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Volume 25 No. 44
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ESPN's "Get Up!" Has Work To Do To Improve Early Low Viewership

ESPN's new morning show "Get Up!" has suffered from low viewership during its initial episodes, and author James Andrew Miller said the show's key players and execs "need to get their act together by the beginning of football season" and "basically have until next year’s Super Bowl" to right the ship. Miller, appearing on Richard Deitsch's media podcast for THE ATHLETIC, said, "The idea of throwing so much ESPN horsepower at one show automatically suggested that this was something that was going to be a big deal for them. Because it’s a big deal for them, I think the headline right now is that they still have time. ... I don’t think anything is going to happen to it, no matter what the ratings are. But with that said, it’ll be interesting to see what (new ESPN President Jimmy) Pitaro’s patience level is going to be with it versus (former ESPN President John) Skipper’s, because Skipper gave birth to this. If he was still there, I think they certainly would have a built-in margin of error that (Pitaro) may not necessarily have with that. I don’t think they're thrilled with the ratings, but ... they knew they were trying to change viewing habits at a very competitive time of day.” Miller noted ESPN morning shows have been "losing viewers, so it’s a tough place to come in." He also said there have been a "few things that have been a tad askew for me, like having this reminder on the screen that ‘SportsCenter’ is on ESPN2." Miller: "Why would you want to do that? Why would you remind people about something that they already know is right on the next channel? … The idea that was there immediately said to the viewers, 'We’re not going to do any of those things so if you want those things, they’re next door.’ It’s a hell of a way to watch a show.”

GROUP EFFORT: Miller said of the makeup of the show and its effect on ratings, "It’s not called ‘The Mike Greenberg Show,’ and the fact that Jalen (Rose) and Michelle (Beadle) are so prominent makes it an ensemble piece. … (Greenberg) hasn’t positioned himself as a controversial figure that gets some of those higher numbers. I think they were smart to include a group dynamic, and because of that group dynamic and the fact that it’s three hours every day, there’s a lot to toy around with. I still think that they seem to believe that there’s going to be growth to this show and the timing of the debut is going to turn out to be really great.” Miller added, “There’s got to be a lot of smart people over there who have the ability to take talent that they believe in and talent that has received a lot of support from the audience before, and turn it into a successful TV show."

WHAT DOES THE SHOW WANT TO BE? Deitsch noted that the show had a lot of “‘SportsNation’-y kind of stuff,” and that it felt “overly formatted.” Miller: “I had someone tell me that they’re surprised by two things in the first week. One was that it didn’t feel like a company-wide effort. One of the things that they used to do very well was no matter what else was going on in the ESPN universe, you kind of flood the zone with this cross-promotional world of the debut of something. ... The second part was that while they’ve had some guests, given all of the time they had before the debut, it could have been a booking show, a guest-driven show, in addition to whatever kind of show they wanted to have. … It gets back to the central question: Why do people want to tune into this show? If it’s to see those three people interact, that’s fine, but I don’t know if that number is really big enough. ... There’s the highlights and the analysis that you might get on ‘SportsCenter,’ but then you ask yourself if you’re differentiating enough." Miller added, "You can’t cancel it after four or five months. It wouldn’t make sense, so I think the best thing is to is continue to be as open to development and change as possible."

FORCED ERROR? The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami said of the show, "It just feels slow to me. I thought it was going to be peppier. I thought there was going to be more and I don’t feel it. … If they can deliver a great show in two months, then we won’t be talking about this as much, but this is probably about as poorly as you can open up something on this big of a stage.” Black Sports Online’s Robert Littal added, “ESPN is very stubborn, and this is a case of them probably realizing early on that this wasn’t going to work, but because they’re ESPN and the worldwide leader, they’re like, ‘We’re going to force this on you!’" (“Sports Media with Richard Deitsch,” THEATHLETIC.com, 4/12). FOXNEWS.com's Brian Flood noted “Get Up!” was "in trouble before it even debuted." A feature in The Hollywood Reporter last month "not only implied that the show would dabble in politics but also revealed the salaries of the co-hosts." ESPN insiders were "fuming at the story’s headline," -- ESPN Plans To Wake Up Woke With New Morning Show" -- and the net "downplayed the role politics would play on the show." The show "hasn’t taken a political stance thus far, but many critics feel that it’s only a matter of time" (FOXNEWS.com, 4/11).