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Volume 25 No. 26
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Execs From ESPN, FS1 Detail Coverage Decisions On Flagship Highlight Shows

With THE DAILY comparing the coverage between ESPN's "SportsCenter" and FS1's "Fox Sports Live" during Thursday’s 12:00am ET shows, execs from both networks discussed their coverage decisions. One of the more notable differences between the two programs was in the amount of MLB coverage dedicated at the top of each show -- "Fox Sports Live" led its broadcast with double the amount of MLB playoff coverage than "SportsCenter." ESPN VP/SportsCenter Craig Bengtson pointed out that the 12:00am show was different from the 11:00pm “SportsCenter,” which is "often the most viewed of the day.” He noted the volume of the MLB coverage “was even more significant" than the seven minutes that ran at 12:00. Fox Sports Exec VP/Studio Production Scott Ackerson said "Fox Sports Live" leads with what is "the biggest, most important story there is" on that day. Ackerson said it "sounds simple," but the process to determine what to follow up with the second report of the broadcast on any given day is "what is the second-most important/interesting story out there." Ackerson noted that because of the time of the 11:00pm edition of "Fox Sports Live" it “can become a little bit of a post-game show.” If it is coming off an event, it "may skew the session toward that sport." Bengtson also noted the frequency of shows dictates decisions, "Remember, 'SportsCenter' is on 24 hours per day -- 18 live -- and as a result, the amount of attention we give to an individual story often changes from hour-to-hour for a variety of reasons. In general, we lead the program with the most important, compelling, or freshest story of the day." Specific to Thursday, Bengtson noted "SportsCenter" led with Pirates-Cardinals coverage because he felt it was "enhanced with reporter Bob Holtzman on the field postgame for player interviews."

DOES HAVING RIGHTS PLAY A ROLE? Bengtson said in deciding which report would follow the MLB coverage, the net "appeals to a large audience with a wide range of interests." Bengtson: "Within the first 30 minutes of the program, we covered baseball, basketball, football and hockey.” The show had NBA-themed reports early in the broadcast, but Bengtson said being an NBA rightsholder plays no role in the placement of those sports. "We select those stories we think our viewers will have the most interest in. Rights are not a factor in any of those decisions." Meanwhile, Ackerson said he has never "been told to air anything" whether Fox owns the rights or not, "so there is no mandate" to air highlights from sports the net has rights to. Ackerson said if another network "has something on the air that people are interested in, we're going to do the highlights." Ackerson: "I don't necessarily think people care about whose air it's on. They just want to have the best video or best information."

DECISIONS, DECISIONS: Despite the UFC staging a major event in Brazil last Wednesday night, "SportsCenter" did not have any coverage while "Fox Sports Live" did provide highlights. Bengtson said, "In this specific hour, we chose those stories we thought our fans would have the most interest in at that time. We cover soccer and UFC in many shows and certainly across all our platforms." Bengtson added the balance between the highlights versus analysts' segments and how much time to devote to each "is dictated by numerous factors, including the importance of the story and time of day." Ackerson said "it depends on the night" how much time FS1's analysts are on-air and the format of the show gives Ackerson the "flexibility to be able to do a number of different things." Ackerson said he tries to put the analysts "in a position where they talk more big picture."