Looking to develop more entertainment-based sports programming, ESPN has created a new unit that will create series and specials that go beyond the sports headlines.
The ESPN Original Entertainment (EOE) franchise will feature a wide range of branded programming outside of the network's traditional event and news genres, ESPN senior vice president of programming development Len DeLuca said.
"EOE is our foray into putting the 'E' for entertainment back into ESPN," he said. "We're trying to create branded programming that has the ESPN attitude, integrity and connection to the fans."
The unit just launched the new series The Life
this past Saturday, Jan. 13. The show delves into the off-the-field lives of athletes and explores their relationships, fashions and hobbies. Athletes scheduled for the series include New York Yankees slugger David Justice, WNBA star Ticha Penicheiro and the wives of several Denver Broncos players.
Also part of the EOE unit are such already-launched shows as ESPN's 2-Minute Drill
game show, Remembering Marshall: 30 Years Later, a documentary show focusing on the plane crash that killed the Marshall University football team and The Season, a documentary program chronicling a Pennsylvania high-school football team.
"These are branded programs that are part of the sports genre, but can also fall into the entertainment category in terms of game shows, documentaries and style shows," DeLuca said. "They're not about what happening between the lines, but what happening in the lives of athletes."
So far, ESPN's entertainment-based programming is resonating among network viewers. ESPN's 2-Minute Drill
show for example, averaged a 0.71 rating and a 0.56 rating during its weekly Monday and Thursday night 7:30 slots respectively. While not blockbuster numbers, DeLuca said the show was able to retain 80 percent of the audience from the network's popular 7 p.m. SportsCenter
show, and actually drew more men and teens than SportsCenter.
As a result, the network has commissioned 26 additional episodes for a new tournament, which will begin in June, DeLuca said.
The unit's personnel makeup will consist of executives from ESPN's various departments and entities, including sales, production and print, DeLuca said. He added that the projects developed would be featured in some form through other ESPN services such as ESPN2, ESPN Classic, ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine.
"We control our destiny because we own the product," DeLuca said. "The programs developed through EOE will exclusively an ESPN play that can be used throughout the company's owned-and-operated assets."