For the third time since acquiring NBA rights in 2002, ESPN/ABC is trying something different with its NBA pregame show.
ESPN announced Tuesday that the network’s KIA NBA Countdown pregame show will change its cast, format and location this season. The show will add Chris Broussard as an analyst, apparently shed the role of host (no Stuart Scott or Hannah Storm), and move from Bristol (CT) to ESPN’s newer Los Angeles studios.
The move to Los Angeles will allow analyst Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson, who previously appeared only on Christmas Day games and again during the playoffs, to be part of the studio program for the entire season.
This is the fourth new format ESPN has tried for the NBA studio show. During the 2002-03 season, ABC’s NBA Shootaround took place from the site of the week’s big game — ala College Gameday — with analysts Tom Tolbert and Bill Walton handling both studio and game analysis. In the 2005-06 season, ABC briefly revamped NBA Nation by adding a celebrity panel, but that only lasted a few weeks. In the 2006-07 season, the network’s NBA Sunday Countdown pregame returned to the Gameday format, with Mark Jackson pulling double duty in the studio and on games.
Each of those formats lasted only one season before ESPN/ABC returned to the traditional studio show format.
The new edition of NBA Countdown would seem to be an attempt to compete with TNT’s Inside the NBA. ESPN EVP/production Norby Williamson said in a statement that the moves would lead to a “less scripted, more dynamic show” (ESPN, 12/20).
(Tuesday’s news from espnmediazone3.com)