Earlier today on SportsCenter, Sage Steele aired part of her upcoming interview with Dak Prescott. While a long substantive sit-down with Prescott is certainly newsworthy, what caught my attention was Steele’s announcement that the interview was for a rebooted Up Close, the famed longform ESPN interview program that ran for twenty years on ESPN before ending in 2001. Below is the clip of the announcement of the soon-to-launch show, said to be launching next month on ESPN+:
Before getting into this a bit further, I have to say these are my favorite stories to write. About every other month, I catch some type of random announcement on ESPN that hasn’t actually been announced or publicized. The fine ESPN PR folks always seem a bit flat-footed seemingly unaware that something was going to be teased, announced, or promoted. I’m not sure if this is by design or just the left hand not talking to the right. There will be no covert PR ahead of actual PR efforts on my watch! Anyways…
This seems like a pretty shrewd move and one that aligns with ESPN’s ESPN+ content strategy. ESPN continues to build out their original content portfolio on ESPN+, mainly in the hopes that subscribers will stick around longer even when live sports they signed up to watch go into an offseason and subscribers are more likely to head for the exits than let their credit card be billed every month for something they are no longer using.
SportsNation has also been rebooted on ESPN+. And the likes of Peyton Manning, Matthew Berry, Stephen A Smith, and Mike Greenberg now all have ESPN+ specific shows, in case you found their television exposure lacking for your liking.
I’m not sure Sage Steele would have been my top choice to reboot the show, but admittedly haven’t seen her do many longform interviews. I thought her recent interview with Joe Biden seemed to fall flat despite some obvious coordination and orchestration that went into it, but I think that was as much on her as it was Biden and his team. To be fair, I’m not sure that was going to be a smooth interview for anyone at ESPN.
Regardless, it’s a pretty notable gig for Steele to land given the history of the program and how central it was to ESPN’s formative years. The show even made its way into the closing moments of Jerry Maguire, as seen below.
We’ll share more about the show’s reboot when more info becomes available. But in the interim, the above breakdown covers a lot of the who, what, when, and why, even without any formal announcement.