How ESPN will cover O.J. Simpson's parole board hearing
As the focal point of the most ambitious, exhaustive and editorially successful project in ESPN history— the Oscar-winning documentary O.J.: Made In America—O.J. Simpson will be forever linked with ESPN. That documentary, along with the FX miniseries on the Simpson case, The People v. O.J. Simpson, offered clear data that the appetite for Simpson material remains high, even with the disgraced and incarcerated NFL Hall of Famer out of public view for many years.
Within that framework, ESPN’s Outside the Lines will air a 90-minute special on Thursday (ESPN, 1 p.m. ET) featuring live coverage of Simpson’s parole hearing in Carson City, Nevada.
Jeremy Schaap will anchor the coverage from ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, Conn., (Bob Ley is on vacation) and will be joined in-studio by OTL and ABC legal analyst Ryan Smith and The Undefeated.com’s Jason Reid. Mark Schwarz will report from Nevada’s Lovelock Correctional Center, where Simpson is serving a 33-year sentence for armed robbery and kidnapping. Shelley Smith will be in Carson City, where the Nevada Board of Parole will convene in to consider the case of Inmate #1027820.
“Considering the success of the film there is no doubt there is still a public interest and fascination with all things O.J. Simpson,” said David Sarosi, the coordinating producer of Outside the Lines and E:60.
USA Today reported that more than 240 media credentials have been approved, according to the Nevada Department of Corrections, and a dozen satellite trucks are expected at the sites in both in Carson City and Lovelock. ESPN is picking up a pool feed from inside the hearing while Simpson will appear via video conference from Lovelock. David Smith, a spokesman for the parole board, said Simpson could be released as early as October if he gets parole. A decision from the parole board is expected on the day of the hearing. The deliberations will not be public and the parole board will not be available for interviews after the hearing. ESPN has blocked off 90 minutes and has the flexibility to go longer if needed.
“All of this is taking place during the absolute slowest week on the sports calendar and as a TV producer when you see something like this, like the parole hearing for Simpson pop up in the third week of July, you are thanking your lucky stars that you actually have something of real news value to talk about and produce,” Sarosi said. “But even if it was January 20, we would still be doing this, I assure you.”
Among OTL’s planned segments: Schaap fronting a historical look at Simpson and analyst Darren Rovell’s examination of Simpson’s financial and business situations. Later in the day, Hannah Storm will anchor an hour-long SportsCenter dedicated to the day’s Simpson proceedings (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET).
In February, SI’s Jon Wertheim and Michael McCann offered a long analysis of Simpson’s chances of getting parole. Wrote the authors: “Indications are strong that this will be the year O.J. Simpson will be released from prison. As for just how free he will be, that’s another matter entirely.”