ESPN announces new shows

Network launches new magazine show

ESPN has greenlit a number of new projects, including a “60 Minutes” style magazine show and a feature-length docu on Bobby Valentine, the colorful former Major League manager.

The hourlong show, titled “ESPN Reports,” will combine in-depth reporting with ESPN’s trademark gloss.

“We want to make it a fast-paced and young-skewing newsmagazine,” said David Burson, ESPN’s executive veep of program planning and development. “We want it to be investigative but we don’t anticipate 15-20-minute segments.”

Included in the mix will be athlete profiles, topical pieces and investigative journalism, Burson said. Net will deploy a number of its reporters for the series, including Jeremy Schaap, Rachel Nichols, Tom Farrey, Lisa Salters and Michael Smith.

ESPN has the topical studio gabfest “Outside the Lines” but has never done a issue-driven show with reporting from the field.

Weekly series will preem in October and air in five-episode clusters several times over the course of the year

HBO’s monthly “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” has been the dominant longform sports show since it debuted in 1995, but Nichols said that “for many sports fans, sports magazine shows are synonymous with the word remote.” The segments on “ESPN Reports,” she said, will move so fast “you won’t have time to change the channel.”

Meanwhile, Valentine project will center on the manager’s career and life in Japan, where he has led the Chiba Lotte Marines to a championship.

Burson said Valentine has given the net access on and off the field.

Valentine, a former ESPN commentator as well as a manager who took the New York Mets to the World Series in 2000, is known for his playful escapades that by turns have both entertained and rankled the media. Show is expected to capture his personality as he interacts with players.

ESPN is also close to renewing its Mark Burnett-produced boxing nonscripted “The Contender” for a second season on the net. The series has found an audience in its first season on ESPN after being cancelled by NBC in 2006.

At its upfront in Gotham Tuesday, ESPN also revealed that it would air its eight-part series about the 1977 American League East playoff race, “Bronx is Burning,” on Tuesdays at 10:00 pm beginning in July.

Net, presenting on same day as Disney sib ABC, attempted to sell Madison Avenue on the idea of buying spots across television nets, magazine, radio, international, and broadband platforms.

ESPN also has a well-known reputation for inserting sponsors–and plugs for its own programming–into broadcasts.

On Tuesday execs pitched ad buyers on weaving in advertisements even more seamlessly with content; in one example, comments from Derek Jeter morphed into a Gatorade ad. “The fan now gets the fact that content and advertising are going to be onscreen at the same time,” said customer marketing and sales prexy Ed Erhardt.

Net also made a number of other programming announcements.

Beginning Sept. 4 it will air “SportsCenter 300,” a weekly four-part series about the net’s ironic commercials for “SportsCenter.”

Net also said it will air a new hourlong Sunday fantasy-sports show in August and that it will soon drop a “SportsCenter Minute” into ABC sports programming.

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