In a move that is interesting mostly for what it may signal forESPN’s broader ambitions, Steve Covino and Rich Davis — hosts of the show Covino & Rich on SiriusXM’s Faction Talk station — will launch a late-night program called Now or Never on ESPN2. The show is slated to debut Jan. 28, and will air weekdays from 2-2:30 am ET, ESPN Deportes VP and General Manager Freddy Rolón confirmed to The Big Lead.
In a concurrent move, Ahora o Nunca (the same title in Spanish) will launch with the same date and time slot on ESPN Deportes. This will feature Mauricio Pedroza (who won ESPN Deportes’ Dream Job contest and has co-hosted Nación ESPN), soccer analyst and former MLS/La Liga player Herculez Gomez, and host/actress Janelle Marie Rodriguez. Rodriguez will also appear on Now or Never.
Rolón told The Big Lead the shows will be geared toward “younger” and “more multicultural” — which can be combined, as well as distinct — audiences, and reaching those viewers in this time slot was the aim before they figured out the specific parameters of the shows.
“They have a wonderful chemistry,” Rolón said of Covino & Rich. “They are super knowledgeable about sports. They bring a unique way of talking about sports that most fans can relate to because that’s how most friends talk to each other about it. We think they bring a slightly different voice in that more casual way, and a little bit of humor as well. You feel like you’re sitting with two friends.”
Given that their show on SiriusXM, which has been on-air since 2005, is generalist in its topic selection such that it includes but is not limited to sports, I wondered if that would be the case here. However, Rolón said, “It’s ESPN, so it’s predominantly going to be sports,” before noting that it nevertheless will pertain to the “intersection of sports and pop culture.”
What especially raised eyebrows for me was that this signals that ESPN is committing resources to develop a new daily talk program on ESPN2. Shows such as SportsNation, First Take, Highly Questionable, and His & Hers (which was melded into SC6, and obviously did not really work) were promoted from the Deuce to the flagship network, but nothing really developed in their place. Barstool Van Talk was attempted, but that was a weekly show that lasted just one episode due to irreconcilable differences between the two companies.
Outside of live sporting events, ESPN2 now predominantly features re-runs of shows that aired on ESPN. Earlier this week, John Ourand reported in Sports Business Daily that ESPN2 would, for the first time in its 25 years, not finish the year as the second most-watched sports network; it was passed both in primetime and total day viewership by FS1 and NBCSN. (ESPN remains atop these rankings by a large margin.)
I asked Rolón if this new show could be a signal that ESPN is going to use ESPN2 as a breeding ground for more original concepts and programming again. “Obviously we are thinking that way,” Rolón said. “This is what we’re launching on ESPN2, and this is something we feel very strongly will be successful for us. ESPN2 is still very much a place where we’re going to program and look for opportunity.”