After Bill Simmons left ESPN, we openly wondered who would step up to be the new face of the self-proclaimed worldwide leader. Today’s announcement out of BristolLand might give us an answer to that inquiry.
We already knew that Scott Van Pelt was leaving his successful SVP & Russillo afternoon radio show to fully concentrate on being the solo host of a new 12 AM ET edition of SportsCenter. Now we know some more details about what this version of ESPN’s flagship program will look like – equal parts The Scott Van Pelt Show and SportsCenter.
SVP’s 12 AM ET SportsCenter will launch on September 7th, which is significant for two reasons. First, it’ll have a massive lead-in audience airing right after the Virginia Tech-Ohio State game. Second, it’s the 36th anniversary of ESPN’s launch on September 7th, 1979. That kind of platform isn’t given to just anybody.
“Scott and a team of very talented and creative people have been working hard to be ready to launch a new and entertaining midnight SportsCenter,” said Rob King, ESPN senior vice president, SportsCenter and News. “The show will deliver what sports fans are used to from SportsCenter but in a different and fast-paced way, led by the intellect, humor and sports fandom of Scott Van Pelt.”
Much as was done on the previous SVP & Russillo radio show, the program will showcase Van Pelt’s passion for sports, with his self-deprecating wit and disposition toward celebrating stars and storylines.
“It’s still SportsCenter,” said Van Pelt. “It’s still a show that at its core is about whatever has happened that day in sports – highlights and stories – and not a variety show. It’s our interpretation of what SportsCenter would be if you blended it with some room for commentary. The crux is that it’s SportsCenter, just our version of it.”
The SVP-centric version of SportsCenter continues a trend that we’ve seen in 2015 as ESPN’s highlights show continues to evolve. Earlier this year, SportsCenter made a significant shift at 6 PM ET when Lindsay Czarniak was named solo anchor. That particular edition of SportsCenter has taken on a unique identity with Czarniak leading a fast-paced news and analysis focused edition of SportsCenter that fully employs ESPN’s small nation-state of television personalities. Furthermore, we’ve seen SportsCenter experiment with more casual late night versions as well – featuring *gasp!* anchors without ties.
ESPN Senior VP Rob King told Awful Announcing in February that the network would continue to “differentiate our shows through content, talent and look and feel.” The SVP SC edition will do just that, but it will be more focused on Van Pelt’s personality, which has seen him grow into one of the most popular and well-liked figures at ESPN.
SVP will get his own hashtag for the midnight SportsCenter (#SCSVP), his own individualized music (Timbaland will be making a new version of the SportsCenter theme just for SVP’s show), and his own desk and lighting system that will bring what ESPN calls a “differentiated, intimate feel.”
Programmatically, #SCSVP will feature many Van Pelt signatures from his radio show that will further distinguish it from any other episode of SportsCenter. This list includes his trademark “One Big Thing” commentary as well as more references to Vegas than we’ve seen since the days of Hammerin’ Hank Goldberg. There’s even going to be a segment entitled “West Coast Bias” specifically tuned to fans in the Pacific time zone.
While presenting the day’s news and highlights with Van Pelt’s own spin, the program also will offer commentary, guests and interviews, with featured elements that set it apart from other editions of SportsCenter, including:
- One Big Thing — the trademark essay from Van Pelt’s radio program
- Bad Beats — games that had a unique resonance in Las Vegas
- Best Available Video — the fun, extraordinary images of the day
- Best Thing I Saw Today — Van Pelt’s nightly pick of the signature moment/topic
- Oh, No! — a kinder, gentler, and shorter version of the SportsCenter “Not Top 10,” presented with empathy
- West Coast Bias — a feature designed to serve fans who watch at 9 p.m. PT, at times including 1 a.m. SportsCenter anchors Neil Everett and Stan Verrett.
- Where in the World Isn’t SVP? — Tweets from fans who see lookalikes of Van Pelt at places around the world
“Our thought was ‘how do we create a long list of possible ways to just take a different approach to stories?’” Van Pelt said. “It’s a great group of creative people, and we’re far from done. September 7 is when the show starts, but we don’t have to be done then. Our list of ideas won’t end that day. That’s just the first day we take a stab at it.”
ESPN building an entire episode of SportsCenter for Scott Van Pelt is like nothing we’ve ever really seen before in Bristol. This isn’t just ESPN giving someone their own show somewhere on the daily calendar, this is ESPN re-inventing their trademark program around one of their anchors. Berman, Tirico, Olbermann, Patrick, Levy, Buccigross, Ley, Cohn, Scott, Eisen, the list goes on and on – none of them got this kind of opportunity to be the face of ESPN’s flagship show. September 7th just might mark the beginning of the SVP Era at SportsCenter and ESPN.