One of the longest-running partnerships in sports radio could come to an end in the not-so-distant future.
SI.com has learned that ESPN executives are exploring moving Mike Greenberg—one half of the long-running Mike & Mike radio show on ESPN Radio—into a new role as the lead host of a television show that would air between 6–10 a.m on ESPN. The new show would potentially have elements of SportsCenter—which currently airs at that time—as well as a traditional morning show. Such a move would put an end to end to Greenberg’s on-air partnership with Mike Golic, which began in October 1998. Mike & Mike currently airs weekdays on ESPN Radio from 6–10 a.m. ET and is simulcast on ESPN2.
An ESPN spokesman declined comment on Wednesday morning.
It’s important to note these are exploratory talks. No decision is final yet, as ESPN management has been discussing different scenarios to reengineer its morning SportsCenter show. The current early morning SportsCenter group has faced significant ratings challenges this year, through no fault of the talent on set. Consumer choices are heavy in the morning, including sport-specific shows such as NFL Network’s Good Morning Football, a newcomer that has drawn 100,000-plus viewers per show. Such talks regarding Greenberg and other scenarios for ESPN and ESPN2 between the hours of 6–10 a.m. ET are happening because ESPN management has undergone significant changes in the last few months in the programming and production department. With former executive vice president of production and programming John Wildhack leaving to become the athletic director at Syracuse, new ideas are being discussed.
If you want a singular snapshot of SportsCenter’s morning viewership: Last Thursday SportsCenter drew 269,000 viewers from 6–7 a.m.; 307,000 viewers from 7–8 a.m.; 277,000 viewers during the 8–9 a.m. hour, and 263,000 from 9-10 a.m. Mike & Mike averaged 289,000 on ESPN2 during the same period. No doubt some in management would postulate that a Greenberg-fronted show could draw more than the current SportsCenter if it moved from ESPN2 to ESPN. If such a show comes to fruition, expect opinion-oriented talent (perhaps from CAA, which represent Greenberg) to join him.
During the last 18 months the Mike & Mike brand has been in the news, mostly for potential changes to the show. In May 2015, during its annual upfronts for ad buyers, ESPN boldly announced the show would move from its long-time Bristol, Connecticut, location to ABC’s Times Square studio in New York City, beginning in February 2016. The move was designed to turn Mike & Mike into a Good Morning America-style program, including interacting with the ABC show, which is also under the Disney aegis. The move never happened. ESPN pulled the plug on the idea a couple of months later.
Cris Carter was later added to the show in an attempt (in theory) to give it more juice. He is no longer with ESPN. In March I asked Traug Keller, who oversees all aspects of the ESPN’s audio business, including talent, staffing, national programming content, scheduling and event production, about Mike & Mike’s content.
“I will tell you that a litmus test of mine for Mike & Mike and how it fits in with the brand is I want Mike & Mike to be able to be on with the moms driving the kids in the backseat to school,” Keller said. “We get feedback on that, and it matters. It matters to our brand. Do we want to have the sports show of record where commissioners want to come to get their point of view across? Yes. All that stuff matters. It actually allows us to deliver an audience that advertisers feel very comfortable in and more and more today advertisers are trying to stay away from controversial talk.
“We feel good about the brand we are putting forth. Now ratings are absolutely important. We added Cris Carter in the fall [to Mike & Mike] and it absolutely helped move the ratings. We’ve brought in [His & Hers co-hosts] Jemele Hill and Michael Smith from time to time and that has helped. We are doing things to constantly tweak the ratings. I’m not ceding it but I am telling you there is a larger picture.”
That was then.
If ESPN does break up the Mikes, they would have a large hole to fill on the audio side given the Mike & Mike show has been a revenue-driver for the division for a decade-plus. It’s also the signature show for ESPN in many radio markets across the country. Some at ESPN have postulated that Golic would join his son Mike Jr. (who also works at ESPN Radio) in some sort of Golic & Golic show. But it seems a long shot that such a new show would immediately become ESPN Radio’s signature flagship morning show.
The Noise Report
1. ESPN’s Monday Night Football game between the Saints and Falcons drew 8.047 million viewers on ESPN, the lowest MNF viewership in history. The game went head-to-head against the first Presidential debate. The previous lowest-ever viewership for a MNF game, per Sports Media Watch, was 8.449 million for a Saints/Falcons game in 2007.
2. David Schaefer, a vice president of communications for the Golf Channel, said his network aired 23 hours of commercial-free coverage on the passing of Arnold Palmer. As part of that coverage, the Golf Channel had 106 different voices— from on-air staffers to interview subjects—on Palmer’s impact.
2a. The AP’s Rachel Cohen examined the Golf Channel’s coverage of Palmer’s death.
3. For months, ESPN institutionally opted not to have its executives respond to FS1 outside of an occasional quote. But last week I received an email from ESPN p.r. saying management was ready to talk about FS1. And talk they did. Here’s my Sunday column on ESPN firing back at FS1.
3a. Episode 78 of the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast features sports journalists and longtime Sports Illustrated senior writers Michael Farber and Jack McCallum. Farber currently works for TSN of Canada, among other entities, while McCallum is a freelance writer working on a basketball book involving the Golden State Warriors.
In this episode, Farber and McCallum discuss their best and toughest interview subjects over the years; the media access given to them by Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan; transitioning from a fulltime writing job to other projects; what writers and broadcasters pay attention to today; why Isiah Thomas was a tough interview for McCallum and why Thomas once gave Farber a plant; how to transition from print to television; why Gordie Howe is one of the alltime media friendly subjects; thoughts on Olympic hockey and basketball and the World Cup of hockey; McCallum’s top 5 NBA players of all time (Jordan, Chamberlain, Kareem, Magic and LeBron) and Farber’s top five NHL players of all time (and why he flip-flops Orr and Gretzky often); how SI can stay relevant today, and much more.
4. ESPN/ABC will air three college football games next weekend pitting Top 10 teams (and conference opponents) against each other.
• No. 3 Louisville at No. 5 Clemson will air on ABC at 8 p.m. ET.
• No. 7 Stanford plays at No. 10 Washington will air Friday night at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.
• No. 8 Wisconsin plays at No. 4 Michigan at 3:30 p.m. on ABC.
ESPN said Week 5 is the earliest in a season that a single week has featured three Top 10 matchups—in or out of conference play.
5. The ESPN2 show His and Hers did a terrific spoof of Anchorman, featuring many front-facing ESPN people.
5a. The NBA’s preseason television schedule will open on Oct. 1 at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBA TV with Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors playing the Toronto Raptors. NBA TV will air 29 preseason games.