ESPN formally unveiled its new daytime lineup on Tuesday at its upfront presentation for advertisers in New York, and while the details had been out there in rumor form for some time, the announcement hammered home one specific point: The daytime versions of “SportsCenter” as we know them on ESPN are being de-emphasized as the network embraces personality-driven ways to fill the time between live sporting events.
Here’s what ESPN’s daytime lineup will look like starting in January, when Mike Greenberg’s long-anticipated solo morning show begins.
— 7-10 a.m.: New Mike Greenberg show (begins Jan. 1). It will air live from a studio and Manhattan and feature Greenberg and several full-time co-hosts.
— 10-noon: “First Take”
— Noon-1: A new live show featuring Bomani Jones and Pablo Torre.
From there, ESPN’s afternoon and early-evening lineup will look much like it does now:
— 1-1:30: “Outside the Lines”
— 1:30-3: “NFL Live” (expanded to 90 minutes starting May 22)
— 3-3:30: “The Jump.”
— 3:30-4: “SportsNation”
— 4:30-5: “Highly Questionable”
— 5-5:30: “Around the Horn”
— 5:30-6: “Pardon the Interruption”
— 6-7: “SC6″ with Jemele Hill and Michael Smith.
Notice what isn’t in that ESPN lineup until 6 p.m.: Any form of “SportsCenter,” the network’s flagship show since its inception. Instead, ESPN announced Monday that news breaks called “SportsCenter Right Now” will air twice hourly on the main network during the daytime, starting Aug 28 (it also will get an expanded airing via ESPN’s digital offerings). The main network will save “SportsCenter” for the evening hours, with “SC6″; an 11 p.m. version hosted at various times by Steve Levy, Kenny Mayne, John Anderson and John Buccigross; the Scott Van Pelt edition at midnight; and a 1 a.m. “SportsCenter” hosted by Neil Everett and Stan Verrett. Most of those shows already were in place and all of them will focus more on the hosts’ personalities than highlights, a reflection of the fact that viewers now are able to get highlights as soon as they happen and don’t necessarily need to wait for “SportsCenter” to air.
Starting in January, “SportsCenter: AM” will air on ESPN2 from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. It will be hosted Mondays-Thursdays by Sage Steele and by various other recognizable ESPN faces on the other days of the week. But the move to ESPN2 is significant: While ESPN and ESPN2 are in nearly the same number of cable-TV households, shows on the latter channel generally pull in lower ratings than those on the main ESPN. For instance, when ESPN moved its 10 a.m.-noon “SportsCenter” from ESPN to ESPN2 so it could put “First Take” on the main network, the “SportsCenter” ratings at one point had dropped 60 percent vs. the same period from the year before.
Look at it another way: Apart from “SportsCenter: AM,” ESPN2 will have little in the way of original programming when the new lineup goes into effect. The three shows that follow “SportsCenter: AM” on the schedule all are re-airings of shows from that day: Greenberg’s new program, “First Take” and “NFL Live.” The evening schedule is full of repeats, as well. It’s as if the network is putting an entire channel on the back burner, not just “SportsCenter.”
ESPN’s daytime de-emphasis of “SportsCenter” was reflected in its recent round of layoffs, which saw somewhere around 100 employees let go. A sizable portion of those layoffs were devoted to “SportsCenter” hosts. Nevertheless, ESPN President John Skipper said Tuesday that the network remains committed to newsgathering and dissemination.
“ESPN is the primary source for sports fans for news and information,” Skipper said at the upfront presentation Tuesday. “In the end, high-quality content matters.”
Also of note: Mike Golic, Greenberg’s longtime radio/TV co-host, will be getting a new ESPN Radio show with Trey Wingo. Beginning in the fall, it will be simulcast on ESPN2 before moving to its permanent home on ESPNU.