ESPN Finds a Live-Streaming Partner With Twitter, Launches OTT ESPN+

Five shows will be accessible via Twitter without a pay-TV subscription

Six cable channels aren’t enough real estate for ESPN, which is always looking for new ways to deliver sports coverage to fans, so it’s rapidly expanding online. On April 12, the network launched ESPN+, a $4.99-per-month OTT service meant to complement — not replace — pay-TV subscriptions. Then, last week, at its NewFront presentation in New York City, ESPN announced a massive deal with Twitter that will bring five live and on-demand shows to the social-media platform.

Available even to fans without pay-TV subscriptions, ESPN’s five-show launch is part of a surprisingly strong NewFront season for Twitter, which announced at its own presentation that it had signed partnerships with more than 30 publishers, including NBCUniversal, Hearst, Viacom, the NFL, NBA, MLS, Fox Sports, Formula 1, and Bleacher Report. Twitter might soon become a must-watch network for sports fans.

Here’s the list of ESPN’s new Twitter programming:

  • SportsCenter Live: By putting SportsCenter Live on Twitter, ESPN aims to provide coverage of breaking news throughout the day. Fans should visit @SCLive and sign up for notifications so they’ll know when SportsCenter Live is streaming in the Twitter Moments area.
  • Hoop Streams: Hosted by David Jacoby and Ryen Russillo, this show centers on the NBA Playoffs and previews each matchup. It will make good use of Twitter by bringing real-time fan comments into the conversation.
  • Fantasy Focus Live: Already a successful podcast, this show will soon stream live to Twitter daily. ESPN will run it throughout the upcoming football season.
  • The College Football Show: This weekly series will summarize the previous week’s highlights and get fans ready for football Saturday. In the upcoming season, it will be available every Saturday there are games.
  • Rankings Reactions: Another college-football show, this one will discuss playoff rankings from Oct. 30 to Dec. 8 (Selection Day). Mike Golic Jr. and Jason Fitz are tapped to host.

Although new to streaming live and on-demand video to Twitter, ESPN has years of experience building connections on the platform:

“Our relationship with Twitter goes as far back as 2007 and is rooted in connecting with fans and driving conversation around sports,” says Ryan Spoon, SVP, social content, ESPN. “For over a decade, ESPN has fostered a Twitter presence unmatched in reach and scale, which has led to terrific engagement and fan interaction. We are tremendously excited about delivering a series of unique, live, and interactive shows that will pair the best of Twitter with the best of ESPN.”

Olympic freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy (right) discussed his “Shred Hate” campaign during ESPN’s NewFront presentation in New York City last week.

SportsCenter Live came up twice in ESPN’s announcements: the network is also bringing the show to its app. ESPN wants the mobile version of the show to be a morning ritual for sports fans, who can tune in to hear the best of the previous night’s action as well as what’s coming up that day. Scott Van Pelt and other anchors will host, and ESPN promises insights, analysis, reporting, and a look at breaking news. The ESPN app has recently been redesigned to offer more personalization, so fans can see top stories for whatever team or sport they’re into.

ESPN announced one upcoming program with surprisingly few details. The network is getting into the late-night–comedy arena with “Always Late With Katie Nolan,” which will feature the host’s irreverent take on sports and pop culture. The show will be available for anytime on-demand streaming, and Nolan said the title is meant to indicate that, no matter when the viewer watches, it’s always late. The show will be available on digital and social platforms, but, as for when it will debut, ESPN isn’t saying.

“It’s going to be a weekly show. It’s going to be about half an hour, but it’s going to be on ESPN digital, living in that universe,” Nolan said. “So, some weeks, maybe it’ll be 27 minutes. I don’t know. Maybe I had stuff to do. Other weeks, it might be 35. We’ll go crazy.”

Finally, ESPN hosted a special guest at its NewFront: Olympic freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy took the stage to talk about the success of the Shred Hate campaign, which ESPN launched in January 2017 at X Games Aspen. The program works with schools to stop bullying. He noted that schools that adopted the program have been able to eliminate more than 90% of bullying instances.

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