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ESPN2 Beefs Up Appointment TV

ESPN2 is looking to take a page from political shout shows and access entertainment mags to help build some appointment TV.

ESPN2 told TV critics in L.A. it will launch a new personality-driven show, Quite Frankly, geared to generate some sparks through heated sports debates, as well as a half-hour look at the intersection of Hollywood and sports.

The personality in Quite Frankly will be Stephen A. Smith, a sports columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer and basketball commentator on ESPN. Smith was tapped to host  because he “engages and polarizes people,” says Ron Semiao, senior vice president,  ESPN Original Entertainment.

When one critic suggested shouting wasn't necessarily the way to go--pointing to CNN's decision to ax Crossfire--Mark Shapiro, ESPN EVP, programming, countered: “I don’t look at it as screaming and shouting. I look at it as argument, and you know what? Sports is argument. If argument and opinion are shouting then we’ll take more of it, but I don’t believe it is."

The hour show will debut in April, airing Monday through Friday at 6:30. In addition to plenty of debate, it will feature news of the day, likely delivered in front of a studio audience.

Like Sports Center on ESPN, Quite Frankly will be a signature program in a beefed-up programming schedule on ESPN2, says Ron Semiao.

Another hunk of that beef will be the new ESPN Hollywood, which the network will add  to its prime time lineup beginning May 9 at 6 p.m.

The nightly half-hour show will focus on pop culture and sports, featuring sports movies, books, video games, and athletes attending Hollywood events.

The show will be produced by ESPN Original Entertainment, which was created in January 2001 to supplement the network’s sports event and news coverage.