ESPN Plans to Bolster the Deuce

Eyeing a stronger brand identity, ESPN2 is putting plans into play that will give the network more original programming in morning, evening and late-night dayparts.

A pilot for ESPN Hollywood is currently in production that could result in a half-hour weeknight show meshing the worlds of sports and entertainment at 6 p.m. That would be followed by a personality-driven news and information program, serving as a lead-in to the network’s live event fare.

ESPN vice president of programming and production Mark Shapiro also said a late-night interview-type show, which could air before a live audience, is in the works, as is a new sports information and news show that would serve as a table-setter for current original daypart entry Cold Pizza, which celebrates its first anniversary on Oct. 3.

Shapiro’s plan, outlined at a press gathering at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn. Tuesday celebrating the company’s 25th anniversary, also calls for Cold Pizza to be moved back an hour to 8 to 10 a.m. and for its current format to shift to one offering more sports and less variety.

Shapiro said the morning changes would be enacted by November, while all of these new original-programming gambits should be in place by next spring’s upfront advertising season.

Elsewhere, Shapiro announced that the hosts for Pardon the Interruption, ESPN’s acclaimed banter show, were on board for another five years. The Washington Post columnists Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser have reupped for PTI and will also be involved with other segments on SportsCenter and surrounding the National Basketball Association and National Football League drafts.