At a time when conventional wisdom suggests fans don’t want highlights on linear TV, former highlight-haven ESPNEWS has been stuck in purgatory the past few years, mostly re-airing shows that ran on other ESPN channels earlier in the day.
Well, on Tuesday, ESPN revealed its plan for ESPNEWS moving forward. Beginning April 2, the channel will simulcast ESPN Radio shows Golic and Wingo and The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz, in addition to The Will Cain Show, which has simulcast there since debuting in January.
“We thought it important to bring the ESPN Radio simulcasts together, for one-stop-shopping, as it were, on ESPNEWS,” said ESPN Audio vice president Traug Keller said in a release. “There are benefits in this move for advertisers and viewers alike, and with the other changes to the daily programming on our networks, the time was right.”
Thus, the ESPNEWS weekday lineup will look like this:
6-10 a.m. ET. — Golic and Wingo
10 a.m.-1 p.m. ET — The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz
1-3 p.m. ET — Unknown
3-6 p.m. — The Will Cain Show
Just like that, ESPNEWS has an identity: It is the radio simulcast channel.
(By the way, if Dan Le Batard was to go to SiriusXM, that would leave one gaping hole in the ESPN Radio, and now ESPNEWS, lineup.)
Obviously, broadcasting ESPN Radio shows won’t turn ESPNEWS into a destination channel or anything, but it does make sense from a continuity perspective. Whereas previously, Golic and Wingo was simulcast on ESPN2, and The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz aired on ESPNU, they will now be housed in the same place, giving fans who like listening to radio on TV (they’re out there!) a reliable place to turn.
And lest you think that ESPNEWS is entirely irrelevant, consider that as of December 2015, the channel was in an estimated 69.6 million homes, or about three-quarters as many as the ESPN flagship. That number has surely dropped since then amid the cord-cutting wave, but certainly not so much as to make it trivial. There’s an audience there, if ESPN can figure out how to engage it.
The new plan for ESPNEWS marks quite a departure from the network’s original mission, which was to deliver news, highlights and press conferences more thoroughly than any other ESPN channel. But the industry has changed drastically since ESPNEWS debuted in 1996, and today it makes more sense to use the spare channel as a hub for talk than a home for highlights.