Michael Smith, Jemele Hill Will Take Over ESPN’s 6 P.M. ‘SportsCenter’ as Co-Hosts

Brian Steinberg

ESPN’s early-evening edition of “SportsCenter” will soon become a “His & Hers” affair.

Michael Smith and Jemele Hill, who have co-hosted “His & Hers” on ESPN2 since June of 2013 and the show was known under a different title, will take the hosting reins at ESPN’s 6 p.m. “SportsCenter” on February 6, 2017, the day after Super Bowl LI. They will replace the broadcast’s current anchor, Lindsay Czarniak, who  will go on maternity leave in early November and return next year in a new role that will be announced later. Both hosts have signed new, multi-year deals with the Walt Disney-owned sports network.

The switch shows ESPN continuing to try to create “SportsCenter” broadcasts tailored for the times at which they air. Last year, ESPN  launched a late-night version of its flagship program, with host Scott Van Pelt offering a more spirited take on the plays and match-ups of the day, and took steps to keep the overnight version of the program steady, re-upping Stan Verrett and Neil Everett to anchor the program from Los Angeles. All daytime versions of “SportsCenter” that run through 1:30 p.m. have been tweaked, with the network launching “SportsCenter AM” last February at 7 a.m.

“One thing we do know is that people watch differently over the course of the day,” said Rob King, ESPN’s senior vice president of “SportsCenter” and news, in an interview Tuesday. “They have different needs.”

Smith and Hill will place emphasis on putting sports headlines in context, King said. “By 6 p.m. and 3 p.m. on the West Coast, we understand that audiences have pretty much come across the headlines that have happened in the course of a day, either through social content, or through mobile or digital content,” said King. “What they actually really need is a sense of why it matters, and a sense of context, as opposed to just news.”

The format of the new “SportsCenter” edition is expected to be more conversational, and feature commentary and opinion from Hill and Smith. The show will continue to set up big sports events of the night with newsmaker and analyst interviews.

“His & Hers” has its roots in a podcast the two hosts continue to produce. Their ESPN2 show was originally known as “Numbers Never Lie,” and was co-hosted by Smith and Charissa Thompson, The idea was to dazzle fantasy-sports fans with stats and analytics. Over time, the program evolved and Smith and Hill hit upon a unique chemistry that King says will be very evident on ESPN at 6 p.m. “We think it’s a pretty good model to match up a unique point of view, a unique voice, with a time of day,” he said.

Hill and Smith will host their final “His and Hers” episode at some point in the coming weeks, with a date to be determined. ESPN will make an announcement about new programming at a later date.

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