New SportsCenter set debuts Sunday: ‘Built for 24/7 show’

Random thought: Isn’t it funny that as the sets for news programs get bigger with more gizmos, the audiences get smaller?

Back in the day, Walter Cronkite sat behind a simple desk at CBS and read the news. And he did huge ratings.

Now the sets are ultra-modern, but with so much available on broadcast, cable, Internet outlets, the ratings for news shows are a fraction of what they once were.

Anyway, I had that thought in anticipation of ESPN making its debut for its new lavish studio for SportsCenter Sunday night at 11 p.m. It takes up a considerable part of the new 194,000 square foot Digital 2 Center in Bristol.

Below is an inside look by New England One.

It will include all the bells and whistles that $175 million can buy. Yet will the tech wizardry provide more ratings for SportsCenter than back in the day when the anchors, like Cronkite, sat behind a simple desk with primitive graphics over their shoulders?

Of course, back in the day, ESPN owned the sports landscape. While that still is pretty much the case, there is an infinite choice of outlets for fans to get their sports news.

Regardless, ESPN hopes the new studio will be a boost to SportsCenter, which still is the live-blood of the network. In a conference call yesterday, Craig Bengtson, vice-president of new, addressed the new look:

Bengtson: You know, what’s great about the studio is we finally have a studio that was built to support a 24/7 show. We’re currently working off a studio that was built at a time when we were live only three hours a day, and now we’re live 18‑plus hours a day.

What that means in general, I think it’s going to be initially a dramatic change in the experience for viewers for a variety of reasons. Number one, because the studio is built for 24/7 program, the programs will be differentiated in different ways by where they stand on the set, because the set has many multiple anchor locations. The lighting in the morning is different than the lighting at night. The music in the morning is slightly different than the music at night. There are more than 100 video and graphic display monitors versus 15 on the current set. They’re big, they’re large, they’re going to be able to deliver information in a better way to the audience, and I think that will make more compelling television.

The graphics have all been adjusted. There are fewer numbers, they’re bigger, they’re bolder, they’re more colorful, they’re going to make it easier for people to digest the information.

The SportsCenter app and what we do in the digital space will be a larger part of the show in terms of how we deliver that information on the television program. I think it’s going to be a dramatic change in a positive way for viewers in terms of how they consume SportsCenter and how we present news and information in a better way.


SportsCenter anchor Steve Levy on how the anchors will be on the move:

Levy: I would say the biggest change for us is certainly awareness of our surroundings. The way I understand it in doing rehearsals, we are almost never, never going to be sitting behind the desk. That might be an opening shot, an establishing shot, a shot for a serious story or a serious discussion, but we’re going to be all over the place, and the place is massive.

So that’s what I mean by awareness of the studio, where we are, where we’re standing, where we’re looking, where we’re going next, what the next move is, and also, I can tell you from the anchor perspective, the desk is nice and comfortable, to be seated there and you have all your papers and all the highlights and all the cards and all the news and notes. But walking around we won’t have that luxury, so sort of the safety net of the hard paper, the script, that won’t be available to us. I think it’s going to be a lot looser. I think the show is going to be a lot looser. I think it’s going to be a lot more on the fly. I think that leads to a lot of fun, a lot of laughs, and in turn, better television, so that’s something we’re all kind of looking forward to, as well.


For those who need more, here’s the transcript of the entire call.


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