ESPN’s long-term plans for its SportsCenter franchise are beginning to crystallize.
On Monday, the network announced extensions for several prominent anchors and outlined a new lineup of SportsCenter programming.
Here’s how it will shake out:
- SportsCenter:AM will air seven days a week, hosted by a combination of Sage Steele, Kevin Negandhi, Jay Harris, Randy Scott, Elle Duncan and Matt Barrie. The big news there is that Steele will return to Bristol after losing her place as the lead host on ESPN’s NBA coverage.
- SC6 with Michael Smith and Jemele Hill is not going anywhere. It will remain at 6 p.m. ET.
- The 11 p.m. ET edition of SportsCenter will be hosted by Steve Levy, Kenny Mayne, John Anderson and John
Buccigross, four of the longest tenured and most recognizable anchors at ESPN. This will be the first time in nearly a decade Mayne will regularly host a show from Bristol.
- Scott Van Pelt will continue to host his show at midnight E.T.
- Neil Everett and Stan Verrett will keep their Los Angeles-based SportsCenter show at 1 a.m. ET.
- Hannah Storm will move from the 10 a.m. SportsCenter to a role hosting primetime specials and working on “high impact journalistic pieces” for E:60 and SportsCenter.
- Sarina Morales will serve as a “fan correspondent” for all editions of SportsCenter, “finding fun and unusual ways that fans express their love for sports.”
Mayne, Levy, Anderson, Buccigross, Steele and Storm have all signed new extensions to remain at ESPN, according to a release.
ESPN says this realignment will further the network’s goal of having personality-driven SportsCenter shows. The Worldwide Leader theorizes that consumers can go anywhere for sports news and that the only way to stage a successful highlight show is to build loyalty to individual personalities. Gone are generic SportsCenters with anchors you may or may no recognize (many of whom were laid off last month). In are branded SportsCenters with highly visible hosts.
ESPN has pushed this strategy for several years now, with mixed results. Scott Van Pelt’s highly personalized SportsCenter seems fairly popular, while SC6 (at least judging by Awful Announcing’s Twitter mentions and Facebook comments) seems less so, though ratings for both are fine.
Regardless, ESPN is clearly all-in on this concept. It seems that if the SportsCenter franchise has a future, it will feature lots of personality-driven formats.