Program Outperforming Other Late-Night Shows in Key Demographics
A year ago, ESPN launched a new concept for its signature news and information program SportsCenter, and the evolutionary format is resonating strongly with television and digital audiences, including outperforming late night talk shows in key demographics.
The midnight ET SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt, which debuted September 7, 2015, coinciding with ESPN’s 36th anniversary, celebrates its one-year anniversary next week.
“A year in, it’s pretty cool to see how audiences have embraced the show,” said Rob King, ESPN senior vice president, SportsCenter and News. “Scott, Stanford Steve and the entire Midnight crew have worked so hard to create a unique version of SportsCenter, and the best part is, they’re really only just getting going. The future’s really, really bright.”
The program was designed to present the world of sports through the unique perspective of Van Pelt, showcasing his passion for sports with his self-deprecating wit and disposition toward celebrating stars and storylines. With elements brought from his popular ESPN Radio show and transferred to television, the personality-driven program represented the newest evolution of SportsCenter with segments produced to resonate with TV viewers and to create content that could be more easily shared digitally and socially.
“A year ago when I was asked what this would be, I couldn’t answer because I’d never done it,” said Van Pelt. “I had ideas, but I didn’t know. A year later, I’d say I’m proud that we have settled into a very comfortable space. We know that our approach is different and there was risk associated with that but the numbers tell us it’s one viewers endorse. That’s incredibly gratifying.”
With double-digit increases in viewership in the first eight months of 2016, the program also is reaching younger viewers: in the past year, the median audience age of 39.5 has been 15-20 years younger than that of the broadcast network programs airing at the same time. Additionally, ratings have been higher among 18-34-year-old men than late night talk shows on broadcast or cable.
In the digital and social space, Van Pelt’s nightly “1 Big Thing” commentary is one of the program’s segments that has boomed. Last October, his take on the treatment of former NBA star Lamar Odom was viewed 1.15 million times after two tweets from @SportsCenter were re-tweeted more than 12,000 times and liked more than 10,000 times. A commentary from January on Wisconsin high schools banning students from using certain chants at games was viewed nearly 400,000 times. Video from the program averages 165,000 views per day.
The program also has set itself apart with the use of Periscope and Facebook for post-show fan interaction, with Van Pelt and sidekick “Stanford Steve” Coughlin, also a segment producer for the show, personally engaging with viewers on the platforms immediately after the end of the program. The nightly Facebook live has averaged 123,000 viewers, and a Periscope session after the New York Mets made it to the World Series last October was re-tweeted 3,500 times.
The program will celebrate its first year next week with “Best of” replays of some of its popular regular features including “Bad Beats,” “Oh, No!” and “Best Available Video.”
“I know we will evolve as time goes on, but as we begin the second year, our staff is in a great spot to just let it rip,” said Van Pelt. “We will be what we are and we will have more fun doing it than is reasonable.”
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