ESPN Looks to ‘UNITE’ Late Night Viewers

ESPNU will launch "UNITE" a 60-minute entertainment show starting August 27

According to Entertainment Weekly, ESPNU will launch a new 60-minute entertainment show geared towards the college-aged male fan on August 27th.

Named “UNITE“, the new program will integrate social media into the normal sports viewing experience every weeknight at midnight.

The launch-date smartly coincides with students return to campus and the beginning of the college football season.

If this concept sounds familiar, ESPN disagrees, “Our goals are to be different,” says UNITE‘s Coordinating Producer Yaron Deskalo. “We want to create something on television that doesn’t exist anywhere else. I think the main way we’ll be able to find out if we’re successful is how viral we are. We don’t want to be a show that necessarily, quote unquote, has a social voice that is inserted in; we really want to be rooted in social.”

Deskalo’s last point is his most effective, it seems most sports shows layer social over the top of their programming, but rarely integrate it. We’ve all seen Twitter feeds on shows ranging from “The Voice” to “NFL32″  and graphics begging the viewers to like them on Facebook, but these shows are not really “rooted in social”. Social in sports broadcasting is currently a static component, not a living, breathing thing.

Where is your head at midnight?

Pause for a moment and think of where you, and your sports mind, are at midnight. You’ve probably already seen highlights and analysis or at least heard or read results. So what is left? ESPNU seems to conclude that the remaining void left to be filled is the social conversation revolving around the events that have already taken place.

ESPNU's new program concept sounds similar to G4's "Attack of the Show", but that's OK with us!

“The way that we consume sports television is different than it was 15 years ago — than it was two years ago,” continues Deskalo. “Our audience already knows the headlines before they tune in, so they are no longer tuning in at midnight to wait 20 minutes to watch a 45-second highlight. What we need to do to be successful is to find the social conversation in these events, to find that little nugget that will keep people around.”

I know ESPN says their goal is to be completely different, but I think this sounds eerily similar to G4′s “Attack Of The Show”, combining humor, videos, casual interview settings, witty repartee and playful banter amongst hosts.

Even is UNITE isn’t completely unique, it still strikes me as a great late-night concept.

Opportunity Beckons

The network will continue their trend of merging aspiring sports journalists into their programming, expanding upon the Campus Connection concept with a new group called the “School Board”.

“We aren’t necessarily looking for the next SportsCenter anchor,” says Deskalo. “We’re looking almost for the next media star, whether they’re graphic designers, musicians, or comedians. Maybe they’re already doing it in their dorm room and getting a million hits on YouTube, but to us, this is the next evolution for them to move into the television environment.”

What a great opportunity for young people looking to build their personal brand/Demo Reel. As a young person starting out it would look pretty impressive to display your skills on ESPNU.

The show will have three mains hosts who have yet to be named, although Deskalo intimated at least one will be a familiar face from ESPN.

Our advice, don’t let it be Keith Olbermann parading around in a leather jacket.

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Article by Brian Clapp

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  1. Diane says:

    This sounds like a great idea, even though people are saying it has already been done. I like the concept of finding content from what is trending socially. I also look forward to seeing Campus Connection debut media stars. This show has a fresh idea and it sounds like it will rarely run out of fun ideas and content. I was excited when my Dish coworker told me about the show. I will actually be asleep at 12:00am during the week, when this show airs. This is why I’m thankful for the Dish Remote Access app. I have it downloaded on my phone and am able to set up timers on my DVR at home and if I want I can watch it live or watch the recording on my phone. This is such a convenience for me and saves me a ton of time.

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