Burbank, Calif.—March 27, 2019
Introducing its lineup of hosts for the new nightly MLB look-in show ChangeUp, streaming platform DAZN made clear its intention for the six-hour block of programming.
“You’re going to get personality,” said Adnan Virk, the lead host and former Baseball Tonight host at ESPN.
DAZN’s new show is hoping to replicate the idea of NFL RedZone for MLB but with more flair. Virk will anchor the 7-10:30 p.m. ET block each weeknight and will be paired with Scott Rogowsky, the popular HQ Trivia host and erstwhile sports comic from 12 Angry Mascots. During an introductory press event at über-baseball bar Foley’s in Midtown Manhattan, Rogowsky joked about introducing props into the show, such as a money gun to shoot in honor of big contracts and a confetti cannon to commemorate grand slams.
“I want to bring some action,” Rogowsky said. “I don’t want to be sitting there. I don’t want this to be a staged show sitting behind the anchor desk.”
The weekend hosts are kindred spirits. Jake Mintz and Jordan Shusterman, best known as Cespedes Family BBQ on Twitter, work for MLB’s Cut4, which offers a lighter fare counterpart to the stat-heavy baseball discussions found elsewhere. In tweeting the news of their upcoming gig, the pair of lifelong friends described the show’s content as “live look-ins to games, ‘analysis’ (lol) and tons of baseball tomfoolery.”
Mintz shot down the idea of the “hot-take culture” that often springs outlandish knee-jerk reactions. He prefers recurring segments on long-held, counterculture beliefs.
“I believe hills to die on are important,” he said, before telling the New York City crowd that legendary Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter was “overrated.”
The other three announced hosts are Denver-area sports reporter Lauren Gardner, NHL Network host Tony Luftman, and ESPN International broadcaster Alfredo “Freddy” Lomeli. Seven-time American League Cy Young-winning pitcher Roger Clemens also appeared at DAZN’s kickoff party to help publicize the launch, although he is not expected to be a part of the televised programming.
One hook for baseball fans to subscribe to DAZN and tune in to ChangeUp will be the personality driven commentary, although the network hopes the live action itself will be the primary draw. Rogowsky, for one, made sure to emphasize that point in a conversation afterwards. DAZN plans to show most live at bats of all the sport’s biggest superstars, as well as simulcasting each night’s most interesting rallies, pitching performances, and highlights.
Logan Swaim, the executive producer of ChangeUp, said in a statement that the talent lineup “provides us with the perfect blend of unique personalities and perspectives.” MLB Network analysts such as Eric Byrnes, Cliff Floyd, Carlos Peña, Harold Reynolds, and Hall of Famer John Smoltz are expected to make occasional cameos.
DAZN entered the U.S. market last fall with a splashy investment in boxing and MMA. A three-year, $300-million deal for MLB coverage signed in November is now helping it pivot to a more mainstream sports audience in advance of future rights deals becoming available in the market. (DAZN already carries MLB games in Japan, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.)
The show will be hosted and produced out of MLB Network’s studios in Secaucus, N.J., where a more traditional nightly baseball show, MLB Tonight, already exists (although that one is often preempted when the network carries full games on its channel). But having that shared production facility will enable DAZN to focus primarily on its talent and programming rather than the back-end support.
“You have a great team here,” Virk said. “Imagine if I said to any of you ‘You’re starting a new show.’ That’s exciting and fun, right? But you’re also going to have a great infrastructure of people who care, people who are passionate, and people who are young.