ESPN is remaking its NBA Countdown pregame show, tapping Michelle Beadle to host an expanded one-hour edition of the show on Wednesdays and Fridays, including the Christmas Day games, which this year include a rematch of the finals between the Golden State Warriors and defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers. Beadle will continue to host SportsNation Monday through Friday.
Sage Steele will continue to host the weekend editions of the show, including the NBA Saturday primetime game on ABC and ABC NBA Sunday Showcase, which features the national game of the week. Steele also will become the lead anchor for SportsCenter on the Road.
The changes will impact Doris Burke, who last season was part of the NBA Countdown rotation, sharing hosting duties during the weekday editions with Steele. This season, she’ll continue to be part of the regular rotation of NBA game analysts while expanding her college basketball assignments. She’ll also continue to serve as an NBA sideline reporter and analyst for the NCAA Women’s Final Four.
The shift will commence with the NBA preseason in October, the first season of the network’s new nine-year, $24 billion NBA rights agreement that will give the company more games than ever — more than 100 in the regular season across ESPN and ABC.
Beadle returned to ESPN in 2014 after a short and unhappy stint at NBC. And earlier this year, ESPN extended her contract, moving SportsNation from ESPN2 to the flagship and paying her more than $3 million a year, a pinnacle for female sportscasters, who still endure a wide salary chasm between them and their male counterparts.
The NBA is coming off of a storybook season with a blockbuster final between LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers and Steph Curry’s Golden State Warriors. Game 7 was watched by 30.7 million people, the most viewed NBA game ever on ABC and the highest-rated since 1998. So it is significant that ESPN is elevating the profiles of Beadle and Steele — already two of its most recognizable stars — at a time when viewer interest in the sport is hitting new highs.