ESPN is doubling down on two of its biggest journalism brands, ironically a few weeks after laying off 100 journalists.
In a few days, the Disney-owned Worldwide Leader in Sports is re-launching “E:60” and “Outside the Lines,” which means Bob Ley and Jeremy Schaap are even busier than usual. It also means the two longterm ESPN employees will actually appear on-air together for the first time ever — excluding rare cases of all-hands-on-deck breaking news moments, like when Muhammad Ali slipped into critical condition.
The company’s two top reporters were gracious enough to squeeze TheWrap into their busy schedules, when we talked everything from those mass job cuts to how the old friends-turned new duo remain sports fans despite all the bummer stories they’ve worked on.
We asked Ley and Schaap if being the grown-ups in the room — beats-wise — in Bristol has become a downer. For Ley, who joined ESPN on just its third day, the serious — and often sad — stories he’s had to handle haven’t shaken his spirit. Also, it’s good for business.
“The world has an inexhaustible supply of stupid people doing stupid things, which produces a lot of news,” Ley said. “I’m glad for that, because it’s job security.”
The accomplished son of the legendary Dick Schaap offered up a bit more: “I can’t tell you how many stories over the years I’ve done about victims of sexual abuse. It’s obviously not fun — it’s hard. As a father, it’s gotten harder. But you do it because those are the stories that matter, that make an impact. You feel like you’re betraying your family, your kids, if you don’t go do it.”
Ley then hopped aboard Schaap’s sincerity train, recalling some recent gratitude he received from two female guests following a particularly tough “OTL” segment about the USA Gymnastics sexual abuse scandal.
“When you get an affirmation … it means a great deal,” he said.
“It may help change a culture that needs to change,” Ley added of their important work, which has also spanned everything from concussions to hazing — and everything in-between.
Going forward, Ley and Schaap’s stuff will be on cable TV’s priciest channel even more — much like the fellas themselves, who are going to appear on-air together multiple times per week.
Until now, “E:60” never had a regular time slot. Starting Sunday, however, that newly live magazine series — anchored by both our guys — will be telecast weekly. Ley’s “OTL” will continue to air each weekday, and now from a brand-new, dedicated studio. Schaap will join Ley on “Outside the Lines” each Friday, and the two sister shows will also regularly cross content over. Yes, there has been a lot of logistical work just to get here, and that’s been trying.
“The run-up to the show has been extremely, extremely time consuming — but it’s worth it,” Ley responded when asked about his schedule these days.
“This is what you want. You want to be busy,” Schaap added. “You want to be on TV a lot, you want to be doing this kind of work.”
“The object of our frustration over the last 10 years was not having a regular time slot, not being on 52 weeks a year, and having so many stories that we want to do, but we don’t have anywhere to put [them],” he continued, clearly pleased about the new setup. “There’s never been a dearth of stories.”
And now, viewers won’t have a dearth of opportunities to consume Ley’s and Schaap’s work:”E:60” re-launches on Sunday, “OTL” will do the same on Monday.