If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Just improve it here and there. That was the mantra at ESPN's 2015-2016 upfront presentation at New York's Minskoff Theater this morning.
The event was billed as the ESPN Impression, because, as president of marketing and sales Ed Erhardt explained, "Impressions are the currency of our industry."
After pop star Jordin Sparks, accompanied by the New York City Joint Color Guard, sang the national anthem, ESPN execs Erhardt and evp of global multimedia sales Eric Johnson hit the stage to welcome the crowd and provide the data advertisers were there to hear:
- One out of every five TV-related tweets is about ESPN content.
- 95 percent of ESPN viewing happens live.
- ESPN Digital reached more than 30 million women in the fourth quarter of 2014 and reaches more than 23 million millennial males a month.
- ESPN Digital products have 40 million registered users.
Once the all-important stats were out of the way, it was time to have some fun. ESPN veteran Kenny Mayne did what amounted to a stand-up routine, saying only ESPN could "bamboozle you before 10 a.m."
Comedian Frank Caliendo did a Jon Gruden impersonation, complete with an exaggerated, oversize Super Bowl ring. He was joined by Monday Night Football commentator Mike Tirico and Gruden himself.
Mike Golic emerged with a giant drum and—along with his co-host Mike Greenberg—ostensibly got ready to make a major announcement. But the drumming stopped when it became clear the news was already out there—their show will be relocating to New York in 2016.
ESPN personalities Rece Davis, Kirk Herbstreit, Lindsay Czarniak, Kevin Negandhi, Hannah Storm, NBA star Dwyane Wade and NFL star Darrelle Revis also took the stage before closing remarks from Disney co-chairman and ESPN president John Skipper.
Other programming announcements include:
- SportsCenter: ESPN's flagship program is adding two hours of live programming from 7 to 9 a.m. ET. The new version of SportsCenter will be faster paced, ideal for viewers who are on the move and don't have much time early in the morning.
- Scott Van Pelt's new midnight show: Van Pelt has signed a new, multiyear extension with ESPN and has a new show coming out late this summer. It will air at midnight and provide a unique spin on the day's news and highlights. It's essentially a solo-anchored version of SportsCenter, but the description sounds a lot like Keith Olbermann's daily program.
- 30 for 30: ESPN Films has 30 new episodes of the critically acclaimed documentary series. The Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield rivalry, polarizing Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and the Buffalo Bills' four consecutive Super Bowl loses in the early '90s are among the topics.
- NFL wild-card game: ESPN and ABC simulcast a wild-card playoff game for the first time ever.
- MLB pennant race: ESPN has added three baseball games with playoff implications in the final week of the regular season, increasing its total to seven games during that week. The American League Wild Card Game will also be on the network.
A new research initiative partnership with BlueKai was also announced.