A Column of Enchantment: Fantasy Booking ESPNU

Posted by Joseph Nardone on March 5th, 2015

The wonderful idea of ESPNU turns 10 years old this week. The reason I mention it as an idea is because it hasn’t exactly been what it was originally designed to be — you know, a network dedicated solely to the world of college sports. Now, while it is mostly revolved around everything college athletic competition related, the programming on it sometimes goes off the beaten trail.



All of that did make to do some pondering, though, which is an incredibly dangerous thing. What if ESPNU was scheduled the way it should be booked for a network designed to cover all things in amateur athletics? Don’t get me wrong either. I get why they do some of the things they do. As much as I dislike Colin Cowherd, he is put on that network to generate ratings, attention and other things that something like Katz Korner unlikely provides. I would argue that — if the network truly dedicated itself in a more proper way — that more broadcasts of college-only related material would work. In my opinion, and it may very will be only mine, is is ESPN’s lack of dedicating ESPNU in the correct areas that makes it the non-blood relative of the ESPN family of networks. ESPN is obviously the patriarch, with ESPN2 the spouse. I suppose it also makes ESPN Classic (I honestly don’t even know if that’s still a thing) a distant cousin. ESPN3 and Watch ESPN are like the cool in-laws — you really like them, but that has as much to do with consuming them whenever you want and never being over saturated with their presence. I could go on, but you get the idea.

Here is how we are going to go about booking ESPNU. I am going to go through a random day’s lineup. After each show I will say if it works, why it works, how it can be tweaked and some other nonsense. Now, with that being said, I should also mention that one of my true dislikes is ESPNU’s constant rerun approach, mostly because of its lack of original programming. There might be instances when I will like a program on the network, but when we book a day’s lineup to my suiting later, it will appear less in the day’s programming. For your information and reference I am using an actual 24-hour window of the channel’s broadcast lineup — as pulled from ESPN’s own TV listing section — for the reference of listings. Let’s start at 9:oo AM ET and take a look at their lineup.

  • 9:00 AM ET – SEC Stories: By no means do I dislike this show. It is essentially a 30 for 30 light type of thing. Still, I do feel like ESPNU should be opening up its morning programming with a more Sportscenter type of approach than a likely repeat of a good show. We’ll obviously keep this program around, but probably not at this time slot.
  • 10:00 – The Herd: There is zero reason for this program to be on ESPNU other than the people at Disney wanting Cowherd’s banter simulcasted. Other than that, though, he rarely talks about college anything other than the football he likes — which is USC-specific. I’m not going to use this platform to knock him, though, as much as I would like to. Regardless, I am booking a college sports network and not doing so worrying about the network’s overall ratings or feelings or brands in general other than making ESPNU into the college sports network it should be — or at least the one I think it should be. Bye bye, Colin.
  • 1:00 – Repeat of Woman’s Wednesday Night CBB: I get repeats of sporting events after 2:00 in the morning, but not when there could be some original programming at this particular time. I can’t imagine that this choice in any way helps them with ratings. Taking only an educated guess, I am betting that the repeat is because there just isn’t enough original programming at the moment to fill this time — which is something we will attempt to fix later.
  • 3:00 – Fab Five Documentary (repeat): Again, another fine documentary piece that has been run a billion times since it originally aired. These are fine to run from time to time, but you already ran a documentary-style piece (that was also a repeat) a few hours earlier and here we go again. In the offseason of the college basketball and college football seasons? Fine. But for the love of Sam Cassell Jr., not in March!
  • 5:00 – You Herd Me: Cowherd is so beloved at ESPN that not only is his non-college focused radio show forced onto the network, but so is a repackaged, condensed version of it just four hours after it ended!
  • 5:30 – Sportscenter Featured: Here is when original daily programming could be a great spot for the network. Instead we are forced for more likely repeated specials we have seen. I get not wanting to put to much original programming up against PTI or whatever, but this is getting repetitive.
  • 6:00 – Recruiting Nation: Finally, an original program that is (at least probably) not a repeat. It is now 6:00 at night and it is only now that we’ve reached the first non re-airing of original ESPNU type programming. I’m not a fan of this time slot for this show, but it is better than another Cowherd thingamabob.
  • 7:00 – AAC Basketball Game: I will never argue with live sports broadcasts on this network, obviously. With the way ESPNU has been booked up until this point, though, I must admit I am just glad it is an actual college sports game and not a live look-in of Colin Cowherd playing tennis.
  • 9:00 – Atlantic 10 Basketball Game: Again, see above. These time slots are for games for all college sports. This makes sense.
  • 11:00 – Pac-12 Basketball Game: Yup. Good job not putting on something dumb here, ESPNU.

(We are moving to the AM time slots now)

  • 1:00- AAC Basketball Game (Repeat): We literally just watched this game? This isn’t four in the morning either! For the love of everything holy in the Batcave, this is where all your stupid reruns you’re forced upon your viewers during the day can be shoved down their now decomposing corpses! And, what? You couldn’t give Cowherd another slot here too?
  • 3:00 – Pac-12 Basketball Game (Repeat): I am not totally opposed to repeats of games around these times of the early morning. The potential viewership on the East Coast is low. Still, it is only midnight on the west coast. I mean, they can do better here.
  • 5:00 – AAC Basketball Game (Repeat): Sigh.
  • 7:00 – Pac-12 Basketball Game (Repeat): What in the actual f… I mean, come on. Who is producing this network?
  • 9:00 – SEC Stories: And we’ve come full-circle with ONE college specfic show (Recruiting Nation) that is an ESPNU original non-repeat and the only other non-repeats (outside The Herd!) were the live sporting games — which they also managed to re-air for eight straight hours.

Okay, so now I am going to book it the way I see fit. I do want to note a few things going forward: I am not taking into account Cowherd’s appeal to a more massive audience. Have him simulcast on ESPN Classic or something. Also, a lot of the shows I am going to book don’t exist (yet). Most of ESPNU’s issues are with having a lack of original and new content. I am essentially attempting to put more regular shows in. You’ll see. Trust me — muahahahahahahahaha.

Katz Korner Would be a Cornerstone of the New ESPNU

Katz Korner Would be a Cornerstone of the New ESPNU

Oh, also, I am going to book them as if they are Monday to Friday shows. Weekends should be mostly about games. I just wanted to note that as well and I’m too lazy to reword the last paragraph and still be able to put the “muahahahahahha” part in it, which I really want in that paragraph because it is funny (to me).

  • 8:00 AM – 10:00 College Center: A Sportscenter rip-off! Two one-hour airings of a Sportscenter type of highlight show that focuses ONLY on college sports. Simple enough.
  • 10:00-11:00 – Recruiting Nation (CBB): A daily recruiting show focusing on the world of college hoops. ESPN employs enough writers, bloggers, and the rest to do such a thing very well.
  • 11:00-12:00 – Recruiting Nation (CFB): Same reasons as stated above, but for college football. Seriously, recruiting is such a huge part of college sports these days, folks love it and ESPN certainly has the resources to do this on a daily basis for both sports. It is almost silly they don’t do this already.
  • 12:00-1:00 – Debate Style Show: ESPN loves debate style shows. I’m not completely against them, although I dislike some more than others. With that being said, this slot isn’t exactly coveted and it is as good a time as any for some banter.
  • 1:00-2:00 – Redshirt Radio: My fictional idea for a name for a college-only radio program. ESPN obviously can’t just make up a nationally syndicated radio program just so it has more stuff to throw on TV, but this doesn’t actually have to be a radio program — it can just be advertised and programmed as such. I am open to it running longer as well. The basic idea is to have one or two guys or gals do a radio-type program for an hour (or two). Pretty simple. The reason for a program like this is rather simple. Radio-type programs allows for a looser, all over the place and often deeper discussion than traditional broadcasts do. Finding the talent to carry such a program would be tough, but I should also note that my favorite sports personality of any sort is Ryen Russillo — so attempting to go against his radio slot makes me sad in the heart the doctors said I have around my chest area.
  • 3:00-4:00 – Katz Korner: I am not a huge fan of Andy Katz. I don’t hate him or anything; he just doesn’t do it for me. A Katz’s Korner type show around this time would certainly work, though. Some type of original, college basketball-focused programming. How they produce it would be anyone’s guess. I could recommend getting someone a little more interesting than Katz to carry such a program, though. College basketball relies heavily on the personalities of its coaches and the shows that talk about it should do so as well. This program should be daily like all the other shows I am suggesting.
  • 4:00-5:00 – College Football Corner: Similar as stated above. See the trend? It truly isn’t hard. An original program for college basketball then another for college footbal. We already filled the recruiting needs for each sport and these two shows can be neat as well. They could be completely original stuff, rip-offs of PTI and Around the Horn but just for college sports or anything else that helps fill the needs of original programming.
  • 5:00-7:00 – Gameday: For either sport, obviously. Most sporting events start around seven anyway. Since there is no real reason to do another highlight type program at this point, it could be a good two-hour slot to get people pumped to watch that night’s games. This would be harder to produce, though, as we would be expecting a lot from these people on a nightly basis. Still, it could work. Coach/player interviews, video pieces of games, analysis, etc. The sky is the gosh slam limit.
  • 7:00-1:00-in the morning-ish – GAMES: Sports networks are popular because of sporting events. It therefore makes sense to put as many on the ole picture-box as humanly possible.
  • 1:00 (or after live game ends)-2:00 – College Center: A highlight show focusing on the action that came before it and across the nation. Live, of course.
  • 2:00-6:00 – SEC Stories/Other Documentary Repeats: Here are your slots to throw on Chris Webber calling a timeout when he didn’t have one for the billionth time.
  • 7:00-8:00 – Re-air of College Center from 1:00: Some people go to work early. Re-air the latest College Center here.
  • 8:00-1o:00 – College Center: Full-circle and back with our live college specific Sportscenter type show.

Not too, too bad if I say so myself. Stuff like SEC Stories and other specials can air here and there at special times, preferably in the two major sports’ offseasons or on nights when live games are not scheduled or slow. You’re welcome, ESPN Important People. Give me a call or e-mail if you need help filling up more slots. A Column of Enchantment can easily be renamed A Broadcast of Enchantment. Eh, I digress. Basketball — kind of.

Joseph Nardone (22 Posts)

Joseph has covered college basketball both (barely) professionally and otherwise for over five years. A Column of Enchantment for Rush The Court on Thursdays and other basketball stuff for The Student Section on other days.

Share this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *