ESPN Has a Plan. Here It Is

Sports network considering original programming, archived games amid pandemic
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 17, 2020 4:14 PM CDT
ESPN Has a Plan. Here It Is
This Sept. 16, 2013, file photo shows the ESPN logo prior to an NFL football game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers, in Cincinnati.   (AP Photo/David Kohl, File)

With the sports world essentially shut down amid the coronavirus pandemic (and marble racing videos becoming increasingly popular as a result), what exactly is going to air on ESPN? The sports network revealed the beginnings of its plan today explaining just that: As the Wall Street Journal, Variety, and CNN report, the Disney-owned network is considering airing repackaged archived games, original content, live studio shows, and non-mainstream athletic events. "There are so many creative things we can do, similar to some of the initiatives we’ve done in the past for special event anniversaries," says the network's programming chief. "The challenge is that now we need to replicate that dynamic 24 hours a day, seven days a week across multiple networks." ESPN has two sister channels, ESPNNews and ESPN2. For now, coverage is centered around the NFL free agency period.

For archived games, the network is considering things like themed nights showing back-to-back college football games, boxing matches, and the like, per a source, but it needs to license rights to those games via negotiations with sports leagues, which are in process. For original content, the network already has much in the works, including films; it is considering pushing up the release dates for some of that content. (Its upcoming documentary on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, The Last Dance, is still in production; its original release date was expected to be June.) And for non-mainstream sports, or what the network is calling "themed and stunt event programming," it points to coverage similar to what it's done before when running "ESPN8: The Ocho" coverage on ESPN2; that's an annual nod to the fictional channel from the movie Dodgeball. When ESPN has run that coverage in the past, it has included such sports as cornhole championships and spitting competitions. (More coronavirus stories.)

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