In the wake of the news that ESPN is breaking up the most famous duo in sports radio by shifting Mike Greenberg away from Mike & Mike and into a new role as the host of a television show, it’s only appropriate to express disgust with the Worldwide Leader in Sports.
ESPN has garnered a lot of negative attention for the tumultuous past couple of years that it’s experienced, with a multitude of prominent on-air personalities departing for other competing networks. While ESPN has put its money where its mouth is, so to speak, by spending large amounts of dough to land broadcast deals for particular sports leagues and sporting events, it understandably hasn’t had enough money available to keep famous talking heads from leaving for Fox Sports, NBC Sports, etc.
And that’s all fine and good, as ESPN will remain the Worldwide Leader so long as it has the best, most well-rounded coverage of actual sporting events. That’s what sports fans care most about, and that’s what draws in the best ratings and advertising revenue. However, ESPN isn’t in a great place right now. With millennials gradually cutting the cable cord and ditching TV altogether in favor of Netflix and other services of that ilk, ESPN has been losing subscribers left and right in recent years.
Therefore, it has been forced to scrap expansion plans, such as expanding upon its New York City and Los Angeles markets, including a withdrawn plan to relocate Mike & Mike to the Big Apple. It has also been forced to watch some of its most recognizable personalities, such as Skip Bayless, Chris Broussard, Colin Cowherd, Mike Tirico and Charissa Thompson, walk away for more lucrative contract offers elsewhere.
As a result, ESPN has been desperately attempting to increase television ratings for its original programming over the course of the past year or so. From axing certain programs that weren’t worth the billing to moving certain personalities from talk shows to SportsCenter, ESPN is clamoring to do whatever it can to salvage its TV ratings.
But what the bigwigs at ESPN are doing is not working…at all. For one, they moved popular jack of all trades Scott Van Pelt away from his popular radio show with Ryen Russilo (SVP & Russillo) to a new role as a full-time SportsCenter host (rather than part-time, as before) and gave him his own block of SportsCenter to host by himself on weeknights. A pointless endeavor, SVP’s version of the highlight-heavy show is basically just like other airings of SportsCenter with gambling-related discussions thrown in here and there (which is odd, considering that ESPN is owned by family-friendly Disney).
They’ve also gone through several changes with popular programs First Take and SportsNation, disbanded other popular show His & Hers to make hosts Jemele Hill and Michael Smith SportsCenter hosts and seem to have no consistency whatsoever on their NBA roundtable shows. And that’s not making for an increase in viewership. In fact, it’s ripping apart fan bases of certain shows.
Now, ESPN is making its biggest mistake of all by breaking up the lifeblood of its ESPN Radio programming. Mike & Mike, which features the dynamic duo of Mike Golic and the aforementioned Greenberg, has been a fixture at ESPN for well over a decade now, serving as the most widely recognized original ESPN program for many years. Broadcast on every ESPN Radio station in the early morning, the prime time for any radio show, Mike & Mike is also simulcast on ESPN2. Therefore, breaking up the show will cause ESPN to lose a broad array of radio listeners and television viewers.
As for what Greenberg will be doing, ESPN is planning to have him solo host a program that features discussion and highlights. So basically just like pretty much every other talk show on the network. And basically just like what ESPN did with SVP. And no one will watch it. It’s 2017. People don’t need to watch highlights on TV anymore. They can see them as they happen on social media and various sports apps. Why does ESPN not understand that? Greenberg is too knowledgeable, funny and talented to be relegated to hosting a souped up version of SportsCenter. That’s for people with newscasting backgrounds, not talk radio backgrounds.
People enjoy listening to talk radio because it involves thought-provoking discussions and avoids the fluff. No one is going to casually tune in to just another highlights show when they could casually tune in to a talk radio program. So, effectively, ESPN is going to make Greenberg’s fame and usefulness all but dissipate. As for what will happen with Golic and the Mike & Mike program overall, it will be curious to see if ESPN tries to keep it afloat by appointing a new co-host for Golic (who will need to also be named Mike, of course).
In conclusion, ESPN just doesn’t get it. The suits at the Worldwide Leader need to learn to leave well enough alone before it’s too late because, slowly but surely, all of its original programming is falling by the wayside. And the last thing we need is for Skip Bayless of Fox Sports 1 to be the last famous talking head with a thriving sports talk show. The thought of that will keep you up at night.