SportsCenter’s Rob King: “We have no excuse not to plan”

ESPN’s SportsCenter is a video behemoth. Its many shows and segments are broadcast 12 times per day, every day. Since its first airing in 1979, it has aired over 50,000 unique episodes — more than any American television show in history.

As such, SportsCenter faces unique challenges when it comes to video. In sports journalism, it’s all about the “play”: the tipping point where the balance shifts in one side’s favor. In the age of social media and instant updates, viewers know from their feeds when and how a play is made, leaving sportscasters with the task of addressing an audience that already knows what happened. This leads to challenges across long-term planning and measurement attribution.

In this episode of Digiday Live, recorded at the Digiday Video Anywhere Summit in Austin, Texas, senior reporter Sahil Patel spoke with Scott Van Pelt, the legendary SportsCenter anchor, and Rob King, svp of SportsCenter, about how the show has evolved since the Dan Patrick era, and what’s next. Here are some highlights from the conversation.

Thanks to sports calendars, SportsCenter can plan cross-screen experiences in advance
“We can see signature moments coming,” says King. “We have no excuse not to plan.” Unlike elections and the weather, the sports world follows a pre-set events calendar so that producers can plan for experiences across screens months — even years — in advance.

The 24/7 news environment forces SportsCenter to create extra content around its shows
“We are trying to create ecosystems around these shows,” explains King. Lifestyle or behind-the-scenes content, like Usain Bolt playing pingpong at the SportsCenter headquarters, goes a long way in keeping viewers watching.

Attribution is the most challenging part of measurement on platforms
“There are many different pieces to this,” says King. TV screens, mobile phone apps, and out-of-home-viewing all account for the many different ways in which the show reaches people. The challenge now is how to attribute and account for how people are accessing ESPN’s video content.

Listen to Scott Van Pelt and Rob King in conversation with Digiday’s Sahil Patel at the Digiday Video Anywhere Summit in Austin, Texas in the Digiday Live episode above. Get more insight into how publishers are tackling video by listening to more Digiday Live episodes below:

  • It’s the million-dollar question: How do you get millennials to pay for video content? Fullscreen president Ezra Cooperstein talks about how the video platform has shifted toward a paid model.
  • Publishers have warily embraced branded content as a new revenue stream, but branded VR is even more of a long shot. Gannett’s vp of branded content Kelly Andresen explains why USA Today is making the leap into unknown territory.
  • Viacom Labs is more than a press release — it’s a new way for the company to distribute its content across platforms. In this episode, Ross Martin shares how the Lab is providing new revenue streams for Viacom.

Keep up with the best sessions from Digiday events by subscribing to Digiday Live on iTunes or Stitcher.

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