On May 16, ESPN took part in their annual pitch to media buyers in New York City and made it clear that the network is filled with optimists. While the network may have recently laid off a number of journalists, analysts, and anchors, the hope going forward is that the upcoming season will be a great one in terms of content and selling. However, John Skipper, the president of ESPN also said that while the network is filled with optimists, they are also realists and in that regard they are moving forward and “responding to change.”
Perhaps their most dramatic changes, according to Sports Illustrated, comes during their weekday lineups which will see more opinion-driven journalism and analysis. With their new lineup it looks like ESPN is sending a message that SportsCenter is no longer the real cornerstone of their programming. Instead, the network, “is banking on opinion-driven dialogue for its most-watched channel in an era of declining cable subscribers and viewership.”
The new lineup on ESPN will kick off in 2018, with a new morning show that will be fronted by Mike Greenberg starting on January 1. Although the new program does not have a title as of yet, it will be a daily program that will air live from a studio based in Manhattan. The show will run between the hours of 7 AM to 10 AM on the original network, before replaying on ESPN2 starting at 10AM. Following the morning program will be First Take, followed by another live one hour program hosted by Bomani Jones and Pablo Torre.
While the cornerstone series, SportsCenter will continue to be a big part of the network and will even be a part of the Mike Greenberg program offering live updates as needed, the network is clearly looking for more opinions in terms of the journalism they provide their viewers. As John Skipper pointed out in his upfront talks, SportsCenter is central to the network’s primary function as a source for sports related news and information.
As the network’s president said to the media, fans of ESPN know and understand the difference between getting simply highlights and scores of a game and getting that information from their network with authority and personality. Rob King, the senior vice president of the network also made a solid point when he said, “In the end we will always be evaluating our business and that means either restructuring or adding.” For now that means looking to go with more opinion-based journalism and seeing how this shift in programming is accepted by the viewers.
By Dorothea James
Photo Courtesy ESPN