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ESPN to Debut 500 New Shows Across Streaming Platforms

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ESPN has big plans for its digital programming in 2020. It is expected to air more than 500 live shows on YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook — as well as its own platforms. That number is bigger than the 400 shows aired in 2019, reports Digiday.

The company also completed a major revamp of ESPN’s digital studio.

A telling move: It hired internet sensation Omar Raja, the House of Highlights founder, to serve as the primary voice of ESPN’s SportsCenter Instagram account. Raja’s participation signals a key shift for sports — from traditional TV to digital platforms. He also places sports in a cultural, as well as athletic, context.

According to Comscore, in December 2019, all ESPN sites and apps combined received 102.4 million unique visitors in the U.S., a 4 percent increase from December 2018. Across YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, ESPN received 2.2 billion video views in December 2019, notes Tubular Labs.

ESPN’s digital presence is paying off. Overall digital output in 2019 helped boost the company’s digital revenue 92 percent year-over-year.

The move to produce more social-first content also indicates a change in how demographics watch sports. Millennials and Gen Zs have moved away from linear TV, preferring streaming or social options.

Last fall, Ryan Spoon, SVP, digital-social content, ESPN, announced the network was “extending some of our most popular ESPN shows and creating new ones with content available only on Facebook and Facebook Watch. This allows us to connect with fans and drive the conversation around sports in a way that leverages what we and the platform do best.”

Those shows include “Always Late With Katie Nolan” and “Countdown to Game Day.”