ESPN2 Sets New Talk, Entertainment Skeins

1/12/2005 2:25 AM Eastern

Los Angeles -- ESPN Original Entertainment will develop two new sports-entertainment series for ESPN2, as well as up to four original movies slated to debut later this year.

EOE, ESPN's original-content-development division, will create for ESPN2 a daily, personality-driven entertainment show featuring ESPN National Basketball Association analyst Steven A. Smith, according to ESPN executive vice president of programming and production Mark Shapiro.

Speaking Tuesday at the Television Critics Association tour here, Shapiro also said ESPN2 will debut in May ESPN Hollywood, a new, nightly 30-minute show that will look at the world of sports through the pop-culture lens.

Along with series, Shapiro said EOE has more than 30 original films in development for ESPN, four of which may hit the network's schedule sometime this year.

Projects under development include: Four Minutes, chronicling Roger Banister's historic four-minute mile; The Long Count, based on the 1920s Jack Dempsey-Jim Tunney bout; Code Breakers, about the West Point cheating scandal; and a biopic on former heavyweight champion Jack Johnson's life.

The new shows come on the heels of ESPN's debut Thursday of its new gambling-oriented series, Tilt.

While Tilt is ESPN's second original series following ratings hit Playmakers, Shapiro said the skein does not have to match or surpass the controversial Playmakers' 1.88 average household rating to be successful. Despite its ratings prowess, ESPN canceled Playmakers last year after the National Football League complained that the series negatively depicted pro-football players.

Instead, Shapiro said, it has to surpass the 0.6 rating ESPN's National Hockey League telecasts averaged in the time slot last year to be successful.

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