Sportscenter – After last year’s rebranding of the late-night SportsCenters, ESPN decided to package three hours of Live SC in the early morning as SportsCenter: AM. The live three-hour show, which runs from 7 to 10 a.m. Eastern, debuted last week. Does it improve on the familiar SportsCenter formula or is it just another attempt to revitalize the show?
There are many major format changes that make SportsCenter: AM better suited for early morning audiences. Between consistent time stamps in the summary and a larger clock in the left column, no one can use watching ESPN as an excuse to be late. The graphics are extremely red orange and look similar to ESPN’s slick format, but different enough to let people know this isn’t a generic episode of SportsCenter.
Overall, the structure of the show needs work. The 8 o’clock time is called ‘peak time’ which makes me wonder why I watch at 7 o’clock. Each host gives his best game, although the top 10 games do not happen until the end of the last hour. During the 7:00 hour, there are the “Morning Mention” and “Standing O” segments, shorter recaps that group important stories and highlights into a quick setup, but are not labeled as such in the recap. If they have their own charts, why not keep the brand in the left column? These work well when I only have a few minutes to catch up on my sports news before I leave to start my day. Too bad it’s just a one-off segment for the three hours and won’t be repeated later.
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And that’s where SportsCenter:AM finds itself in an identity crisis when you look at the whole thing. Is it a three-hour show or three one-hour shows? Being in the middle makes it confusing and messy. Sometimes highlights are repeated several times within an hour, while others only appear later. ESPN’s official release lists three separate hours, but they all tend to be the same and not
Some segments make it like the old half-hour Highlight Express on ESPNEWS (which I really like), while others make it like another SportsCenter. People can’t expect to tune in for 180 minutes, so they miss out by watching in bits and pieces. For this reason, I understand highlights repeating several times in the same hour, such as buzzer beaters, hat tricks and big wins. ESPN seems to be taking the mentality of watching highlights on your phone and putting it on TV based on minutes, which makes the idea of a three-hour tour even more of a headache.
I like the minute markers in the left column because they give me a commercial break ahead. However, when I watch WatchESPN, there is a delay of about 90 seconds that makes it unusable. I also fail when future highlights are deleted before they happen. For example, instead of removing the highlight marked with time 8:12 from the summary at 8:12, when the highlight is emitted, it is removed at 8:10. Not to mention, there were times when they picked highlights that weren’t in the recap, making it an imperfect setup. Fortunately, it can be easily improved and fixed.
Instead of one or two anchors, this version of SportsCenter has three and a half. Jay Harris, Kevin Negandhi and Jaymee Sire are all anchors. They are joined by Sarina Morales, who pops in and out, usually with a social media-filled or light-hearted story. It’s weird seeing her at the beginning of every hour because sometimes she’s at the anchor desk and sometimes she’s not. With Morales absent, the desk looks lopsided and uneven, as Sire and Harris are on one side while Negandhi is alone on the other.
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I think Morales should be referred to as an anchor and stay on set more often, especially since there are usually only one or two anchors on screen. It’s awkward to have her “represented” every time she’s on camera. Not to mention, one of the days I watched, he narrated a highlight reel for the NBA during the All-Star break. But I also understand the aside, because they used it eight times (by my count) during Monday’s three-hour show. I feel bad for the intern who has to move her chair in and out of the counter for when she is at the desk.
Regardless of your seating position, the three main anchors are great for giving highlights. Negandhi and Harris are veterans who can host SportsCenter in their sleep, while Sire injects personality into his highlights and has definitely risen on the network.
In an age where highlights are easily accessible on my phone, SportsCenter has adapted to the changing landscape. Instead of contracting what was once its must-see studio show, ESPN doubled down and released more original and unique versions of SportsCenter than ever before.
The new SportsCenter: AM is finally getting pulled from both sides. If it’s just another version of SportsCenter, which it appears to be, there’s not much more incentive to watch it. It’s nice to see a live edition of the show when you wake up in the morning, but unless there’s news, the highlights haven’t changed overnight. If SportsCenter:AM is to be ESPN’s version of Good Morning America, it won’t invite a wider audience.
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I enjoyed SportsCenter: AM as another of the many iterations of ESPN’s longest running studio show. I don’t know what their purpose is mostly.
Alex Kaufman is a Spanish and double major in communications at Denison University. He loves to consume and cover sports and sports media, he hosts a sports talk show
Alex Kaufman is a news producer at ABC6/FOX28 in Columbus, Ohio. A 2017 graduate of Denison University, Alex has been published on ESPN.com, profiled by SI.com, and writes for Awful Announcing and The Comeback.
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