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Apr. 1, 2017 — SportsCenter to begin broadcasting actual sports news and highlights, but with a twist

After years of declining ratings and consumers cutting the cable cord, ESPN has gone to a radical idea when it comes to broadcasting, has learned.

It will be changing the focus of its signature show, SportsCenter, to focus on sports news, scores, and highlights rather than focusing on made-up lists, filler material, and interviews with Hollywood actors.

Since the disastrous experimentation in late 2015 with ESPN anchor Robert Flores (which has led to his ouster and hiring by MLB Network), ESPN has also tried to brand SportsCenter with anchors Scott Van Pelt, Hannah Storm, Jemele Hill, and Michael Smith.

But the personality-driven sports shows have not only driven down the amount of highlights and sports news broadcast, but it has also nearly zeroed out the highlights of women’s sports. It has been estimated that in recent years, the percentage of highlights of women’s sporting events has dwindled to about four percent, and even fewer on the personality-driven versions of SportsCenter.

Through terms of a deal yet to be publicized, Disney, the parent company of ESPN will be partnering with Amazon Prime to stream SportsCenter on the premium service. What this means is that ESPN will receiving full use of the artificial intelligence properties of Amazon, leading to the creation of the new SportsCenter Alexa. The show will mix highlights and scores, all read by a custom-programmed version of the Amazon home speaker.

“It makes perfect sense,” said one high-placed source at ESPN. “The most-used command to Alexa devices is to read the sports scores from last evening.”

Early test broadcasts have left a lot to be desired, say insiders. “We got the first harmonizer out of the box, and it sounded something like the robot voice used to give airline flight information, except it treated the sports scores as math problems. This was especially acute in college volleyball and pro tennis scores.”

Consulting on the project will be comedian and voice impersonator Frank Caliendo, who will be providing soundbites to help Alexa sound like a number of ESPN personalities such as Stephen A. Smith, Ron Jaworski, and Jon Gruden.

“We tried to get a good imitation of Gonzalo ‘Papi’ LeBatard,” said one source within Amazon. “But that dude defies imitation.”

The target opening for the new SportsCenter Alexa show is 6 a.m. on April 1, 2018.


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