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ESPN to Add MLB Network Show to ESPN2 Afternoon Lineup

Variety logo Variety 4/27/2017 Brian Steinberg
© Provided by Variety

ESPN’s newest show is an old standby from another sports-media outlet.

The Walt Disney sports-media juggernaut, which has made no secret of its desire to winnow its operating costs, said Thursday that it would add the MLB Network’s “Intentional Talk” to the ESPN2 afternoon lineup.”Intentional Talk” has been on MLB Network’s schedule since 2011, and features co-hosts Chris Rose and Kevin Millar holding forth on everything from strange utterances by baseball players to clips of fans or players caught in oddball situations. It is fueled by analysis of quick video segments and plenty of fan interaction.

ESPN said ESPN2 will air the show, which will also continue its run on MLB Network, starting May 1 between 4 p.m, and 5 p.m. during the season, and for 30 minutes in the off-season.

“The move provides us with more baseball studio content than we’ve ever had,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN’s executive vice president of programming and acquisitions, in a statement. “We’re grateful to have such a productive relationship with our Major League Baseball partners and we look forward to our continued collaboration on this and many other projects.”

The programming maneuver was announced after ESPN disclosed plans to eliminate as many as 100 content staffers from across its web, print and TV operations.

To be sure, ESPN and the MLB Network aren’t the first like-minded TV duo to share an ongoing series. MSNBC for little under a year ran Bloomberg Television’s politics talk show “With All Due Respect” in its early-evening lineup. The program featured political reporters John Heilemann and Mark Halperin at 6 p.m., with Bloomberg airing it an hour earlier. Bloomberg canceled the show after the 2016 presidential election. At the time, MSNBC was looking to fill some holes in its daytime schedule as it worked to add more hours focused on breaking-news and politics. The hour was eventually filled with Greta van Susteren’s “For The Record with Greta.”

But ESPN has been open about its efforts to refocus its business in the wake of declining subscriptions for its flagship cable network. On Wednesday, executives said they would cut 100 staffers in an effort to focus ESPN content around a rejiggered lineup of “SportsCenter” hours that have been aligned with specific personalities throughout the day. The network is more interested in staffers who can provide video content for TV and also for digital-only transmission.

ESPN and Major League Baseball  have content partnerships. In August of 2016, ESPN parent Walt Disney Co. purchased a 33% stake in BAMTech, a video streaming company formed by the baseball league. As part of the deal, BAMTech was separated from MLB’s digital unit MLB Advanced Media.

ESPN said “Baseball Tonight” its long-running studio show, will continue to lead in to its “Sunday Night Baseball” telecasts. The network will also use the brand in televised “roadshows” from big baseball events, like the World Series, the Home Run Derby and baseball’s opening day.  The network said it would also feature studio coverage of baseball in other baseball telecasts.

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