ESPN Adapts to New Normal

Adam Hinkley

With stay at home orders in place and a world in partial lockdown, people are looking for new ways to pass time as they stay home to protect their health. Hours previously spent out with friends, at the gym, or doing countless other activities are now spent at home. Prompting people to turn to the entertainment industry, as these hours are now often spent watching movies or catching up on shows.


Although most networks and streaming platforms have benefitted from these strange times, several networks are struggling, primarily sports networks. Like the rest of the world, sports have come to a halt; games are not being played and there are no new live events to cover. This has dug a hole for networks such as ESPN, as they race to find content to bring to people 24 hours a day.


One of the first reactions by ESPN was to cover events of the past; every night one could tune in to ESPN to find them covering memorable moments for “today” throughout history. However, recently ESPN has found greater success in reporting new, more exciting content. The network has even put together new events including athletes that participate from home.


One of these events was the Horse Challenge, which gathered both active and retired NBA and WNBA players to compete in a virtual HORSE tournament. Participants included players such as Trae Young, Tamika Catchings, and Chauncy Billups, who played on hoops at home over video chat. This video chat was then broadcasted on ESPN for viewers.


Junior Will Boughn’s thoughts on such a different form of entertainment, “I watched briefly, I was very underwhelmed and the quality was poor,” which is not surprising considering the conditions. 


Although, when asked if he believes ESPN has done a good job creating content during these times, he claimed, “Yes, I think they have done a good job at managing these strange circumstances. They continuously look for new high quality content to bring to the public.”


Another recent event broadcasted live on ESPN was the NFL draft; which began the night of Thursday, April 23rd and continued to run through the weekend. This being a bigger, more important event was naturally given more time and effort by the network in order to bring a great experience to the viewers. 


Every year thousands gather at a set venue to celebrate teams picking players to join their franchise for the next season. However, due to current conditions, this event was no different and had to be held in a virtual setting. Team officials could not meet, and players could not walk the stage. Though, fans were given something new and exciting, an event with an unknown outcome.


Senior Patrick Thomas believed that  “yes, ESPN and the NFL have done a very good job covering the draft so far. However, this virtual event could never replace the traditional event.” Thomas embodies the attitude of many towards the event.


Nothing, however, produced by the network has received more praise or anticipation during this time period than The Last Dance documentary. The Last Dance follows Michael Jordan and the 1997-1998 Chicago Bulls through their final season, telling the story of Jordan’s final championship team in never before seen footage documenting the fine details of their journey.


Many have been begging for the network to release episodes of the documentary early during these unprecedented times to bring relief to the sports deprived. 


Thomas was asked whether he believes that ESPN should legitimately consider doing so. He responded, “no, I think it gives people something to look forward to related to sports every week. In a sense it is helping to replace the excitement people get during the time approaching a game.”


ESPN appears to be following the same mindset; they have not made any announcements regarding moving any release dates of the 10 episode series. As of now, viewers will just have to wait for new episodes to release week by week. This Sunday, April 26th, viewers get to look forward to the introduction of the controversial figure Dennis Rodman to the series, with the premiere of his focused episode.