It’s unclear what would have been the benchmark for success for Get Up from a first week ratings perspective, but the first three days of ratings for the new ESPN morning program with Mike Greenberg, Michelle Beadle, and Jalen Rose cannot be construed as anything other than a supreme disappointment.
The opening day viewership of 283,000 was down 12% versus Monday morning SportsCenter in April last year, according to John Ourand. Tuesday’s 243,000 viewers was down 25% year over year (according to Bob Seidman, last year’s SportsCenter on the same Tuesday in April averaged 323,000 viewers). The overnights for Wednesday also do not look good:
It really does seem like there is some glee about this rocky start in viewership for the show, and this is attributable to a number of reasons. There is the juxtaposition that there have been hundreds of layoffs at ESPN the last several years, and then the talent salaries leaked in the Hollywood Reporter with the trio making nearly $15 million combined (here is an explanation of why Beadle had the internal leverage to make $5 million).
Further, over the last 18 months where this show has been in development, just about everyone in the sports media industry — at least amongst the dozens I talk to — has openly expressed skepticism that this was a good idea. When you take into account the salaries, the cost of the New York studio, and the opportunity cost of breaking up the wildly profitable Mike & Mike, there is already some schadenfreude about being right, even if it might be jumping the gun a little bit.
There are some reasonable explanations for why the show hasn’t lit the world on fire, but even those don’t altogether explain the significant drop-off in year-over-year viewership. As Seidman pointed out, The Villanova-Michigan blowout doesn’t fuel as interesting a discussion as the contested North Carolina-Gonzaga final did a year ago. Like what happened with SC6 where people were jarred by a dramatic format change, viewers have tuned into ESPN for decades expecting to see the standard SportsCenter. Get Up will have to bring more people in than the initial shock of the format change repels. Does it have the right personalities and chemistry?
There are a few things Get Up needs badly to happen: Tiger Woods roaring at The Masters today would lead viewers to flip to ESPN early tomorrow in anticipation of both the conversation and the ensuing broadcast. The NBA playoffs start on April 14th, and if those are as hot as expected there should be a corresponding boost to all ESPN studio programming. From there, we have an NBA Draft stocked with gamechanging talents and the always-intriguing LeBron free agency.
It would be an exaggeration to say already that Get Up cannot be salvaged, but it does already feel like there is blood in the water. At the very least, they need a momentum push from the NBA playoffs, and to get some new people into the tent that enjoy what they see and stay there.