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NEW YORK — ESPN unveiled a new 3-6 p.m. afternoon lineup for ESPN2 and the first original scripted series on Spanish-language ESPN Deportes as part of its upfront presentation here Tuesday morning.
The endangered NFL season and ESPN’s appetite for further sports rights, such as the Olympics, also got mentions at the event.
The new weekdays afternoon lineup for ESPN2, which will launch Sept. 12, will include new half-hour original series Dan Le Batard is Highly Questionable, hosted by Miami Herald sportswriter, radio host and TV personality Le Batard, at 4 p.m. ET to provide “a critical – and sometimes controversial – perspective on the world of professional sports,” according to the network.
Also, the new show Numbers Don’t Lie at 3:30 p.m. will tackle the biggest sports stories of the day by providing historical and numerical perspective with a host to be named who will be joined by a former player and an expert.
ESPN2 currently airs The Scott Van Pelt Show at 3 p.m. and SportsNation at 4 p.m, followed by NASCAR Now and Around the Horn. The network said SportsNation will continue to be on the schedule, but will move to the 5 p.m. slot. NASCAR Now will also continue to air in the afternoons, with popular ESPN afternoon show Jim Rome is Burning rounding out the channel’s 3-6 p.m. afternoon schedule. An ESPN spokeswoman said the Scott Van Pelt Show is not cancelled, but details about its future are still being worked out.
Also, Spanish-language network ESPN Deportes is getting its first scripted original show ever in the form of soccer drama El Diez (The Ten). The 10-episode show follows a Mexican soccer player (Mexican actor-singer Alfonso “Poncho” Herrera) who joins the big leagues.
ESPN Deportes also announced E: 60, its own version of the ESPN primetime newsmagazine.
Plus, the Spanish-language network unveiled the launch, in conjunction with Time Warner Cable, a Spanish-language site fully dedicated to covering sports for LA fans.
ESPN on Tuesday also unveiled HERoics, a series of short films about women and their contributions to soccer that will appear on ESPN and ABC leading up to and during the Women’s World Cup.
The cable network giant also announced that ESPN Films after the conclusion of the 30 for 30 series will debut new documentaries beginning in October.
John Skipper, ESPN’s executive vp, content quipped on stage Tuesday that he had the latest news about the NFL labor showdown. “They are going to play,” he said. “I don’t know when they are going to play,” but when they do, ESPN will be there. He didn’t detail what kind of programming ESPN would air instead of the NFL in case of game cancellations.
Saying that “live is what matters,” Skipper also pointed to strong live sports ratings gains and reiterated ESPN’s interest in adding further live sports rights to its portfolio. The network recently bid for NHL rights, which went to NBC and Versus, and it is also expected to compete for Olympics rights with a focus on live broadcasts. While he didn’t go into details on upcoming rights, he said with any rights bids “we are just trying to eke out a living” in a competitive space, joking that he had to read this carefully worded statement from the teleprompter.
Skipper on Tuesday also unveiled a new advertising approach, using a split screen, during the second halves of the 10 final NASCAR season stops, starting Sept. 18. “NASCAR NonStop” will show commercials on the left side of the screen while continuing to show the race on the right half. “You can’t miss the ad, but you can’t miss a moment of the action either,” Skipper explained.
The ESPN upfront event was hosted by network personalities Michelle Beadle and Scott Van Pelt.
Among the executives and various personalities who were attending the event, actively participating in it or shown in video clips were Robert Iger, president and CEO of ESPN parent Walt Disney, George Bodenheimer, president, ESPN and ABC Sports, and co-chairman, Disney Media Networks, Eric Johnson, executive vp, multimedia sales, Saturday Night Live head writer and ESPY host Seth Meyers, pro skateboarder Tony Hawk, Kier Dillon, Winter X Games medalist and analyst, SportsCenter anchor Hannah Storm, Sean Bratches, executive vp, sales and marketing, Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews and The Laker Girls.
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