Nearly two decades into America’s fantasy sports craze, ESPN is giving fantasy a spot in its weekday lineup.
According to Variety, ESPN fantasy analyst Matthew Berry will host a show creatively dubbed The Fantasy Show, to air weekdays on ESPN2 during football season. The show will reportedly launch August 1 only on WatchESPN and other digital platforms, leading into an ESPN Fantasy Football Marathon on August 14 and 15. After that, The Fantasy Show will debut on ESPN2.
In addition, ESPN will debut Fantasy Football Now, a live Sunday-morning show featuring Berry, Tim Hasselbeck, Field Yates and Stephania Bell. That will start up on the first day of NFL action, Sept. 7, and continue throughout the season.
“For so long, fantasy sports has been a great digital property for us,” said Norby Williamson, ESPN’s exec VP of production. “For the first time, we’re taking a franchise and really, truly making it integrated across platforms, clearly with the focus on the marathon.”
Fantasy sports, of course, have become a huge traffic driver for ESPN, with millions of users each year flocking to the site. Fantasy is a primary rooting interest for many football fans, particularly when their favorite team isn’t playing, making it relevant to a large portion of NFL TV viewers. Given the scope of the fantasy audience, it’s somewhat surprising ESPN didn’t already have a marquee fantasy program.
It sounds like ESPN plans to play up the fact that The Fantasy Show will be available not only on TV but also on phones, tablets and computers. Fantasy players obviously check their teams on those devices, so it figures that ESPN wants to stretch its fantasy coverage across many platforms.
“With all this activity, we wanted to establish a consistent fantasy show — Monday through Friday — that’s available on every screen our fans have access to,” said Williamson.
Berry is a longtime ESPN columnist known for his energy, enthusiasm, pop-culture references and personal anecdotes. Last August, ESPN announced it had signed Berry to a contract lasting through 2021, signaling a commitment to fantasy sports coverage, which is reinforced by Friday’s announcement.
Berry will be an extraordinarily busy man during football season, hosting The Fantasy Show during the week and Fantasy Football Now on Sunday, while also co-hosting the Fantasy Focus podcast, in addition to whatever writing he will still do.