"SportsCenter" Turns Corner With More Traditional Highlights, News
Since ESPN Exec VP/Studio Production Norby Williamson took the reins of "SportsCenter" in September '17, the show has looked "more like it used to in its heyday -- less debate, more news and highlights," and so far, ESPN execs are "pleased with the returns," according to Ben Strauss of the WASHINGTON POST. Even some of the "faces are familiar," with past stars like Keith Olbermann and Chris Berman "on the air more often under Williamson's watch." Williamson has "overseen the end of the personality-driven" 6:00pm ET "SportsCenter" starring Jemele Hill and Michael Smith, while 7:00am and noon editions were "added to the daily schedule this fall." Williamson said the net may have "miscalculated a bit" with the personality-driven programming. He said, "The perception became that you could just roll a talent out there and it doesn't matter what he or she is saying -- that the content didn't matter. I just never believed that." Strauss notes ESPN recently announced the 6:00pm "SportsCenter" has "had eight straight months of growth," while the Monday editions of the new 7:00am and noon "SportsCenter" have "shined during football season," up 6% and 10% vs. last year respectively. Williamson said that the net's "rationale for going all-in on debate and conversation began with the proliferation of cable news shows driven by personalities." Williamson: "We fell into that trap a little bit. We de-emphasized the video and the storytelling." ESPN's Sage Steele said the net has "recommitted to what people expect from us." She said, "Just as I would have watched the 'CBS Evening News' show with Dan Rather, I want my information. This is the same thing -- just sports" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/6).