We've reached that time of year when networks reach out to important advertisers at their "upfront" presentations. For ESPN, this means a glamorous event in New York where some of the network's most important personalities schmooze with athletes and sell advertisers (and the media gathered) on why the network is still the greatest thing not just since sliced bread, but the advent of loaves of bread as well. You'll never see a more positive, more sustained PR push than a network upfront.
More importantly for us, upfronts are also venues where networks will unveil new programming, technological, and innovative ideas and may even break some news amidst the pomp and circumstance. We're here to break down the interesting revelations from ESPN's Upfront yesterday for you… without the Cheez-It people shamelessly fawning over Kirk Herbstreit.
(In case you're wondering, yes that is something that actually happened yesterday.)
New 30 for 30s
Whenever ESPN announces something involving 30 for 30, it immediately catches our eye. A few new documentary topics for the acclaimed, award-winning series were revealed on Twitter:
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) May 14, 2013
Among the upcoming 30 for 30s: The Bad Boys (on the Detroit Pistons teams) and "The Whack Heard Round The World" (on Tonya and Nancy).
— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) May 14, 2013
Following in the series' history, it looks to dig deeper into some stories that are well-known while uncovering new stories as well. Everything this series touches turns to gold and the next wave should ensure its continued success. I'd be particularly interested in the Maurice Clarett 30 for 30, which is a topic our staff actually suggested for a 30 for 30 doc long ago.
ESPN is slightly tweaking their NFL lineup with a new hour long daily show replacing NFL32. NFL Insiders will star ESPN's newsgatherers like Adam Schefter, Chris Mortensen, John Clayton, Ed Werder, and others from TV, online, and print. In fact, it's stated in the promotional release that no ex-players will appear in the show. Given ESPN's propensity to feature analysts and ex-athletes on nearly every second of airtime, it's a welcome move to try something different. ESPN has done a few Insider specials before, but never a daily effort. Since reporting, injuries, contracts, and general news breaking and gathering is such a huge part of the way we all consume the NFL, a show structured in this manner only makes sense. NFL Insiders will be hosted by Suzy Kolber and should quench the thirst for information of football fans and give a sustained spotlight to deserving reporters and writers.
We covered the launch of ESPNFC on TV yesterday, so go to the link for a full recap. In short, the advent of a brand new daily studio show covering global soccer (rumored to be at a decent late afternoon timeslot) is a fantastic sign that ESPN will continue their commitment to top quality coverage of the beautiful game, in spite of losing TV rights to the EPL and later the World Cup.
SportsCenter Has a Bus Now!
ESPN's flagship program will be going on the road to cover select sporting events with its own bus. Normally, I would say more on-site coverage of the biggest events in sports is a good thing. But I'd imagine the interviews and features associated with this on-site coverage would be featured more on the live daytime SportsCenter, which is quickly becoming the sports equivalent to the fourth hour of the Today Show, as opposed to the much more watchable 11 PM ET version. Do we really need a SportsCenter bus stalking Jets camp next year, too? Bristol says yes. The good news is that if Tim Tebow does end up driving the bus, SportsCenter could kill two birds with one stone.
SportsCenter Central Command
Perhaps the most impressive (and intimidating) element of this year's ESPN Upfront was the unveiling of the new SportsCenter studio in Bristol. ESPN has added a new SportsCenter CENTCOM on their lovely Bristol campus thanks to a new high tech digital center. Just take a look at this incredible video that really does look like one of those strange futuristic prophecies that's only missing flying hovercrafts…
I'm not often speechless, but… wow. Wow is all I can muster.
Incidentally, the SportsCenter studio will also be able to successfully launch a coordinated military strike against Greenland and go into orbit, if the need should ever arise. All in a day's work when you are the self-proclaimed worldwide leader.