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ESPN Launches ‘SportsCenter’ Snapchat Show Under Two-Year Deal

ESPN is bringing “SportsCenter” to Snapchat in a twice-daily show — running at just a fraction of the length of its TV progenitor and with a cast of more dressed-down, millennial hosts.

Under the two-year pact with Snap, the Disney-owned sports programmer is angling to reach a younger, mobile-centric demo with the “SportsCenter” offshoot, employing a new riff on the 38-year-old franchise’s format that combines news, highlights and hot takes from the day in sports.

Each episode of the show, the first daily sports program on Snapchat, will be just 3-5 minutes long. “SportsCenter” for Snapchat debuts Monday (Nov. 13) at 5 p.m. ET, and then starting Tuesday will launch on a regular schedule of shows available twice a day at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET on weekdays, and once at 5 a.m. on weekends.

“It’s taking the DNA of SportsCenter and transplanting it onto Snapchat,” said Glenn Jacobs senior coordinating producer for “SportsCenter” digital content.

The first show will be hosted by Katie Nolan (pictured above), the Emmy-winning sports personality who joined ESPN last month from Fox Sports. Other hosts will include “SportsCenter” anchor Elle Duncan, ESPN NBA commentator Cassidy Hubbarth, ESPN Radio host Jason Fitz, and comedian Cy Amundson. (Jac Collinsworth, recently tapped for ESPN’s “Sunday NFL Countdown” as a features reporter, had been slated to be part of the initial roster but for now he is focusing on other projects.)

ESPN was a launch partner for Snapchat’s Discover media platform two years ago. But that uses a more magazine-like format, driven around text and images, whereas the Snapchat Shows are designed to be more akin to mobile TV.

“‘SportsCenter’ is the crown jewel of ESPN, and I think it’s defined how generations experience sports and think about the culture of sports,” said Sean Mills, Snap’s head of content. “Now we have a new medium in mobile video — and there’s a huge opportunity for a ‘SportsCenter’ made for mobile, for the next generation of sports fans.”

For Snap, the new “SportsCenter” show is part of its strategy to lure new users after failing to hit Wall Street expectations on user and revenue growth. Snap’s big Q3 earnings miss last week hammered the stock; CEO Evan Spiegel is hoping to right the ship with plans that include a redesign to make the app easier to use and new monetization options for creators.

“SportsCenter” on Snapchat will include highlights, but ESPN says it will focus just as much — if not more — on buzzy topics about stuff off the field, court, or rink. It also will widen the lens of sports it covers, expanding beyond the central focus on the big four American pro sports leagues by TV’s “SportsCenter.”

Each “SportsCenter” on Snapchat show will have a single host, who will delivering an opinionated perspective on current events and chatter. “It’s going to be very personality driven,” said Jacobs. But the solo-host format means it will lack the snappy interplay among co-anchors of the long-running TV version, which has been a steady generator of sports-media personalities (not to mention a slew of catchphrases).

Hosts of “SportsCenter” on Snapchat include (l. to r.): Cassidy Hubbarth, Cy Amundson, Jason Fitz

“SportsCenter” on Snapchat will be featured in the app’s Shows section. “It’s prominent placement, front-and-center, every day,” Mills said. ESPN will sell ads for the show and has a revenue-sharing agreement with Snap.

It joins two other daily Snapchat Shows, NBC News’ “Stay Tuned” and CNN’s “The Update.” With the expanding lineup, “what we’re focused on is loyalty,” said Mills, adding that Snapchat’s daily active users visit the app on average 25 times per day.

In the coming year, Snap plans to continue to expand shows into a diverse range of genres, including scripted content. The company recently formed a studio joint venture with NBCUniversal, which is a Snap investor, to produce scripted shows with an initial deal with filmmakers Mark and Jay Duplass.

ESPN’s launch of “SportsCenter” on Snapchat comes as more layoffs are expected at the sports programmer, which plans to axe 100 positions later this fall, according to a Sports Illustrated report. It’s also gearing up for the launch of ESPN Plus, a direct-to-consumer streaming service slated to launch in the spring of 2018.

 

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