Offers morning editions, West Coast version

Returning to its roots, ESPN staged an upfront fashioned after its trademark “SportsCenter,” touting six new live hours of the show and a West Coast studio for the skein that will roll out over the next year.

The “Upfront Edition” of the show at the Nokia Theater, echoed by signs and giant screens outside sister net ABC’s Times Square studios, featured latenight co-anchors Steve Levy and Brad Van Pelt. Weaving in taped segments with other correspondents alongside execs from the sports net, the message of ubiquity and deep connection with sports fans was repeatedly driven home.

Big news was the Aug. 11 debut (timed to the Beijing Olympics) of live weekday editions of “SportsCenter” starting at 6 a.m. and running through 3 p.m. Hannah Storm, a vet of both news and sports, has also joined ESPN to anchor “SportsCenter” from 9 a.m. to noon. From 2002-07, Storm co-hosted “The Early Show” on CBS, though sports fans will recall her 10-year run at NBC Sports, where she hosted Olympic and World Series coverage, among other duties.

ESPN has always rerun the latenight “SportsCenter” the following morning, breaking in for any major news events. With morning viewing growing more avid across the dial, especially in the news arena, the net decided to expand.

A studio in downtown Los Angeles, across from Staples Center, is set to begin operations next April, allowing for a live “SportsCenter” at 10 p.m. PT and 1 a.m. ET. Given how much of the Bristol, Conn.-based show’s 1 a.m. edition is already devoted to West Coast scores and highlights, the expansion aims to improve coverage and fortify the brand in the all-important L.A. market.

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