- ESPN is rebooting its Snapchat Discover channel with two daily “SportsCenter” shows.
- The new “SportsCenter” episodes will be three-to-five minutes in length and will feature a rotating cast of younger hosts, including Katie Nolan and Elle Duncan.
- The move comes as ESPN is under pressure from macro trends like cord-cutting and digital upstarts such as Bleacher and Barstool Sports.
ESPN is looking to revive — and reinvent — “SportsCenter,” and it’s turning to Snapchat for help.
Starting Nov. 13, ESPN will roll out a twice-daily version of its iconic sports highlight show on its Snapchat Discover channel. The show will replace ESPN’s daily Snapchat Discover content, which since launching in 2015 featured a daily magazine-like package of highlights, photos and articles.
ESPN has lined up a new team of non-traditional hosts for the Snapchat “SportsCenter,” including former Fox Sports star and social media personality Katie Nolan (who the network just hired from FS1) , longtime music artist-turned ESPN Radio host Jason Fitz from the country music act The Band Perry as well as the stand up comedian Cy Amundson.
The shows will be three to five minutes in length and will post to Snapchat at 5 am and 5 pm daily. The morning edition will recap the previous night’s sports action, while the afternoon edition will focus on personalities and newsy sports topics.
Regardless of the timing, the mission seems to be — “don’t be the SportsCenter of old, featuring white guys in suits behind desks showcasing highlights and breaking down the nuances of the zone blitz.”
It’s a high stakes bet, as ESPN’s traditional, once-dominant linear business continues to face massive challenges, including the rise of cord-cutting, the proliferation mobile devices and the overall decline of live TV viewing.
Last week, parent company Disney announced disappointing results, and the ongoing erosion of ESPN was cited as a factor.
Much of the conversation surrounding ESPN’s existential challenges has been centered around whether its signature show, SportsCenter still matters particularly in light of the growing social media success of upstarts like Turner’s Bleacher Report and Barstool Sports.
“We think what will come out [today] is a pretty marked evolution for “SportsCenter,” said Ryan Spoon, ESPN Sr. VP, Social Content. “We are aiming for something much bigger and compelling. The new show, the way we think about it is, this should be a very hip and fun and personality-driven studio.”
Elle Duncan is one of the few “SportsCenter” TV anchors who will appear on the new Snap version. She said based on the groups’ early testing, the product will be far different. “What’s cool about this is the approach, is that we 100% imagine the camera isn’t there and you are legit just talking to your friends,” she told Business Insider. That means a lot less ‘produced’ conversation.
“If you want in-depth analysis, you have the traditional “SportsCenter,” she said. “When you go to your friends to talk sports at the bar, you don’t think through what you talk about. That’s what I love about this.”
Storytelling on mobile
For Snapchat, the new “SportsCenter is the latest push into consistent ‘show’ formats for TV partners, following the lead of CNN and NBC, which are both producing original news series on Discover.
Sean Mills, Snapchat’s head of original content said that Snapchat and ESPN have been talking about the idea of rebooting SportsCenter for Discover for about a year. He hoped the new version helped define sports culture when he was growing up.
In terms of what it would look like, Snapchat left that to ESPN, while helping the company think through the unique aspects of the platform. The key was to produce a show that moves quickly, uses more visuals and graphics and feels intimate, he said.
“You have to shoot for mobile, and this is a highly concentrated form of storytelling,” he said. “It’s so personal. So the personalities on the show should be people you want to spend a cross-country trip with.”
The Snapchat “SportsCenter” will be ad-supported, with both companies sharing the revenue. But of course, there’s the question of whether pushing out a new version of the show that doesn’t require a cable subscription is good or bad for ESPN’s overall business long term.
We’re constantly thinking about these things all relate to each other,” said Spoon. “So we want to tell stories where our fans are, and also grow the overall pie.”
“We do believe it’s a good thing to reach people where they are and make “SportsCenter relevant there.”
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