ESPNU, which has become the established home for ESPN’s NCAA Championships coverage, year-round insight on basketball and football recruiting, along with numerous franchise shows, will celebrate its 10th anniversary on Wednesday.
Vice President of College Sports Programming, Rosalyn Durant, who has been with ESPN since 1999, was named vice president of ESPNU in 2008. She and Senior Vice President of Programming Acquisitions Burke Magnus, who served as Vice President and General Manager of the network when it launched, reflect on ESPNU’s history.
What are some of the first thoughts that come to mind when thinking about ESPNU’s first 10 years?
Durant: ESPNU has been incredibly successful. It is fun to look back and see how we exceeded our expectations early on and continued to do so throughout the 10 years. Where ESPNU is in in 2015 is beyond where we thought we would be when we launched on March 4, 2005. We were able to have fun, but learn important lessons along the way.
Creativity and innovation is what ESPNU was and continues to be about through show content and talent development. Sometimes we test ideas on ESPNU to see what works and migrate that content to our other networks; it is part of the value proposition to the overall company. Additionally, this is where you come for your NCAA Championships coverage in so many sports, including baseball, hockey, softball, volleyball and other sports. We knew early on it was important to serve these important college fan bases.
What were some of the lessons learned in the first few years of ESPNU?
Magnus: From humble beginnings came pretty quickly the proposition that this was something new, different and creative. We realized it could be a laboratory for creativity and incubation. ESPNU has been that, and much more, for the last decade. With the understanding college sports was always at the heart of what we do as a company, creating ESPNU was just a natural evolution to maximize our opportunities.
What will the next 10 years of ESPNU look like?
Durant: We want to continue taking chances and experimenting. We have had great success when we do that. Maybe not every show remains on the air, but the concepts do and they live across our platforms and our various content. It is important that we continue to find new talent and try new concepts. Some of it is going to work and some of it will not. When I look ahead, I think ‘How do we continue to do what we do? How do we do it in a way that is more efficient and in a way that benefits the company as a whole?’
EDITOR’S NOTE: Wednesday, Front Row will feature interviews with ESPNU personalities past and present as well as vintage video and photos.