It looks like ABC’s new Battle of the Network Stars reboot will have a very heavy ESPN presence.
ESPN announced Tuesday that Mike Greenberg and Joe Tessitore will host the show, a call-back to the 1970s and 80s program of the same name, with Cassidy Hubbarth and Cari Champion as sideline reporters.
Additionally, Ronda Rousey and DeMarcus Ware will join the show as permanent captains, leading teams of TV personalities in competitions like tug-of-war, archery and kayak relays.
For this iteration of Battle of the Network Stars to be successful, it will have to appeal to viewers who have never heard of the original show, while also capitalizing on the nostalgia of those who watched 35 years ago. Greenberg said in a statement that his childhood enjoyment of Battle of the Network Stars made him want to participate in the reboot.
“If someone could go back in time and tell the 10-year-old me, glued to the television, watching Howard Cosell and all the biggest names in television running obstacle courses and playing tug of war, that someday he would be directly involved with Battle of the Network Stars, he would have said it was the coolest thing ever. Decades later, that’s exactly how I feel.”
For the younger ESPN talent involved, this assignment could go either way. On one hand, pros like Hubbarth and Champion should probably be above “reporting” on out-of-shape TV personalities trudging through obstacle courses. On the other hand, the opportunity for airtime on ABC likely makes the gig appealing to them.
These assignments show that ABC is fairly serious about this new (old) show. Greenberg is one of ESPN’s biggest personalities, and Tessitore, Hubbarth and Champion are all well-regarded ESPNers who are being diverted from other responsibilities.
According to ESPN, Battle of the Network Stars will debut on ABC June 29 at 9 p.m. ET. The contestants—”100 TV stars, from 14 different network and cable companies,” per ESPN—have not yet been announced.