ESPN News is getting an on-screen makeover, highlighted by a constant scroll across the bottom of the screen chock full of sports scores and headlines.
“We’re trying to make ESPN News a better service for sports fans, who have shown an insatiable desire for statistics and scores,” said Sean Bratches, executive VP of affiliate sales and marketing for ESPN. The new format takes effect on Sept. 7.
Bratches said ESPN has worked on the strategy for the relaunch over the last year, so it’s not connected to the recent public dispute between the network and Charter Communications, the giant cable operator, over Charter’s worry that the ESPN Web site is too similar to ESPN News.
Charter has dropped ESPN News on some of its cable systems, arguing that it’s wrong to make cable subscribers pay for material they can receive for free by calling up ESPN.com on their computers.
“The new format will not mean that more ESPN News content will get streamed on ESPN.com,” said Bratches. If anything, he said, ESPN News will be using more material from ESPN.com such as “polls, chats, interactive analysis and live responses to questions from ESPN.com users.”
As a supplement to the perpetual scroll at the bottom of the screen, ESPN will institute regular full-screen graphic panels loaded with details about game results. For example, a Major League Baseball game will include not only the line score and the winning and losing pitchers but a full box score and a one-sentence summary of the significance of the game. The panel will stay on the screen for about 20 seconds before being replaced by the on-camera anchor or by a similar panel for another game.
And when there’s a press conference going on live, said Mike McQuade, senior coordinating producer of ESPN News, the network will be able to push the live coverage back to half of the screen, using the other half for text about the subject of the news conference.
For example, if John Stockton called in sports reporters to announce his retirement as point guard of the Utah Jazz, the live Q&A to the left of the screen would be supplemented with Stockton’s career statistics on the right-hand side.
ESPN News bowed on Nov. 1, 1996, with 1.5-million TV homes. It now reaches 25-million subscribers.