Another day, another talent announcement from ESPN with regards to their World Cup coverage this summer. This time, it’s the studio hosts that will guide viewers through the month long competition in Brazil.
It can’t be underestimated how important the role of the studio hosts were in ESPN’s acclaimed 2010 World Cup coverage from South Africa. As far as ESPN personalities go, it doesn’t get more professional than Bob Ley, Chris Fowler, and Mike Tirico. Their presence in South Africa brought immediate respectability to ESPN’s soccer presentation and it was a catalyst for the television presentation. It was a sign that a network could treat a soccer tournament like a major sporting event without helpful hints on why people call soccer “football.”
This year ESPN returns 2 of those 3 for the 2014 World Cup. Bob Ley and Mike Tirico reprise their roles as World Cup hosts. Chris Fowler will not be back for the World Cup as he will likely take the summer to work at Wimbledon for ESPN, which takes place at the same time as the World Cup. The third ESPN World Cup host will be making her debut on American television. Ley and Tirico will be joined by Lynsey Hipgrave of BT Sport in the UK. Here’s more from the ESPN announcement:
The trio will anchor ESPN studio shows – SportsCenter, World Cup Tonight, pre-match, halftime and post-match shows, and other FIFA World Cup-related news and information programs – throughout the month-long tournament from ESPN’s production headquarters at Rio de Janeiro’s Clube dos Marimbás, a popular members-only boating club on the southern tip of Copacabana Beach.
Hipgrave, who joined London-based BT Sport as a studio host in August 2013, will make her ESPN debut during the World Cup, having covered the Premier League and other top-flight football in Europe for the London-based sports network, and the UEFA Champions League for Al Jazeera Sport.
“We are thrilled to have Mike and Bob anchor our FIFA World Cup coverage once again. They were a key part of our success in South Africa, and we expect much the same from them in Brazil. Lynsey is a proven soccer host, coming from BT Sport in the UK. Her knowledge of soccer is at the highest level, as are her skills as a host. She’s very smart, engaging and dynamic – a perfect addition to our team,” said Jed Drake, ESPN Senior Vice President and Executive Producer.
It’s another decision by ESPN to import overseas talent from the UK for their World Cup coverage. Announcers like Steve McManaman, Jon Champion, Daniel Mann, Derek Rae and others predominantly work in the UK. It’s a strategy that has certainly worked in the past for Bristol.
Hipgrave follows in the footsteps of Rebecca Lowe as British women moving stateside and hosting American soccer coverage. Before moving to BT Sport, she worked for various networks in the UK including ITV and Al Jazeera’s soccer coverage. She was also an award winning radio personality for BBC Radio. If she’s anywhere near Lowe’s standard working for NBCSN, it will be a great hire for ESPN this summer.