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Revamping SportsCenter isn’t just a Snap

ESPN logoYesterday ESPN continued its evolution of its SportsCenter mothership by launching a version of SportsCenter on Snapchat. Battered by the dynamic changes in media over the past decade, SportsCenter has been the subject of much tweaking – minor and major – as ESPN tries to stem the audience erosion of its headline program.

Of course, two five-minute episodes a day on Snapchat doesn’t replace watching an hour’s worth of SportsCenter on TV, but it is a way to be more relevant to a particular demographic of young sports fans – helping fulfill ESPN’s mission to serve all fans.

Almost needless to say, the forces working against the classic version of SportsCenter started with the mainstreaming of internet use, and accelerated with the use of mobile apps and services. As with general news, the need for an overview of the day’s sports news was reduced by the ability of fans to get sports scores, news, and updates all through the day.

Coupled with all-day sports updates was the increasing personalization offered by digital services. Why sit through an hour’s worth of sports news to get a minute’s or two coverage of your favorite teams? Highly localized coverage of a city or of just a team meant one could just go straight to the wheat and forget the chaff.

These media-related changes were also compounded by cultural changes, in terms of expectations for talent diversity, talent “attitude,” and so forth that required updates to keep up with the times.

As with many things ESPN, most other TV networks/media properties would love to be in their position in terms of audience and revenue – the problem is ESPN set the bar so high in the past that market adjustments take on a relatively higher profile.

Serving the Fan

As for me? I’m a relatively big sports fan but I pretty much stopped watching SportsCenter regularly in the late ’90s. I still rely a lot on ESPN, but only for the teams and sports I like, and almost exclusively through the ESPN mobile app and what comes through my Facebook feed. ESPN is still carrying out its mission in my case – and its presence across today’s various permutations of TV, internet, mobile, radio, and print means it can still service most sports fans.

David Tice is the principal of TiceVision LLC, a media research consultancy.
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