Behind The ScenesInnovationJust for FunThe Ocho

ESPN The Ocho Returns Today On ESPN2, Wilder Than Ever

Here's the thinking behind scheduling 24 hours of 29 "seldom seen sports" such as air hockey, air guitar and cornhole

In its fifth year, ESPN8: The Ocho has become a fan favorite and a springboard for “seldom seen sports” to garner national attention.

Johanna Goldblatt (Johanna Goldblatt/ESPN)

Associate programming manager Johanna Goldblatt helmed the project this year and gave some insight on what makes The Ocho such a fun project.

What is your role in executing the Ocho?
I’ve been a part of Team Ocho for a couple of years, initially helping discover and acquire programs that could be a good fit for the day. This year, with the guidance and support of (programming manager) Michelle McDonnell (among so many others), I coordinated the initiative with the objectives of building on The Ocho brand and expanding its reach, acquiring evergreen content to use across platforms and increasing positive sentiment across our brand.

As part of this, I’ve worked with the amazing Team Ocho by discovering and acquiring content, scheduling 24-hours of programming on ESPN2, and collaborating with dozens of departments to ensure our objectives are seen cohesively across our platforms. We’ve been meeting for months now to talk about everything from bugs to talent integration as a part of the day.

What is your favorite thing about this project?
I’ve loved working with the various partners and providing them a
platform to showcase the sport they are so passionate about. It’s amazing to hear from the Air Hockey Professionals Association or the US Air Guitar Association that ESPN is the call they’ve been waiting for to make them feel appreciated. And the exposure has the ability to put a sport on the map. Just look at cornhole! Starting on The Ocho over four years ago, it’s now become a staple that we see on ESPN for the Fourth of July.

How has the Ocho grown and evolved since Year One?
Before I started working at ESPN, I remember watching The Ocho on ESPNU in 2017 and being so enthralled in the vintage and unique feel. By 2018, I was an intern and sitting in [Director, Programming & Acquisitions] Brent Colborne’s office shadowing as he acquired the Dodgeball World Cup. We moved The Ocho to ESPN2 that year and filled the entire day with 23 programs, including the “Dodgeball” movie [that inspired the concept].

In 2019, we solidified our spot on ESPN2 and added 21 brand-new events. That fall, I signed my first-ever deal with Corgi Races in preparation for the 2020 showcase. While most of our small organizers had to postpone events during the pandemic, The Ocho came back twice in 2020 to assist on days where we looked to fill gaps left from lost live events. That’s where the library we’ve built was a huge help.

This year, we’re back and better than ever. We have 29 total events, with 21 being brand new to The Ocho. We won’t be airing the movie, but we will have some amazing additions, including Mullet Championships, World Chase Tag, and Minecraft. I’m so proud of the hard work all of Team Ocho put into this day.

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