A Commodity Profile of SportsCenter
By Erik Gundersen
“Dare I say, En Fuego,” “He’s cooler than the other side of the pillow,” “Rumblin’ fumblin’ stumblin,” “Booya!” All of these phrases have become known in the United States and around the world because of one show, SportsCenter. SportsCenter is the flagship show for the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network more commonly known as ESPN. SportsCenter helped turn ESPN in to an international brand, with 46 networks, broadcasted in 16 languages worldwide. The majority of the programming around the world differs, however, one thing is always constant, SportsCenter and its universally known theme music.
SportsCenter’s first broadcast was on September 7, 1979 at a studio in Bristol, Connecticut with George Grande as the lead anchor. SportsCenter now has a stable of 16 anchors that are regularly on TV. Now in its 31st year, SportsCenter is broadcast in America from Bristol, Connecticut and its new Los Angeles studio later in the day. Also, internationally it is in 16 different languages in 200 different countries. The show typically runs for an hour, with highlights, updates, interviews and analysis on the day’s most recent or topical sports stories.
In 1995, ESPN who was under the umbrella of ABC and the Hearst Corporation, was purchased by one of the worlds largest media corporations, The Walt Disney Company. 20% of ESPN is still owned by the Hearst Company.
On the main channel of ESPN, SportsCenter will air daily anywhere between 8-12 or more times a day depending on the live sports the channel may be broadcasting. It is produced in Bristol, Connecticut with a stable of anchors switching in and out most of the day; however, when the hours get into the early morning on the East Coast, the show shifts scenes to Los Angeles where the regular crew of Stan Verrett and (fellow Duck) Neil Everett take over. Verrett and Everett run until ESPN decides to replay some other sporting event that happened earlier in the day. ESPN does not release figures of how much it costs to produce an episode of SportsCenter, or how much their anchors make. Also, many notable former SportsCenter anchors have found success away from ESPN, such as Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick who were a couple of SportsCenter’s most recognizable faces.
Left to Right: Neil Everett and Stan Verrett hosts of the late-night SportsCenter in Los Angeles
Since the first broadcast, SportsCenter has prided itself on being the first on the story, the first to break it down, and analyze it into something their viewers can digest. Whether it was a big playoff game in the NBA where LeBron James went for a triple-double, John Lester throwing a complete game gem at Fenway against the Yankees or Ben Roethlisberger running away from pass rushers to win a playoff game like he is dodging those charges from Georgia (too soon?) SportsCenter is there. They cover all aspects of the sports world and that is what helps separate their product from all others who try and get a piece of the sports news market.
There is a barrage of commercials every break from the likes of Pepsi, MillerCoors and Asics trying to attract the everyday SportsCenter viewer who is most likely a male in any age group. I have yet to find how much ad-space is for National Ad campaigns on SportsCenter but an article from LegalZoom.com states that a 30-second spot in a suburban neighborhood on ESPN can be as cheap as $25 dollars; however, the article gives no specifics for the time of day, or what show they will be on. Also, many musicians and groups, like the Plain White T’s that get their song played as the theme on SportsCenter’s Ultimate Highlight, get huge exposure.
Distribution and Consumption
SportsCenter is distributed on ESPN’s two main networks, ESPN and ESPN2 multiple times a day. On any ESPN Radio station, every 20 minutes there is a SportsCenter update. Also, now on EA Sports video games, such as Madden 10, FIFA 10 and NBA Live 10 there are SportsCenter updates from ESPN Radio if you have an XBOX Live Gold Subscription. The goal of every episode is to bring new information to the viewer, thus there are no DVD sets of old episodes of SportsCenter episodes. However, you can find some of SportsCenter’s content on YouTube, prefaced with an advertisement and authorized by ESPN, like John Gruden’s QB Camp or their weekly Sunday Conversation.
You can download podcasts from SportsCenter and other ESPN programming at their Podcenter and at the iTunes store. Certain highlights and other segments of SportsCenter can be found everyday at ESPN.com. The SportsCenter brand spreads its wings even more with hundreds of commercials that air on ESPN and other channels. SportsCenter also has a Twitter page. All trademarks of ESPN are property of ESPN Inc., which is a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company and the Hearst Corporation. In June, ESPN will launch ESPN 3D adding to its already large number of ways you can consume ESPN and SportsCenter.
SportsCenter has helped ESPN evolve into a brand not only in television but also on the Internet, in radio, restaurants, and merchandise industries. SportsCenter, and ESPN, is one of the Walt Disney Company’s best assets. ESPN, which is the 4th most viewed channel on cable, carries a huge demographic of mostly teen-age to adult and even elderly males.
Also, SportsCenter has also helped ESPN become a figure of pop-culture. By being depicted in sports comedies such as The Waterboy and Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story helps ESPN go way beyond its regular TV audience. SportsCenter has even been idolized in music such as Lil Wayne’s song “3 Peat” in which he references anchor Stuart Scott and the show itself. Interestingly enough, Lil Wayne, who is regarded by some as the “Best rapper alive,” has had a blog for ESPN The Magazine and has appeared on the panel show Around the Horn. Lil Wayne, also known as “Weezy,” is an example of SportsCenter and ESPN’s synergy because he spread the brand to a larger audience.
SportsCenter Anchor Stuart Scott
The SportsCenter theme song can be found on the Jock Rock: Volume 1 CD and has developed an association to great plays by athletes with its “Da Da Da, Da Da Da” ending. Even more impressive is that in the crowds at sporting events you’ll likely find a sign saying “SportsCenter is Next,” or when a player makes an impressive play, one of the announcers during the game may say, “man, that ought to be a Top 10 play tonight.”
SportsCenter is one of the media’s most versatile commodities. From when SportsCenter first got big in the late 80’s and early 90’s until now it has transcended its original intention as a sports news show to become a mark of popular culture. Showing us the large effect SportsCenter and ESPN have on the political economy of media, with its influence on popular culture and its content appearing in more areas of the media we consume than we ever thought possible. ESPN has all but cornered the sports news market around the world, and who’s to say they are going to be stopping anytime soon?
Walt Disney Corporation Website
ESPN Corporate Website
Listing of highest rated Media Companies
SportsCenter and ESPN’s biggest competitor: Fox Sports
Database of SportsCenter Catch Phrases (proof, that something like this actually exists)
ESPN Radio Website