Michael Smith will leave the 6 p.m. edition of ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” the network confirmed Friday, the latest talent switch in a broadcast that appears to have proven more difficult to get right than executives may have expected. Smith, who launched the show known as “SC 6” in February of 2017 with co-host Jemele Hill, will take on a role to be determined at the Walt Disney-owned sports-media giant. The duo approached the program as a spot for mixing the news and highlights of the moment with opinionated takes on sports and cultural trends.
“Michael Smith will be leaving the 6 p.m. ET SportsCenter after tonight’s edition,” ESPN said in a statement Friday. “Michael is a talented commentator and we greatly appreciate and value his contributions and creativity. We are in the process of discussing with him potential next ESPN assignments.” His departure follows that of Jemele Smith, who announced in January that she would work at ESPN’s “Undefeated” as well as other properties.
ESPN has changed course on the hour, moving away from the interplay Smith and Hill introduced to fans on their “His & Hers” podcast, and, subsequently on ESPN2. In January, “SportsCenter” chief Norby Williamson said executives had found early-evening viewers “expect the most comprehensive news coverage and compelling analysis during the 6 p.m. hour.,” rather than commentary and opinion.
The network has been trying to tweak its best-known – and most ubiquitous – program, tailoring each edition so that it meets the needs of the audience tuning in. Scott Van Pelt has found success with a late-night version of “SportsCenter”that mixes a little humor with the sports news. “SportsCenter A.M.” airs earlier than any edition of the show has in the network’s history.
ESPN did not name a replacement for Smith, who was working solo on the show. A rotating group of anchors will fill in until the network sets upon a permanent set of hosts.