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ABC Affils to Get Block of ESPN Shows

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ESPN this weekend will begin making good on a promise to provide its corporate broadcast sibling ABC affiliates with sports programming, when it gives them two hours of sports-themed shows—a new 60-minute sports highlight–driven show called Winners Bracket, along with an ESPN films “30 for 30” documentary Guru of Go, which chronicles the Loyola Marymount University basketball team and the death of its star Hank Gathers.

When ABC affiliates complained earlier this year that ESPN was moving live sports programming off the network to televise on cable (Mediaweek, Feb. 7), ESPN executives promised they would be developing new shows and concepts to give back to the ABC stations that could air on weekend afternoons.

The two-hour block, called ESPN Sports Saturday on ABC, will premiere on Saturday, April 3 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. It will air from April through mid-August, and after a hiatus, will return with another round of shows from December through August 2011.

During the second half of the block each week, local ABC affiliate stations will have the opportunity to insert local updates to promote their upcoming programming. Winners Bracket will be hosted by ESPN SportsNation’s Michelle Beadle and NFL analyst Marcellus Wiley.

The hosts will debate and recap the week in sports in what ESPN is describing as a “fast-tempo, quick-witted, bracket-style format with the 16 biggest newsmakers of the week pitted against each other in seeded brackets.”

Each round will include debates by the hosts framed through highlights and the show will conclude with the selection of the definitive play of the week which will be the bracket champion.

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