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ESPNU Enters Late-Night Entertainment Battle With, Uh, Something

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In a move that sounds totally organic, ESPNU will premiere “UNITE,” a daily late-night entertainment show geared toward college-aged sports fans, on August 27.

Apparently, “SportsCenter” isn’t good enough for the little punks. Take it away, EW’s InsideTV:

…The new program aspires to bring a focus on social media to the sports-viewing experience. “The way that we consume sports television is different than it was 15 years ago — than it was two years ago,” says Yaron Deskalo, “UNITE‘s” coordinating producer. “Our audience already knows the headlines before they tune in, so they are no longer tuning in at midnight to wait 20 minutes to watch a 45-second highlight. What we need to do to be successful is to find the social conversation in these events, to find that little nugget that will keep people around.”

Someone please say anything that doesn’t sound like bullet points recycled from an executives’ meeting.

A specially designed aggregation tool will monitor social trends as three yet-to-be-announced hosts — Deskalo says at least one will be a familiar ESPN face — spread irreverent humor upon sports, viral videos, and pop culture. Yes, there will be guests — athletes, coaches, celebrities — a sofa, and a DJ, but nothing else about the late-night paradigm is sacred. “Our goals are to be different,” says Deskalo. “We want to create something on television that doesn’t exist anywhere else. I think the main way we’ll be able to find out if we’re successful is how viral we are. We don’t want to be a show that necessarily, quote unquote, has a social voice that is inserted in; we really want to be rooted in social.”

So, there you have it. Now, a few issues:

1.) How is this show different than “SportsCenter” or “SportsNation” or “First Take” but with a house DJ, couch, and loads of buzz words? The one upside is that “UNITE” will promote college-aged talent, which does little good if these kids are looking beyond the world of ESPNU–and ESPN.

2.) For any kind of late-night entertainment programming to work, you need mavericks. Think Conan at 12:35 a.m, Letterman, and Stewart. ESPN’s current policy is to create “personalities” with no rough edges, no spontaneity. In other words, the days of Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick cracking wise are long, long gone.

3.) Since this program is geared toward male college students, how much you want to bet one of the hosts is a stacked blonde who makes Erin Andrews look like Diane Sawyer?

4.) You want to reach the largest number of college-aged sports fans? Schedule this for 4 p.m. , not 12 a.m. The bars are dead and there’s down time between classes. It’s no accident that Michele Beadle, Tony Kornheiser, and Michael Wilbon became stars in the afternoon.

If we have any college-aged readers of this site, is “UNITE” something you’d watch? Or would you guys rather pursue other, ahem, activities.

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