An excerpt from my latest column for Poynter:
When ESPN approached Scott Van Pelt about going solo with the midnight (Eastern) edition of “SportsCenter,” he initially said no.
Van Pelt was the co-host of a popular midday radio show on the network, which gave him the opportunity to express his views about various issues in sports. Typically, “SportsCenter” hosts aren’t given as much latitude in that regard. It’s mainly scores and highlights.
“I pushed back,” Van Pelt said. “I loved the radio show where I had the ability to have an opinion. They came back to me and said, ‘No, we’re encouraging that [if he did the ‘SportsCenter’ show]. We want you to bring opinion to that space.’ That made it an incredibly compelling opportunity.”
As a result, Van Pelt said good-bye to his radio show in June. Since then, he has been gearing up for the Sept. 7 debut of his version “SportsCenter.”
The midnight show hasn’t been renamed “SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt,” but that is essentially the case. ESPN is looking to tap into Van Pelt’s unique voice and perspective in between the more traditional 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. editions of “SportsCenter.”
Rob King, ESPN’s senior vice president for “SportsCenter” and news, said Van Pelt will “place a new, entertaining stamp on the midnight ‘SportsCenter.’”
Indeed, it hasn’t been lost on Van Pelt that ESPN is giving him the keys to drive perhaps the coolest car in the lot.
“I’ll admit at times it is daunting when I think about it,” Van Pelt said. “But it’s also like the coach saying you’re going to start. Time to go out and play.”