ESPN's opening day

Net breaks huddle on live 'SportsCenter' block

BMonday was the first day of the new live "SportsCenter," a six-hour block beginning at 9 a.m. ET that on weekdays replaces the "SportsCenter" repeats that had run there for years. It's part of a new effort for the network to shore up its live programming during the day.

That means ESPN and its franchise program start the day even earlier. The first employees roll into the network's suburban Connecticut campus around midnight, as the finishing touches are being put on the preparations for the night's final "SportsCenter" beginning at 2 a.m. The late crew gives way to the morning shift that each day will provide six hours of live sports news.

It's the first time that "SportsCenter" has ever been produced that long for that regular a period of time. But they're not reinventing the wheel, said Mark Gross, managing editor of studio production.

"Is it going to be different? Yes. Is it going to be dramatically different? No. It's still going to be scores and highlights," he said.

New features include "Word on the Street," talking to an ESPN Radio host from around the country. Monday's topic? Life after Brett Favre in Green Bay.

Doing a live "SportsCenter" daytime block was on the boards for years, but ESPN decided this spring that the time was right.

It hired sports veteran and former "Early Show" co-host Hannah Storm, who anchors the 9 a.m.-noon telecast with Josh Elliott. The broadcast is then passed off to Chris McKendry and Robert Flores for the back three hours. Monday was chosen as the premiere because of the start of the Summer Olympics, plus near the starts of football season and baseball's pennant races. (partialdiff)