Front Row caught up with programming manager Michelle McDonnell to discuss the evolution of the annual programming initiative that transforms ESPN2 to ESPN8: The Ocho, spotlighting a day-long slate of seldom-seen sports (starting Wednesday, Aug.7, midnight ET). McDonnell has played a major role in The Ocho since its inception in 2017.
How has The Ocho evolved since year one?
The Ocho has grown immensely since year one. Over the years, we’ve upgraded from ESPNU to ESPN2, for starters. This year, we put a larger focus on original content and we knocked it out of the park with 17 original shows, up from just five in 2018 and only one in 2017. From the beginning, the goal was to seek unique content that would engage our fans and I believe that our content this year will do just that. Aside from strength of schedule, we’ve been able to bring on sponsors, develop a marketing campaign and expand content to span across multiple platforms including ESPN.com, ESPN The Magazine and various social platforms.
What is the process for sourcing/obtaining this type of content?
The Ocho programming team is made up of a handful of people who have been hard at work since the beginning of the year searching for the best content possible. We scour blogs, YouTube, social media and source ideas from across the company. Often times, the whole process of acquiring a specific sport for The Ocho starts with a cold call to a contact listed on a website or a message over a social platform.
What is the future of the Ocho?
Since the beginning, The Ocho has been a great programming asset for ESPN and we are optimistic that it will continue to grow in fun, new ways in the years to come. I personally would love to see additional live events (The Ocho will air its first live event this year) and continued expansion of original content. Also, I think it would be fun to eventually see The Ocho’s presence more than just one day per year.
Shelby L. Lacy produced the video.