When it comes to original programming ESPN is nothing short of a disaster so far this year. But even I was surprised by how much of a disaster things have become with two expensive new shows being aired live from New York City, WokeCenter AM, aka Get Up, and WokeCenter 3.0, aka High Noon/Low Noon/Everything Is Racist. The two shows aired on Thursday and Friday of last week and both hit all time viewership lows, failing to crack 200k viewers.
Yes, it really is this bad, ESPN can’t even get 200,000 people to watch its original shows on the main network.
Get Up, aka WokeCenter 2.0, had just 197,000 viewers this past Thursday from 7-10 am eastern, a whopping 33% off the ratings ESPN had for a traditional SportsCenter airing at the same time in the exact same June week last year. SportsCenter, which aired from Bristol and cost a fraction of the $35 million yearly budget of Get Up, had 294,000 viewers last year.
That sounds bad, but later in the day it was even worse.
High Noon, the new PC Bromani and Pablo Torre let’s talk about how much we don’t like sports for an hour but how everything is racist instead show, that debuted a couple of weeks ago at noon eastern, also hit a new series low, posting 193,000 viewers, which was down a whopping 47% over the number of viewers a noon SportsCenter had in the same Thursday time slot last year. (SportsCenter on the same week last year had 362,000 viewers). As if that weren’t bad enough, an episode of “Blaze and the Monster Machines” airing head-to-head at the exact same time on Nickelodeon, drew 926,000 viewers.
UPDATE: Both shows did worse on Friday of last week, with Get Up posting just 196,000 viewers, compared to 339,000 watching SportsCenter last year, down a massive 42% and High Noon posting just 191,000 viewers, down a whopping 54% from last year’s SportsCenter viewership.
I don’t even know what “Blaze and the Monster Machines” is and I have three boys ten and under. But I do know this, “Blaze and the Monster Machines” dunked on PC Bromani and Pablo all balls to the face Scottie Pippen to Patrick Ewing style this past Thursday.
Honestly, I think PC Bromani and Pablo may both be in concussion protocol right now. Which is ironic because both men hate the NFL despite appearing on a sports network television show.
New ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro has to be looking at these numbers every morning and silently weeping. John Skipper’s coke-fueled rampage of destruction at ESPN is still extracting a price even though he’s moved on to failing somewhere else.
The collapse of these two shows raises several interesting questions for ESPN. Among them:
1. Do they just cancel both and go back to SportsCenter for football season?
Remember, these are not Jimmy Pitaro’s programming decisions. These shows were already planned before Skipper was fired for “drug addiction” aka getting extorted by women he was banging.
You know how when a new coach comes in and realizes he has crappy talent he favors his own recruits instead of the guys left behind? How in the world can Pitaro not do the same?
ESPN, thanks to Skipper’s decision, has embarked on a much more expensive programming schedule that produces way less viewership. I’m not an expert in sports programming, but that seems like a bad idea. Put it this way, how well do you think your for-profit business would respond to this idea, “Hey, let’s spend a lot more money and make a lot less!”
Because right now that’s ESPN’s programming schedule.
In an unbelievably disastrous move, Skipper killed the most lucrative radio show in ESPN history, Mike and Mike, replaced the long term franchise of the network, SportsCenter, in two different day parts, weakened SportsNation by taking the most consistent talent on the show and putting her elsewhere, and built an incredibly expensive New York City studio all to get his ass handed to him with a brand new morning show and a brand new noon show.
We talk about five tool players, well John Skipper managed to pull off the heretofore improbable, he made a decision that led to five different losses across the entire ESPN programming schedule. He pulled off a five tool loss.
Think about it, Get Up, down massively. High Noon, down massively. SportsNation, down massively. Mike and Mike, now Mike and Trey, down massively, the incredibly expensive New York City studio, not paying for itself.
John Skipper basically strapped on a suicide vest and blew up ESPN’s entire programming schedule with his decision making.
Then he got fired and left a huge steaming pile of crap for his successor.
I’m not sure that if John Skipper were trying to destroy ESPN he could have done a worse job.
2. When does First Take revolt?
Whether you like him or not, Stephen A. Smith’s First Take still produces strong ratings. But those ratings are taking a big hit because the First Take lead-in keeps declining thanks to the awfulness of Get Up.
On Thursday “First Take” produced 308k viewers.
That’s not great, but it looks downright incredible compared to his competition on the network.
First Take took over at 10 am eastern with 197k viewers and built it up to 308k by noon eastern. Then Pablo and PC Bromani finished with 193k an hour after their show ends. (This makes Pablo and PC Bromani’s performance, arguably, the worst throughout the day. They inherited a big lead-in and lost it all within an hour.).
So if you’re First Take when do you start pointing out that your audience is far lower now than it was when SportsCenter was your lead-in? All shows are impacted by the programs around them. When Get Up starts the day on a crappy ratings note, the impact extends throughout the day.
Stephen A. Smith, based on the numbers, is a ratings mover. But he can’t turn chicken shit into a chicken.
2. We’re still early in summer, these ratings are likely to get worse.
Trust me, I know, it ain’t easy to fill several hours a day talking about sports in June, July and August.
But at least right now the World Cup and the U.S. Open are both going on.
What are we going to talk about in mid-July? Padres-Mariners? Just shoot me in the head with a nailgun if I had to do that. We’re probably going to do three hour animal thunderdomes on my show.
But these TV shows?
Most people I’m talking to are in shock that original programming on ESPN could ever draw less than 200k viewers. So what’s the floor before ESPN pulls the plug and goes back to SportsCenter? Is 150k possible this summer? Can ratings fall that low? No one knows. We’re at depths never seen before.
I halfway expect for ESPN to hire Colin Kaepernick and just show him kneeling for the national anthem on a loop for five hours around First Take.
3. ESPN’s “diversity and inclusion” directive basically encourages people not to watch.
What should matter is talent and ratings, not diversity and inclusion. What matters at ESPN, at least under John Skipper, was cosmetic diversity instead of intellectual diversity.
Bomani Jones is a fascinating example of someone who has failed in everything he’s ever done yet continued to be promoted and paid more money. ESPN gave Bomani Jones a national radio show and he lost hundreds of affiliates and nearly killed afternoons at ESPN.
So what do they do?
Give him a television show!
Look, here’s a general rule, if you stink as a radio host and your audience doesn’t like you, guess what, you’re probably going to stink as a TV host and your audience probably won’t like you too. Sometimes people don’t translate moving from radio to TV, but I’ve never heard of someone who was awful on their own radio show and great on their own TV show.
To me, radio’s a great testing ground.
Bomani Jones has a unique gift, he appeals to far fewer people than were already consuming his company’s content before he took over. So what does ESPN do? They give him a radio show, alienate the listeners they already had, and he attracts no new listeners to replace the ones he drove off. The radio show was a total failure.
Okay, you can’t fault someone for trying out new talent. Chalk it up as an experiment gone wrong.
But what does ESPN do even when the data is there proving that Bomani doesn’t work on radio?
THEY GIVE HIM A TV SHOW!
And, guess what, it’s bombing too.
This is mind-numbingly stupid and completely and totally predictable to anyone with a functional brain.
It’s fine to be polarizing in the modern media environment. For instance, I’m polarizing, some people love me, some people hate me. But usually people who are polarizing produce strong fan bases. That is, in order to be loved by many, you also have to be hated by many these days. Well, Bomani Jones is polarizing and he has no fan base. That’s despite the fact that ESPN has spent years trying to create a fan base for him. Do you know how hard it is to put someone on radio and television all the time in prominent roles and still be unable to make someone a star?
Think about this for a minute, hundreds of thousands of people are watching, and liking, Stephen A. Smith and then Bomani Jones comes on and they change the channel.
Even black dudes who love Stephen A. Smith won’t stick around and watch Bomani on television.
Here’s the deal, people don’t want WokeCenter. They just want SportsCenter. This is a classic example of the problems that come from listening to social media. ESPN has been programming for people who don’t actually watch the network, they just sit around bitching about sports all day on Twitter. Newsflash — these people don’t actually like or watch sports!
4. How amazing is it that Richard Deitsch, self-proclaiming PC media ombudsman, announced he would no longer denigrate Skip Bayless’s FS1 show ratings right as Bayless begins to regularly beat the new ESPN programming?!
This is just high comedy.
Bayless, whether you like him or not, is now regularly beating “Get Up” head-to-head on FS1 for the final half hour the two shows compete.
This is something that people said would never happen. And it took Bayless a little over two years to make it happen.
Bayless, like Stephen A., is polarizing. But he, like Stephen A., also has an audience of people who tune in to hear his opinion on sports.
We’re not far away from Colin Cowherd’s simulcast of a radio show on FS1 beating PC Bromani and Pablo head-to-head in the 12 eastern hour.
That’s remarkable, both for what it says about Cowherd and what it says about ESPN too.
There’s no way that FS1 should be competing head-to-head with ESPN in original programming given the network is only five years old and yet sometimes FS1 is winning. Even wilder, sometimes FS1 is going to win with a radio show on television.
5. So what does ESPN do?
If I were Jimmy Pitaro I’d get on my heads and knees and beg Mike Golic to come back to Mike and Mike and put that radio show simulcast on from 6-9 am eastern out of the New York City studio. (This leaves Trey Wingo getting screwed, but I’m not sure what you could do about that.)
Then you could move Michelle Beadle back to SportsNation. (Jalen Rose could go back to doing the NBA at an insanely inflated salary. Honestly, I’m not sure how Jalen Rose makes money talking about sports. Has he ever said anything interesting in ten years at ESPN? I don’t think so.)
Then I’d also go hat in hand to Stephen A. Smith and beg him to do a third hour of First Take, extending the show from 10-12 to 10-1.
Then you can bump Pablo and PC Bromani off the air and put them back on Around the Horn where they get lost in the daily shuffle of PTI success.
The other option here is just to go back to SportsCenter in all of these spots.
But then what do you do with the expensive New York City studio? Just up and move it from Bristol? Then you have two SportsCenter studios, only one of which you use. What sense does that make?
No matter how you slice it, ESPN doesn’t have great options. The programming ratings have never been lower and they show all the signs of going lower during a long, hot summer of discontent.
Good luck, Jimmy Pitaro, you’ve got your work cut out for you.
No one ever thought ESPN’s original programming could or would draw less than 200,000 viewers for a show.
Yet here they are.
The Worldwide Leader in Sports has now become the Worldwide Leader in almost getting a quarter of the viewers of a new Paw Patrol episode on Nickelodeon.
But at least they’re woke!