Actor Samuel L. Jackson and ESPN's Britt McHenry; Michele Steele; Coley Harvey; Ed Werder. (SportsCenter Social Media)
Actor Samuel L. Jackson and ESPN’s Britt McHenry; Michele Steele; Coley Harvey; Ed Werder.
(SportsCenter Social Media)
It’s organically part of our game plan heading into any big event now,” he said. “We are now sending a reporter with the sole responsibility of producing social content, as well as digital content. Our bureau producers and reporters have done a terrific job providing content for digital.
– Tim McHugh, SC senior CP

The bureau group at ESPN is constantly working to deliver the best coverage possible to its fans in creative, informative and innovative ways.

Over the last few months, the news team has been collaborating with the SportsCenter social team to implement “takeovers” on SportsCenter’s various social media platforms including Instagram stories, Snapchat and Facebook Live at some of the biggest sporting events, most recently at the NFL Combine with reporter Britt McHenry.

“Inevitably, reporters get more access and better content from athletes and others. It’s a natural extension of their credibility and visibility on TV,” senior coordinating producer Tim McHugh said. “Simply put, it just makes the content more compelling and memorable, the athletes are often more at ease and engaged with reporters they know or recognize.”

Although this has been happening for several months, McHugh says the team is now producing the social elements with much greater frequency.

“It’s organically part of our game plan heading into any big event now,” he said. “We are now sending a reporter with the sole responsibility of producing social content, as well as digital content. Our bureau producers and reporters have done a terrific job providing content for digital.”

Michele Steele took on the social reporter role in Houston at the Super Bowl last month.

Said Steele, “After pitching and working on social elements for our coverage of Super Bowl week, I can tell you that content on these platforms enhances the fan experience in three important ways:

1. It’s intimate – it’s the reporter, a smartphone, and the athlete – can’t get much more bare bones than that. There’s something disarming for the athlete, especially ones that don’t normally do a lot of media, about feeling they can talk much more casually and conversationally to the reporter as opposed to the formality of having a camera, lights and the mic flag in their face.

2. It’s authentic. This generation of athletes is used to addressing a smartphone, they Facetime with their family or friends every day, why not “Facetime” with our audience?

3. It’s immediate. Instead of waiting for the ‘water cooler’ the next day, fans are re-posting and commenting on content as the event is happening. If they don’t like a clip, tap the phone – onto the next one. The key here is that they are not logging off or turning off, the fan is remaining engaged with what we’re doing – to the extent that the fan deepens their interest in the event we’re covering and knows it’s coming from us, it’s a win-win for ESPN, the athlete, and the league.”

SportsCenter’s social media manager Brendan Kaminsky and associate producer Kristen Scott have played key roles in developing the social plan with the bureau group.

“We have made significant strides with featuring SC talent on social platforms,” Kaminsky said. “What started as a couple of conversations with Tim McHugh about social led to a weekly meeting between social and the bureau group and has led to some of our best social takeovers with some of our biggest [results].”

With each takeover, the team continues to improve and find new ways to reach larger and more diverse audiences.

“The challenging part of social is figuring out how we can work hand in hand with television to enhance the viewing experience for fans who are watching a linear broadcast,” Steele said. “Are there places where one can help the other? I think there are. Despite the challenges, here’s what we know: fans will always love their teams – what we need to do is find opportunities to reach them amid a quickly changing landscape and this is one way to do that.”

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