid for.
The new app doesn't seem to be much of an upgrade over the old one. Streaming is "faster," sound quality has been "enhanced," ESPN's vice president of digital and print media Marc Horine told AllThingsD.
So, even if you had the ESPN Radio app you'll have to pay again. "There is no reimbursement for the cost of the old app," an ESPN spokesman told me. "The price of the old app was $2.99 for nearly three years, from the time we launched it in 2009."
So the penalty for being both a loyal ESPN radio listener and an early adopter is that you end up eating the cost of the first app, for a final outlay of $7.98.
It's just a small amount of money, sure, but it apparently hasn't instilled much goodwill among its base. The unpopularity isn't limited to folks we've heard from, either. The new app has nearly 1,500 reviews in iTunes. It has a dreadful one-star rating.
To the readers. Dan Egger writes:
Not much of a story, but it certainly is one of the sleaziest ESPN corporate deals I have seen.
ESPN sells a popular radio iphone/ipad app that has been on sale for the last year for $2.99. It features live feeds from some of their local stations, some worthless sportscenter summaries and a pointless link to their podcasts, which are easier to subscribe to in itunes or about three dozen other free apps.
In ESPN's latest update, they announce that they are "upgrading" the app by wiping out the live feeds you already have. If you want to get them back, you have to pay $4.99. They never sold the product as a yearly subscription or a part-time connection.
If it was anyone else who sold an app and then produced an upgrade that disabled the app with a ransom note to use it again, they'd be named sleaze corp of the year.
This. This is why people hate the ESPN machine.
And also Skip Bayless.
Matt Harris writes:
So, I upgraded…I start using it and then it tells me that in 13 days I will have to upgrade to a premiem version for 4.99.
That's where the bullshit starts. The app originaly cost something like 3 or 4 dollars, which sucked, but was sorta worth it. Now they want you to give them another 5...unbelieveable.
Now there are other apps that stream espn radio new york, but still, it's a crime what they are doing.
John Riley writes:
ESPN has decided to "upgrade the ESPN Radio App on the iPhone recently. making you buy the app again even though you have already forked over 2.99 previously, the new app costs 4.99 which in of itself is not worth a fuck because the on air talent is severly lacking, all the shows regurgatate the same tired ass stories and "breaking news" all day long. here is my email conversation with ESPN over the new kick in the nuts. you have my permision to use any portion of my interaction with them in any way you see fit, the only thing i ask is not to have my email adress made public, thank you
John to ESPN Customer Service:
you don't get it, i already paid for it. I'm not paying for it again. i guess i will be listening for free to other radio shows that aren't money grabbing assholes.
On Wed, May 16, 2012 at 10:35 AM, ESPN Customer Care wrote:
Thank you for contacting us.
We appreciate your feedback and understand your concern. The new ESPN Radio application is more than a simple upgrade to the existing application.
The newest version of the ESPN Radio application is free to download and provides the ability to download podcasts and listen off-line. You are able to experience the full ESPN Radio application free for the first fourteen days. After your 14 day trial period ends, there is a $4.99 one-time fee to continue listening to LIVE streams and to use the new "My Stations" feature based on your sport preferences. If you choose not to pay $4.99 at the end of your trial, ALL ESPN podcasts and SportsCenter updates will continue to be available for free.
The full experience of the new ESPN Radio application includes:
• Custom Station or Playlist: search tens of thousands of audio clips by a specific topic and create a station or playlist of your favorite shows, teams, players and sports.
• Listen live: to over 35 ESPN Radio stations from around the country and play-by-play from some of your favorite college and professional sports teams including every game of the NBA Finals, World Series, College Bowl Games, Wimbledon, US Open Golf and more.
• Live Audio Functionality: Pause and rewind up to an hour of live audio.
• myESPN Personalization: Customize audio automatically pulled into the app based on your favorites.
• Top Searches: Popular searches and trends for easy one-click access to top audio.
• Recommendation Engine: Content suggestions based on your myESPN profile
• Alerts and Push Notifications: For MLB broadcasts, breaking news and more.
We think that once you try out all of the expanded features available in the ESPN Radio application you will discover the value of the new version. The current version of the ESPN Radio App (v3.0) will be discontinued on August 1, 2012.
For live assistance with this or any other issue, please call Customer Care at 1-888-549-3776 (ESPN) between 8 am and 1 am EST.
ESPN.com Customer Care
An ESPN spokesman told me, "The most important point to make clear—and to answer both aspects of your question—is that the new ESPN Radio app is just that. It is a completely NEW app. It is not an upgrade to the previous app."
Got it? It's a new app that does the same thing as the previous app, and you can't keep using the previous app anymore because the new one exists. But it is not an upgrade.