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Highlights, the staple of ‘SportsCenter’, aren’t dead, ESPN’s Rob King says

ESPN's Rob King helps celebrate Linda Cohn's 5,000th

ESPN's Rob King helps celebrate Linda Cohn's 5,000th SportsCenter episode on Feb. 17, 2016. Credit: ESPN Images / Joe Faraoni

The new ESPN lineup announced Tuesday at the “upfront” presentation to advertisers appeared to offer more evidence the network is evolving from traditional news and highlights shows to ones that rely more on personality and discussion.

But Rob King, the ESPN executive who oversees “SportsCenter,” said after the event that to understand fully the company’s approach to highlights, it is important to consider the big picture of its offerings.

Instagram, Twitter and other delivery methods count, too.

“We’ve got a huge following on Instagram,” King said. “We have a 13 year-old-son who wakes up every morning and says, ‘Did you see that play?’ I say, ‘No, I didn’t see that play. I had just woken up. Where did you see that play?’ ‘On the SportsCenter Instagram account.’ That’s a good story for us.

“We have a state-of-the-art highlight operation. I don’t know where this saw came along that said highlights are dead. We have an incredible screening operation. We’re watching every single game. We are watching everything. We are delivering a play at a time, a minute highlight at a time, a two-minute version, an enhanced highlight with subtitles.

“We are telling stories in new ways. We are constantly iterating on the highlight because we know not only that people care about highlights, but where they get them. Especially from us, it can vary. It could be our app, could be on Instagram, could be Snapchat.

“So I think this scenario that, ‘I could get my stuff anywhere,’ is actually a good story for us.

“The other thing I would say is you talk about personality and you talk about talent, but what we’re really talking about is connections. The people you saw on the stage today enjoy a real connection to audiences. We go on the road to have great connections with fans at the biggest events.

“We work tirelessly to live up to the promise that we made in that very first ‘SportsCenter’ show (in 1979) with George Grande and Lee Leonard. We said we would be serving fans anyplace, anywhere. We’re the only ones who try to live up to that every day.”

King said he is confident that the time fans spend on ESPN offerings in the digital space can stand up to that of any competitor.

But wouldn’t he like it best if they watched “SportsCenter” the old-fashioned way: on television?

“We’d love you to come to TV because you have a screen in your house and it looks great on the screen,” King said. “But in the end the most important thing is that you’re spending time with ‘SportsCenter.’”

New York Sports