ESPN debuted its “future-proofed” new SportsCenter set on Sunday night, the crown jewel in a massive new digital facility that cost a reported $125 million.
Stuart Scott and Steve Levy anchored the first broadcast on the shiny new set, surrounded by dozens of video monitors and accompanied by a reworked SportsCenter theme. The pair joked about the cavernous space, with Scott making echo noises during one segment to reflect his distance from Levy.
But the futuristic set may have been overshadowed on Sunday night by the debut of ESPN’s revamped Bottom Line. While the set is out of view during highlight packages and taped pieces, the ticker is omnipresent, scrolling throughout the show.
The new look is sharp and clean, with obvious inspiration from Apple products. It features a new, bigger font (called Swiss), brighter colors for team logos and a smoother scroll. The same font and style is also being used for graphics packages.
The old Bottom Line and SportsCenter graphics were perfectly acceptable, but this is a clear upgrade.
The debut of the new set comes 10 years after the last SportsCenter overhaul. That studio had 15 monitors. The new one has 114. This allowed Levy and Scott to be more mobile during the first show. In addition to the usual desk duty, the hosts stood in front of various monitors while introducing packages. It felt as if they weren’t in the same spot twice.
The new studio is part of Bristol’s new Digital Center-2, a 194,000-square-foot building that will eventually house five studios. (In comparison, the average Costco warehouse is about 143,000 square feet). It took 1,100 miles of fiber optic cable and 247 miles of copper cable to get the set operational. ESPN says the “buildings infrastructure is future proof and can handle all existing media formats and future industry standards.”
The look may have been different, but the format of the show was unchanged. Levy and Scott reviewed a day of World Cup highlights, Michelle Wie’s U.S. Open win and a full slate of baseball. Yet even on a packed sports day, the star of the show was the new digs.
Levy joked at the top that he had the keys to a luxury sports car but hadn’t read the owner’s manual. It was a prophetic line. The duo were fine behind the wheel, but gave the impression that they barely took it out first gear.
“I think the SportsCenter we do on Sunday night will look vastly different to three months from now,” Levy told The Hollywood Reporter last week. “Mistakes happen, they happened on the old set and they will on the new set. There are going to be some growing pains and a feeling-out phase.”