Premiere Episode to be Simulcast Across ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS
A new era for ESPN’s most iconic program will begin Monday, February 6, with the launch of SC6 with Michael and Jemele, the 6 p.m. ET edition of SportsCenter hosted by popular ESPN commentators Michael Smith and Jemele Hill.
With a format geared to fit Smith and Hill’s personalities, along with a specially-designed set and its own music, “The Six” will be different from any other SportsCenter produced since ESPN’s first telecast of its signature news and information program in 1979. Debuting on the day after the Super Bowl, the premiere episode of the weekday offering will be hailed with an hour-long simulcast on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNEWS.
Smith and Hill, who previously co-hosted ESPN2’s His & Hers and will be the first African-American duo to host SportsCenter on a regular basis, will combine some of the best elements of their previous program with SportsCenter for the new show, including a deliberate and well-paced conversational format in which they discuss sports topics, news, culture and social issues. The program will continue SportsCenter’s focus on news of the day and breaking news as warranted.
“This show will be unique because it is an opportunity to look in on a conversation among close friends, colleagues and the people who they bring into their orbit by virtue of the topics they choose and the interests they have,” said Rob King, ESPN senior vice president, SportsCenter and News. “Since we launched the midnight SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt, it’s been really clear that SportsCenter can be distinguished when it’s built around unique personalities and unique conceits, especially those ideas, personalities and conceits that work for specific audiences.”
Friends for many years, Smith and Hill first met when both were print journalists at major metropolitan newspapers. Initially paired on ESPN Radio’s His & Hers podcast in 2013, the duo then began hosting together on television later that year, with the program re-launching as His & Hers in November of 2014. Chemistry and smart conversation were apparent from Day One.
“We’re being ourselves, we’re not being other people,” said Hill, in her 11th year with ESPN. “We wanted to do the type of show where we were just unapologetic about how we talk, what we wanted to discuss, our relationship as friends, and I think people connected with that authenticity. We just talk like we would if we were on the telephone.”
#TheSix (not to be confused with Toronto’s popular moniker) will offer guests and coverage of breaking news as necessary, with featured elements that set it apart from other editions of SportsCenter, including:
- Doin’ Too Much: In a popular segment being brought over from His & Hers, Smith and Hill assess and react to athletes, coaches and fans who are trying a bit too hard or otherwise deserving of attention.
- Hard in the Paint: A fast-paced segment in which Smith and Hill discuss the daily moments and stories that caught their eye.
- Choppin’ it Up: The hosts step outside of the studio for out of the box interviews. Whether it’s grabbing lunch or playing dominoes with a newsmaker, the result is always revealing and fun.
- Spoofs: As they did on His & Hers, Smith and Hill will offer occasional pre-produced skits that are takeoffs on some of their favorite movies and television shows. Previous “targets” have included Anchorman, Step Brothers and Empire.
“I’m most excited for the viewers to see how much freedom we are going to have,” said Smith, who’s been with ESPN since 2004. “I know there is a perception that now that we are doing SportsCenter, that we are going to be limited in what we can do; that we aren’t going to have the creative, or editorial freedom even, that we enjoyed on His & Hers. Nothing could be further from the truth.
“Now, not only are we going to be able to have the conversations that we were already having on the podcast and the TV show, but we are going to be able to have them in different spaces and locations with different looks,” he said. “The show is just going to look so much more dynamic; it’s just going to look amazing.”
Unique Set Design and Look
The SC6 set will incorporate an urban, contemporary theme resembling a loft space, with elements of wood and white brick and dominant colors of black, white and blue. Backdrops and light boxes will include elements personally chosen by Smith and Hill to represent their home allegiances (New Orleans and Detroit) and common interests (comic books, food, pop culture, clothing and more).
A variety of looks and camera locations from the 10,000-square-foot Studio X will be available to #TheSix’s producer Jasmine Alexander, director Rob Bentley and producer Jeremy Lundblad, who comes from the His & Hers staff. The show will feature a remix of the ubiquitous SportsCenter theme from DJ Jazzy Jeff.
In addition, the program will sometimes originate from remote locations, with the first scheduled road trip on Friday, Feb. 17, from the NBA All-Star Game weekend in New Orleans. SC6 will lead up to ESPN’s telecast of the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game at 7 p.m.
#TheSix to Live on Social Media
Social media will be an integral part of the show’s production, with fans brought into the conversation early in the afternoon when show preparation begins. Unique content will be introduced digitally and crowdsourced socially throughout the day, giving viewers a preview of what is to come on the program or even a chance to contribute. Show segments will be produced for both the television audience and to maximize digital and social sharing.
“In many ways, we view what’s going to happen in the social and digital space is as important as what happens on television,” King said. “In the end, that will be a watershed moment. In the past, we’ve embraced social and digital but we’ve built them largely as appendages; in this case, they live at the center of how we think of touching fans.”
The program can be found on Twitter with the hashtag #TheSix, as well as Smith’s @michaelsmith, Hill’s @jemelehill and @SportsCenter. SC6 also will have presence on Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook as well as on espn.com.
“The creativity and energy displayed by the team working on the new edition of SportsCenter has been breathtaking, and Michael and Jemele have gone above and beyond to infuse their special camaraderie and ingenuity into the process,” said King. “I can safely speak for all involved in the show when I say we can’t wait to get started.”
About SportsCenter: ESPN’s signature news and information program since 1979, SportsCenter has evolved into a multiplatform brand that includes television, digital and social media elements. On television, different editions of SportsCenter are designed to serve sports fans at various times of the day. SportsCenter:AM launches the day from 7-10 a.m. ET, and the Los Angeles version closes out the day from 1-2 a.m. Among other editions are the personality-driven SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt at midnight, SportsCenter Coast to Coast with Cari Champion and David Lloyd at 11 a.m. and SC6 with Michael and Jemele at 6 p.m. Digitally, SportsCenter content is produced for and lives across multiple platforms including ESPN.com, and the brand has strong social media presence on Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram.
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