(Photo by Melissa Rawlins / ESPN Images)

ESPN officially announced on Thursday that Omar Raja is joining the network as a digital and social content commentator. Raja’s pending move to ESPN from Bleacher Report was originally reported last October by the New York Post‘s Andrew Marchand.

As you might expect, Raja will be the creative force behind ESPN’s SportsCenter Instagram account and initiate strategy for the network’s social programming. In addition, Raja will help produce content for the ESPN mobile app. According to Variety‘s Brian Steinberg, Raja is expected to play a role in the planning for hundreds of live programs ESPN wants to create for digital outlets. He’ll lead a team of four digital and social content creators to work with ESPN’s existing social team on platforms like TikTok and increase reach to soccer and high school sports audiences.

Adding Raja to the talent roster to augment its digital content is an intriguing move for ESPN. The network has taken steps to reach younger audiences on different platforms in recent years, such as producing versions of signature shows like SportsCenter and College GameDay for Snapchat. Utilizing Raja’s experience with Instagram and TikTok seems like a natural next step.

Raja established himself creating clips with a distinct voice for Instagram with House of Highlights five years ago and his profile exploded once he joined Bleacher Report soon thereafter. But he soon expanded his content beyond Instagram to YouTube and hosting a Twitter Live show.

That experience in front of the camera prepared him for what will be a larger role at ESPN. According to the network, Raja will contribute to a new live show streaming live on Twitter, YouTube, and the ESPN app titled Hoop Streams. Hosted by Chiney Ogwumike and Christine Williamson, the program will be devoted to viral and cultural content from basketball. ESPN has built a new studio exclusively for its in-house digital programming.

Raja’s first on-camera appearance for ESPN will be Monday, Jan. 13 as part of the Countdown to the CFP Championship coverage before the College Football Playoff National Championship game between Clemson and LSU.

Taking such a prominent role with ESPN is a significant step-up from what Raja told Steinberg began as “genuine fandom” and an outlet for sharing video clips with friends. Now he’s being tasked by a major media company with reaching a new segment of fandom, possibly finding the next Raja who embraces his favorite sport through different means.

About Ian Casselberry

Ian is a writer, editor, and podcaster. You can find his work at Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He's written for Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation.