In advance of No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson likely making his debut on Wednesday night, ESPN launched a three-day blitz of programming and promotions to help make sure as many people watch Williamson’s first game as possible.
Williamson, who returned to practice earlier this month for the first time since having arthroscopic knee surgery shortly before the season began, was discussed at length on the network on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday’s morning shows, including Get Up! and First Take, will highlight him as well, according to Front Office Sports.
That coverage will continue throughout the day across various ESPN platforms leading up to the network’s Pelicans-Spurs broadcast on Wednesday night. Originally slated to show Denver Nuggets-Houston Rockets telecast, it was an easy decision for ESPN to make the switch.
“In the end, our mission is to serve the fan. We know from linear TV ratings, and consumption of digital and social Zion content over the last year, that fans have a great appetite for Zion content,” Mike Shiffman, ESPN’s vice president of production, told FOS on Tuesday. “We consistently saw ratings elevated in games and content he was involved in. Our goal is to make sure fans are well aware Zion is on our air tomorrow night.”
During the broadcast on Wednesday night, ESPN will have a “layup line” camera focusing exclusively on Williamson during warm-ups and will deploy an “above the rim” view centered on Williamson during game action.
Throughout the game, ESPN’s announcing team of reporter Tom Rinaldi, play-by-play announcer Dave Pasch and analysts Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson will make it a point to mention Williamson’s real-time game stats and show video replays of him.
“We will be very aggressive with making sure the fan is aware, ‘He has 18 points and 7 rebounds,’ or whatever his stats are,” said Shiffman. “It’s a great service both for the fan watching, and the fan surfing in, to not have to wait too long to find out exactly how Zion is doing.”
ESPN’s aggressive push makes sense as Williamson’s Duke game telecasts averaged 2,143,000 viewers and Blue Devils games on ESPN accounted for five of the top six most-watched games on the network last year.
Assuming he plays and doesn’t suffer any setbacks, the 19-year-old will be back on ESPN on January 26 when the Pelicans host the Boston Celtics in New Orleans.
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