Inside ESPN's plan to reinvent SportsCenter

eDaniel Roberts sat down with ESPN SVP Rob King (the guy in charge of SportsCenter):

King has a memory that speaks volumes about what ESPN likes about Smith and Hill. He recalls a Monday Night Football game (it was on Oct. 21, 2013) between the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings that was ugly, but engaging. King checked his Twitter data panel and found that ESPN was trending very well; more than 1 million people concurrently were talking about the game and ESPN on social. But three times as many were talking about a VH1 documentary airing at the same time: “CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story.”
King says he thought to himself, “Holy crap, we’re the only NFL game on, and 3x people are talking about TLC. And then it occurred to me, ‘You know what, you could watch SportsCenter for the next three days, and we’re not going to mention TLC.’” Indeed, according to the data, there was “almost no overlap,” King says, between the people tweeting about the NFL and those tweeting about TLC. Noticing things like the VH1 special, King says, doesn’t necessarily lead SportsCenter producers to tell anchors to mention them, but he adds, “One of the things that’s interesting about Michael and Jemele is: they don’t miss topics like that.”
Exactly right. Had Smith and Hill been hosting SportsCenter back then, they almost certainly would have mentioned the VH1 special; they like pop culture. But as King says, there was almost no overlap in the audiences. So it’s worth asking: do the people watching SportsCenter want SportsCenter anchors to talk about TLC?

A SportsCenter centered around talking about a VH1 documentary about TLC? I don't know about you, but to me, that sounds fucking awful. I get changing demographics and all that, but come on. It's SPORTSCenter. 

For the record, I like what they're trying to do with the Scott Van Pelt midnight SportsCenter. Make it a little more like the late night programs it's up against. But I wouldn't fuck with prime time. And I certainly wouldn't veer into this pandering to pop culture nonsense. But maybe that's just me. I also don't watch VH1 TLC specials. 


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