ESPN wants to make Sport­scen­ter so­cial me­dia-friendly

▶ Sport­scen­ter, the flag­ship high­lights show, is re­tool­ing it­self ▶ “They didn’t have a plan for this whole next gen­er­a­tion of stuff”

Bloomberg Businessweek (North America) - - Contents -

When Ul­ti­mate Fight­ing Cham­pi­onship star Ronda Rousey was vi­ciously knocked out by Holly Holm in a bout in Novem­ber, the clip seemed like the per­fect high­light to fea­ture on ESPN’S Sport­scen­ter. Yet by the time the pro­gram showed footage, many fans had al­ready fol­lowed the fight live on Twit­ter and seen the clip on Red­dit.

That’s a chal­lenge for ESPN and Sport­scen­ter, the flag­ship show in­tro­duced to pay-tv au­di­ences 35 years ago. ESPN is the dom­i­nant sports out­let on TV and the Web, es­pe­cially for lives­ports tele­casts, and the sin­gle big­gest profit con­trib­u­tor to par­ent Walt Dis­ney. But com­pe­ti­tion from so­cial me­dia and other chan­nels is eat­ing into its au­di­ence for news and high­lights, Sport­scen­ter’s bread and but­ter.

“ESPN is so valu­able be­cause they have the most valu­able live- sports

con­tent,” says Liam Boluk, a me­dia strate­gist at Ja­son Hirschhorn’s Redef, a me­dia in­dus­try news­let­ter. “But the rest of their pro­gram­ming is un­der the same pres­sures as the rest of the in­dus­try.” So the net­work is re­vamp­ing Sport­scen­ter for mo­bile view­ing and on­line shar­ing, as well as rolling out new edi­tions.

In Fe­bru­ary, ESPN will present a 7 a.m. EST edi­tion of Sport­scen­ter to try to en­cour­age view­ers to watch on mo­bile de­vices on their way out the door, says Rob King, ESPN’S se­nior vice pres­i­dent for news. “Our pro­duc­ers have spent a lot of time work­ing with our tal­ent to really think about which au­di­ence we’re see­ing through the course of the day,” he says. The show is still rel­e­vant, he says, and fans want to watch—“it’s a mat­ter of where they are and how they con­sume it.”

In Septem­ber, Scott Van Pelt, a long­time ESPN an­chor, be­gan host­ing a new mid­night edi­tion of Sport­scen­ter to try to com­pete with late night talk­show hosts such as Jimmy Fal­lon and Jimmy Kim­mel. The show is ex­per­i­ment­ing with new seg­ments, in­clud­ing one for bet­tors. A re­cent ad urg­ing fans to “end your day on a high­light” shows a col­lege stu­dent watch­ing Sport­scen­ter on a tablet from a fra­ter­nity house rooftop.

In a re­cent note to clients, Rich Green­field, an an­a­lyst at BTIG Re­search, wrote that it’s hard to fathom fans tun­ing in to Sport­scen­ter to watch high­lights when scores and footage are read­ily avail­able on­line through­out the day. The sports leagues them­selves in­creas­ingly have eaten into

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