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ESPN’s coverage of Monday’s big day of breaking news serves viewers with huge team effort

SportsCenter anchor Bob Ley (r) and ESPN Investigative Reporter T.J. Quinn (l) were on set Monday to report on Alex Rodriguez's suspension. (ESPN)
SportsCenter anchor Bob Ley (r) and ESPN Investigative Reporter T.J. Quinn (l) were on-set Monday afternoon for coverage of MLB’s latest PEDs scandal. (ESPN)
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Ratings for ESPN’s Monday coverage of MLB suspensions

• Monday’s 6 p.m. ET SportsCenter doubled the average viewership of the prior six weeks for that hour.
• Ratings for the 6 p.m. were also close to double the last six weeks’ average for the show.
• Other day parts saw similar increases leading up to the 3 p.m. official announcement from MLB.


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“It was a lot of work by a lot of people, but it wasn’t out of the norm,” said ESPN Senior Coordinating Producer of Newsgathering Mike Leber, referring to Monday’s huge day of sports news. “As a result of strategic cross-platform planning, we’re doing a better job than ever of getting out in front of big stories before they break.”

As sports fans know, Major League Baseball suspended 13 players it found to have been involved with the South Florida anti-aging clinic Biogenesis. New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez was slapped with a suspension through the end of the 2014 season, a ruling he is appealing.

Preparing for Major League Baseball’s anticipated announcement of the suspensions began with “a lot of advance work,” according to Leber, noting the packaging of ESPN Senior Writer/Baseball Analyst Buster Olney’s “Time Line” feature; an “Alex Rodriguez in his own Words” piece; and an essay by reporter Jeremy Schaap.

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The ESPN team tracking Alex Rodriguez and the Biogenesis scandal this past week included:


BRISTOL (STUDIO ANALYST)
T.J. Quinn

BRISTOL (SC/OTL HOSTS)
Bob Ley
Jeremy Schaap

BRISTOL (MLB ANALYSTS)
John Kruk
Mark Mulder
Doug Glanville
Manny Acta
Aaron Boone

BRISTOL (INSIDERS)
Buster Olney
Jayson Stark
Jerry Crasnick
Tim Kurkjian
Keith Law

CHICAGO (YANKS-WHITE SOX)
Pedro Gomez, reporter
Andrew Marchand, ESPNNY.com
Ian O’Connor, ESPNNY.com

SAN DIEGO (YANKS-PADRES)
Shelley Smith, reporter
Wally Matthews, ESPN NY.com reporter

TRENTON, N.J. (TRENTON THUNDER GAMES)
Marchand

TAMPA (NYY MINOR LEAGUE FACILITY)
Marchand

ARLINGTON, TEXAS (FOR REACTION TO NELSON CRUZ SUSPENSION)
Todd Wills, ESPN Dallas.com reporter

NEW YORK
Ian O’Connor, ESPN, ESPN NY 98.7

L.A. (YANKEES-DODGERS)
Smith
Bernardo Osuna, reporter
Wally Matthews, ESPN NY.com reporter

Mike Fish, ESPN.com Investigative Reporter, worked with T.J. Quinn on the Biogenesis story.

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“Once the pieces were in place, we needed people in the place, and that was a moving target,” Leber said. “We had a lot of people on standby.”

Monday, they were standing by in Chicago, New York and Arlington, Texas (see sidebar). Previously they had been deployed en masse to Los Angeles, Tampa, San Diego and Trenton, N.J., representing ESPN’s various platforms including SportsCenter, Outside the Lines, ESPN.com, ESPNNY.com, ESPN Dallas.com, ESPN Chicago.com, ESPN NY 98.7 and ESPN Deportes.

Then there was Bristol, Conn. where ESPN’s MLB insiders and Baseball Tonight analysts provided insight and opinion. SportsCenter anchor Bob Ley teamed with Investigative Reporter T.J. Quinn — whose work on the Biogenesis investigation has spanned weeks, time zones and even nations — for studio coverage.

(Adding to the complexity in presenting the MLB news of the day was Sunday’s revelation from ESPN reporter Darren Rovell and producer Justin Gubar that Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel may have been paid for signing autographs on memorabilia in January. To examine that story, reporter Samantha Ponder and analyst Robert Smith were in College Station, Texas while Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit and David Pollack reported from the Georgia as part of the DirecTV Bus Stop tour.)

“All of T.J.’s work came to a culmination yesterday, and he was willing to do whatever and whenever,” Leber said of Quinn, who was also interviewed by ABC News, CNN and CBS News.

But it was ESPN where fans turned throughout the day on Monday (see ratings sidebar) for all the details on MLB’s latest PEDs scandal.

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