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For Fanvibe (YC S'10) we looked at a variety of sports stats providers, including TSN, Stats, and SportsDirect (who we used). These are the guys that license all the structured data to ESPN and others. No matter who you work with, its pretty painful to use this data and their schemas. And they all make you sign paying contracts before you can play with the data.

We used services like Superfeedr to grab a variety of RSS feeds, including ESPN's, to grab headlines.

ESPN, CBS Sports, the Yahoo Fantasy Football API are all middlemen when it comes to sports. The only thing they own is original video content (talking heads, not highlights) and their headlines & articles. Don't look to them for the solution. Its a big step forward for an organization like ESPN to do this, but its going to be much slower than the speed of tech-focused companies that are the usual on HN.

From my experience, better to build around ESPN and others than to try to work with them to push innovation forward.

Disclaimer: I'm one of the founders of Fanvibe, and also used to work at ESPN.

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