ESPN Creates Saturday Feature Block For ABC
ESPN, which controls sports programming on ABC, has been shifting top-tier events to its airwaves, piquing stations groups that believe sports should still be a robust part of their agreement with ABC.
"ESPN Sports Saturday" will be a two-hour block from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Documentaries from ESPN's "30 for 30" series, pieces from its "E:60" sports magazine and interview shows with sportswriter Rick Reilly are expected to lead off. A "highlight-driven," week-in-review-type "Winners Bracket" will fill the second hour.
The block will run from early April through mid-August as a bridge until college football season takes up the fall, then return in December to air until the following August.
Although some of the content will have already aired on ESPN, the network is making an effort not to turn the block into a repurposed hub for its first two weeks. A "30 for 30" film about the death of basketball star Hank Gathers will debut during the first "Sports Saturday," while a new episode of "Homecoming with Rick Reilly" will come the following week.
ABC carries the NBA Finals, a prime-time college football game Saturdays and has three NASCAR races slated for this fall. The full Bowl Championship Series is headed for ESPN.
Still, ESPN released a statement from the general manager of Atlanta's WSB, Bill Hoffman, saying "Sports Saturday" is a result of "creative thinking and collaboration" between ESPN and the ABC Affiliates Board.
ABC affiliates will be given some added inventory to plug coming programming.