ESPN announced Thursday that it is canceling “SportsNation” and replacing it in the 4 p.m. Eastern time slot with a shorter version of “High Noon,” the noontime chat show co-hosted by Bomani Jones and Pablo Torre that premiered in June. An episode of “SportsCenter” will return to the noon Eastern time slot after it was bumped by “High Noon” earlier this year.
Originally hosted by Colin Cowherd and Michelle Beadle when it premiered in July 2009, “SportsNation” took its cues from social media as it highlighted the sports topics of the day. It has gone through a number of personnel changes over the years after Cowherd and Beadle departed in 2012, though Beadle returned to the show in 2014 after a brief stint at NBC. Cari Champion, who currently co-hosts “SportsNation” with LZ Granderson, will share hosting duties on the reborn noon “SportsCenter” with David Lloyd, while Granderson will continue to co-host his weekday radio show for the ESPN-branded sports-talk station in Los Angeles and “contribute to other ESPN shows,” according to the network’s announcement.
“High Noon” premiered as an hour-long show June 4. It will shrink to 30 minutes when it moves to 4 p.m., described in the network’s announcement as “a better time slot” by Norby Williamson, ESPN’s executive vice president for production and executive editor. The move means ESPN’s entire late-afternoon slate — “High Noon,” followed by “Highly Questionable,” “Around the Horn” and “PTI” — will be produced by Erik Rydholm, who has had a consistent run of success at the network.
“A lot of these moves came together really well,” Ilan Ben-Hanan, ESPN’s vice president for programming and scheduling, told Sports Business Daily’s John Ourand, who broke the story of the lineup changes. “It’s a better flow.”
Though hardly providing the total picture, ratings snapshots show that fewer people were watching “High Noon” than the noon “SportsCenter” it replaced (or at least were watching the show as it aired; the numbers do not include DVR or streaming viewership). As noted earlier this year by the Big Lead, viewership for the first three episodes of the show (June 4-6) was down 15.6 percent from the noon “SportsCenter” episodes that aired in the comparable week in 2017 (June 5-7). That decline had shrunk to 12.9 percent when comparing the viewership for “High Noon” last week with the “SportsCenter” from the comparable week in 2017, according to numbers compiled by Showbuzz.
ESPN still is trying to figure out the best way to present its various versions of “SportsCenter,” and the move to reinstall it in the noon time slot suggests that the network believes there remains a strong audience for the show.
“ ‘SportsCenter’ has had a lot of twists and turns over the years,” Williamson told Ourand. “This will help bridge the gap from the AM ‘SportsCenter’ [to] the 6 p.m. ‘SportsCenter.’ ”
The final “SportsNation” will air Aug. 24 and the new afternoon lineup will go into effect Sept. 11, once the network has finished its coverage of the Little League World Series and U.S. Open tennis tournament.
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