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The Wheels On the Bus Go Round and Round...Except at ESPN

Friday, May 16, 2008 , Posted by Christopher Byrne at 8:34 AM, under , ,

Athens, GA (May 16, 2008) - ESPN has made a decision that "dramatically" changes their early morning/morning programming. Hiring Hannah Storm as the centerpiece in replacing the revolving "wheel" of SportsCenter repeats that have traditionally run from 3:00 AM to the afternoon, ESPN is saying that the change is needed because the news cycle of sports is demanding it. The question is whether or not this statement can pass anyone's straight face test.

The reality is that ESPN is trying to keep eyeballs on the screen during this time. After all, how many people actually sit through each and every repeat of SportsCenter all day long? Probably not many, so ESPN is hoping that fresh content all day long will keep eyeballs on the screen. On its face, this sounds like sheer lunacy. If the cable news networks like CNN, MSNBC and Fox News Network cannot fill a 24 hour news cycle on their networks, how does ESPN plan to do it with sports? There is not enough news generated during the morning hours that makes this decision look like a sound one.

ESPN is already getting beaten up by critics for overblown and overdone analysis and previews. Why would they open themselves up to even more criticism? Maybe they are thinking about hiring Nancy Grace to host a show on sports law. That may work given all the misbehavior of the overpaid, spoiled athletes. Maybe they are gearing up for wall to wall coverage of the next O.J. Simpson trial, and will be hiring Greta Van Susteren and Mark Furman to host the coverage.

It will be interesting to see if this move pays off for ESPN, and that the benefit derived will exceed their increased operating and payroll costs. It will be hard to say because the only eyes likely to be watching will be college kids and unemployed people (ok probably second and third shift workers too). But is this the demographic that the advertisers want?

If they want to fill programming, why not go back to showing Australian Rules Football, or maybe even Cricket? Even that might be easier and better than trying to fill all of those hours with fresh content.

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