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ESPN’s flagship show is headed to Snapchat.
The cable network is launching a twice-daily version of SportsCenter that will stream exclusively on Snapchat. It debuts Monday at 5 p.m. ET with an episode hosted by Katie Nolan, the former Fox Sports host who joined ESPN in October. Future episodes will be released each weekday at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. and on weekends at 5 a.m.
In addition to Nolan, SportsCenter on Snapchat will have a rotating group of hosts who include SportsCenter host Elle Duncan, NBA commentator Cassidy Hubbarth, ESPN Radio host Jason Fitz and comedian Cy Amundson.
Just like the original SportsCenter, the Snapchat show will offer a mix of sports news and highlights. But each episode will be under 5 minutes and will offer up the news in a more casual way. “What we’re trying to achieve is how to take a brand like SportsCenter and make it into something that is specific for the Snap audience,” says Glenn Jacobs, senior coordinating producer for SportsCenter Digital. “Two people in a suit and tie sitting at a desk, that’s not what this is going to be.”
Jacobs says that ESPN auditioned nearly 30 people for hosts of the show. The group they settled on will each bring a different point of view to SportsCenter. The morning show, which at launch will be hosted by Amundson and Fitz, will be news driven, with the goal of catching people up on what they may have missed from the day before. The evening show, which will be split between Nolan and Duncan, will be more focused on providing analysis and personalized takes on that day’s news.
“It’s an opportunity to talk to different fans at different points in the day,” says Ryan Spoon, senior vp social content at ESPN. “The two shows will vary pretty significantly.”
ESPN and Snapchat began working together in 2015 when Snapchat launched its Discover platform. SportsCenter will be the first daily sports show on the app. “We wanted to have a show that did a good job of really keeping you updated about the biggest stories in sports,” says Sean Mills, Snapchat head of original content. He notes that by offering two versions of the show each day, there will always new content for Snapchat users. “They’re always looking for something new and fresh,” he says.
The show comes as ESPN faces new business challenges brought on by the rise in cord cutting. The Disney-owned network is expected to lay off around 100 people, including on-air talent and executives, after the Thanksgiving holiday. It would be the second round of layoffs this year, spurred on by slowing cable subscriptions and mounting rights fees.
Snapchat, meanwhile, is preparing to overhaul the design of the app. It currently has 178 million daily active users but has been adding users at a slower rate than in previous years. “One thing that we have heard over the years is that Snapchat is difficult to understand or hard to use,” CEO Evan Spiegel said in a letter to investors Nov. 7. The redesign will surface Discover content and shows in new and more personalized ways, he noted.
Original programming on Discover has become key to Snapchat over the last two years, helping it to grow its advertising business. The company is continuing to greenlight new series for the platform and recently formed a joint venture with NBCUniversal to begin a push into scripted programming. Mark and Jay Duplass are working with the new venture on projects, which will eventually join such shows as Phone Swap and The Rundown on Snapchat.
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