ESPN To Launch Morning Highlights Show on Quibi for Platform’s Debut

    • The Replay will be available exclusively on Quibi when the platform launches on April 6.
    • Headed by Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman, Quibi has raised more than $1.4 billion in funding.

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ESPN has announced that a new digital show, The Replay, will be available exclusively on short-form video platform Quibi as the company gears up for its launch on April 6. 

The network will be the exclusive multi-sport content provider in the U.S. for Quibi’s Daily Essentials, a curated list of news and entertainment, with The Replay focusing on breaking news in the sports industry.

The Replay is intended to be a multi-sport show serving as an opportunity for fans to immediately wake up to different sports content, Ryan Spoon, ESPN’s senior vice president of social and digital media, told Front Office Sports. Modeled after Sportscenter, The Replay is supposed to bring a millennial twist to it, with an emphasis on the best highlights in sports packaged through quick-pace editing. 

“I have a real appreciation for what they’re building,” Spoon said. “Having spent a lot of time with the team, they have a big vision and they articulate that vision both in user habits and content creation and formats with really fantastic energy.”

While he anticipates that The Replay will be a five-to-seven-minute show, ESPN is still testing out to see what format works best for the April 6 debut. Across all of its shows, Quibi will feature programming under 10 minutes in length made only for smartphones.

The Replay will be hosted by ESPN’s Nabil Karim and Ashley Brewer, who recently joined ESPN after working at ABC7 Los Angeles as its sports anchor and entertainment. The show also includes fellow ESPNer Sebastian Salazar, who is known for his work on ESPNFC as well as the network’s Major League Soccer coverage.

“This is a way to start the day,” Spoon said. “We hope this becomes habit forming. It should be multi-sport. It should be unique and special to the platforms. This is not something that looks like something we’ve done elsewhere.”

Spoon also is excited about the prospects of The Replays’s formatting. Not only will it be presentable, but also usable in both portrait and landscape, something he sees as unique to Quibi. 

“What are different presentation layers for a certain highlight?” Spoon wondered. “Is there one way to present it in one format? And then if you go to another format, do you get a different treatment? That’s really fun. It can also be a little overwhelming in terms of how you think about that and each presentation, but that’s really creatively energizing as well.”

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Short for “quick bites,” Quibi is aiming to quickly carve out a unique niche in the mobile-video space. Founded by Hollywood producer Jeffrey Katzenberg and former Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman, the start-up has already raised more than $1.4 billion in funding. It plans on charging users $8 a month, or $5 with ads.

Outside of ESPN, Quibi has inked deals with media companies like BBC, CBS, Telemundo, and TMZ. It will also be working with WWE on a new series called, “Fight Like a Girl,’ which will highlight the stories of the company’s top female wrestlers like Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch.

There are some uncertainties surrounding Quibi’s future. The market for minutes-long show episodes and movies available only via phone is unknown, as is users’ desire to pay for another streaming platform. ESPN already has its own streaming service, ESPN Plus, which started in April 2018.

“We do believe there is still room to exist with executions elsewhere,” Spoon said. “We’ve done that really successfully on Snap. We’ve done that really successfully with shows like Hoops Streams, which is the rogue discussion and hopefully energy and viewership of our core telecast. And we had examples of that over the weekend across the NBA, MLS… again, core properties for ESPN and ESPN Plus.”

However, Quibi executives told Variety in October that it had already sold out of its advertising inventory for its first year, which was priced at $150 million. The startup’s category-exclusive ad partners for the April 2020 launch include Discover, General Mills, T-Mobile, and Taco Bell, according to Variety. The company also booked $100 million in upfront commitments from Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, ABInBev, Walmart, Progressive, and Google.

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Spoon acknowledges that both ESPN and Quibi will learn from the latter’s launch in early April. He expects each company to learn more about users and how they are consuming the show. He will be closely following certain metrics like time spent per show, rate of viewership per show, per user completion percentage, and others that will help gauge The Replay’s quality.

“What we control is how compelling the show is and how long you just stick around,” Spoon said. “Over time, you want to see that users use and then return to the show with frequency and hopefully habitually. You will only be successful in doing that if you can get someone to enjoy and spend time in a given period of time.” 

“We both have aspirations to continue to grow,” he added. “But I also think that we both acknowledge, ‘let’s get through launch and and see what happens.’”