Ever since September, one of ESPN's most prestigious programs, Outside the Lines had been languishing in new timeslots on ESPN2. The daytime edition which had been airing at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN before the NFL regular season began was pushed to ESPN2 at 4:30 p.m. ET. And the Sunday edition which had been at 9 a.m. ET on ESPN was pushed earlier to 8 a.m. ET on ESPN2, although a repeat was airing at 9 a.m., but on ESPNEWS.
Both the weekday and Sunday editions were pushed to make way for NFL-centric shows, NFL Insiders from Monday through Friday and a Colin Cowherd-hosted vehicle on Sundays. In both instances, Outisde the Lines' average audience dropped significantly especially Sunday mornings when its last 9 a.m. ET appearance averaged almost 850,000 viewers. Last Sunday, Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch reported that OTL averaged just 287,000 an hour earlier on ESPN2.
Now comes word from none other than host Bob Ley that Outside the Lines will be returning to its old timeslots after the Super Bowl.
OTL returns to ESPN, wkdays 3p ET, Sun 9a ET, after SBowl. Our sincere thx to friends and colleagues for meaningful expressions of support.— Bob Ley (@BobLeyESPN) December 21, 2013
For Bob to acknowledge the support from viewers who were unhappy with the move shows that the staffers at OTL were not happy about being moved from its traditional timeslots.
Through the drop in viewership, Outside the Lines has continued to report on some of the serious issues in sports and just recently won a Columbia University-duPont Journalism Award for its reporting on youth football.
It will be good for OTL to return to its traditional timeslots and hopefully build the audience that it lost over the last four months. However, there's nothing stopping ESPN from pulling the scheduling merry-go-round again when the 2014 NFL season rolls around. Time will tell if ESPN's commitment to giving OTL a decent timeslot is only good for the NFL offesason.