By: Joe Wisniewski
November 27, 2023
Photo Credit: ESPN
As apps such as Tik Tok, Instagram, and Youtube shorts become more popular, their users' attention span shortens. Users have become more and more accustomed to bouncing from one short video to the next. While it seemed like Tik Tok invented the newest trend, the NFL had already jumped on the train.
When the NFL introduced their “RedZone” stream in 2009, they would ultimately change the way that we watch football. The channel airs commercial free football all day long on Sundays, jumping between games as the day progresses. The broadcast caught its name as it ensured to show every play in the “red zone” (any play when the ball is snapped between the opposing team’s 20 yard line to the goal line) from any game. While the idea of jumping from game to game seems silly to a hardcore fan, the NFL and their host, Scott Hansen, have mastered the system for their viewers.
As the college football and NHL seasons started up this year, ESPN announced the addition of two new alternative broadcasts. ESPN was hoping to replicate their other alternative broadcasts, like Manningcast, as statistics proved that they were successful; “viewers average five years younger than ESPN’s traditional broadcast (48 vs. 53 years old). … On average, 18- to 24-year-olds watch the Mannings for 100 minutes (1 hour, 40 minutes). The average viewing time for ESPN’s regular coverage of “Monday Night Football,” regardless of age, is 61 minutes.”
On October 24, all 32 teams in the NHL had games in what was dubbed a night of Frozen Frenzy. That night John Buccigross and Kevin Weekes hosted “NHL Frozen Frenzy,” on ESPN+ from 7 - 8 p.m. ET, and on ESPN2 from 8 p.m. - 1:30 a.m., jumping between all the live games. On November 4th, ESPN aired "CFB Primetime with Pat McAfee," which jumped between all college football games during the 7:30 p.m. primetime slate on ESPN2. Their game feed consisted of games across all of ESPN’s networks.
While the idea of an alternative broadcast for sports like college football and hockey is very intriguing to ESPN, their production was not a home run. The overall consensus of hockey fans was that ESPN’s coverage was too jumpy and often predictable when showing goals. College football fans felt their show was more of a talkshow base, while not providing the best coverage of all the games. It is also worth noting that ESPN did not have the rights for two primetime college football games that were taking place on NBC and Fox. As they receive more feedback and trends continue towards alternative broadcasts, expect ESPN to experiment with new styles of broadcasting across all sports.
Alternate broadcasts will have a place in the future of the sports media industry in all capacities. In an interview with Front Office Sports, Brian Rolapp, the NFL’s Chief Media and Business Officer, stated, “We’re certainly open for more alternative broadcasts where it makes sense… So yes, we’re open in Super Bowls going forward to having those conversations with broadcasters. Nothing’s planned now.” The way fans consume sport as a product is changing rapidly. Media companies are constantly trying to provide the viewer with the most enhanced experience possible.