Having moles in and around ESPN is always an interesting thing. A lot of the time you get accounts of who ate what at lunch that day, but every once in awhile you get a great email account of interesting day to day goings on. Well, recently I received one of those emails from a person who was involved in an ESPN Focus Group recently and while some of the questions asked aren't a surprise, some of the results/answers were. But first here is a little background from our focus grouper and a quick rundown of the questions....
"My group in particular included about 12 guys (no women) aged between 18 and 25. There were two african americans, and the rest were white. Everyone was paid $170 for participation. We were required to complete a homework assignment (keep a SportsCenter journal for two weeks before the focus group.)"Just weird questions, right? I guess that's what focus groups are for, to try and find new and interesting information out there, but to ask what music it would have on it's Ipod? And collages?!?! Is this preschool? That is just plain strange, but I guess for $170, and a chance at a Best Buy gift card, I'd give it a shot. Anyway, I know you're curious as to the results, so here is our correspondent's assessment of what went on and namely which anchors the group liked and disliked....
For your upcoming focus group at (INSERT FACILITY NAME) at (INSERT TIME) we have a homework assignment for you.
1. Watch SportsCenter on ESPN over the weekdays between 9am and 3pm.
a. Watch it critically during this time for at least 3 total hours or more. (*It is very important that you watch SportsCenter between the 9am and 3pm hours)
b. As you watch SportsCenter, take some notes on what you like/dislike about the show at those specific hours
c. Try your best to focus on the show, format, anchors …and not the sports content
d. Recording the show is allowed if it helps with note-taking
2. Ask yourself the following question:
“If SportsCenter at the 9am-3pm hours was a person, what type of person would you describe him/her as?”
Descriptions ‘could’ contain the following:
i. What type of car would it drive?
ii. What ‘other shows’ would it be friends with?
iii. What type of clothes would it wear?
iv. What music would be on its iPod?
v. What age would it be?
vi. What type of activities would it do in its ‘free time?’
3. Find 5 or more images from magazines, newspapers, or the Internet that helps you describe the type of person it would be
4. Take 2 regular size sheets of paper and tape them together to make 1 large sheet
5. Glue, tape, or staple your images on the 1 large sheet in whatever arrangement you see fit to show this person
6. Then put your name on your notes and your collage and bring them both to your focus group to turn in!
*The most expressive and vivid collages will be considered for a Best Buy© gift certificate
Finally, the anchors were discussed. We were shown headshots of the following SportsCenter anchors, and tested to see how many our group could identify. We were asked whether they were perceived as "Old or New" and "Triple-A, Pro, or All-Star."Obviously our insider wants to stay Anonymous, but I'd like to thank him for giving us such a detailed account. A few thoughts....Kenny Mayne is a HOFer? Really??? The guy is humorous, but I didn't think people thought of him as such a pro. Also, hearing that people don't like Josh Elliott, while not the way I feel, isn't really surprising. In focus groups, men tend to be negative towards attractive males (I'm comfortable in my sexuality to say Elliott is a handsome man) and extremely responsive to attractive females (i.e.- Hannah Storm) As far as the rest of the group's findings, I can't really disagree with them.
John Anderson - group couldn't think of his name - "Old" - "Pro"
Josh Elliot - was identified - "New" - "worst SportsCenter anchor ever"
Neil Everett - group couldn't think of his name - "Old" - "Pro"
Robert Flores - group couldn't think of his name... one person thought he was Josh Elliot - "New" - "Triple-A"
Brian Kenny - group couldn't think of his name - "Old" - "Pro" (a couple people didn't like him)
Steve Levy - group couldn't think of his name - "Old" - "All Star"
Kenny Mayne - was identified - "Old" - "All Star" (some said Hall of Fame)
Chris McKendry - was identified - "New" - "Triple-A"
Sage Steele - was identified - "New" - "Triple-A"
Hannah Storm - was identified - "New" - "All-Star"
Scott Van Pelt - was identified - "New" - "All-Star"
Then the proctor asked: If we were the producers of the show, which anchors would we keep, and which we would fire? The group voted unanimously to fire Josh Elliot. Nearly everyone said to fire Chris McKendry. Some people said to fire Robert Flores. Nobody else got the axe. The group's favorite, by far, was Hannah Storm. Several people said they wanted to see more of her. One person asked if he could keep her headshot photo. Steve Levy, Kenny Mayne, and Scott Van Pelt were the group's other favorites.
Next, they asked aesthetic questions about the show. For example, they asked if the group liked when the anchors were filmed standing up, instead of sitting at the desk. The group was indifferent about that. The group didn't like the new machine sounds played during the SportsCenter cut scenes... several participants said they preferred the way SportsCenter used to play its theme music more often.
Thanks again to our focus group attendee, and it'll be interesting to see if they make any changes to the format in light of these results. I wouldn't count on it, but anything is possible. As far as you the reader, you know ESPN is reading, so what would you change about the show and what do you think it would have on its Ipod?