ESPN not playing with ‘Hollywood’

Poor ratings caused cabler to nix skein

NEW YORK — It turns out ESPN2 wasn’t ready for its close-up: The network has canceled “ESPN Hollywood,” its attempt to promote celebrity athletes the way “Entertainment Tonight” ballyhoos showbiz celebs.

Six months ago, ESPN2 was touting the half-hour “Hollywood,” which premiered Aug. 15, as a potential signature show on the network similar to “SportsCenter” on its older sibling. The budget was a robust $15 million for the first year.

Poor Nielsen ratings caused ESPN2 to bring down the curtain on “Hollywood,” which will present its swan song Jan. 26. The co-hosts were Thea Andrews and Mario Lopez.

Praising the ability of the series to “capture the cross-currents of sports and entertainment,” John Skipper, executive VP of content for ESPN, said, “Our research and the ratings clearly suggest that a daily show may have been too much.”

Replacing “Hollywood” in its 6 o’clock slot on weeknights, beginning Jan. 30, is a “Best of Mike & Mike” half-hour, an edited version of the four-hour live morning show starring Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg, which began at 6 a.m. on ESPN2 two weeks ago. Also on Jan. 30, “Quite Frankly With Stephen A. Smith” will move from its 6:30 p.m. timeslot to a latenight time period at 11.

Dave Berson, senior VP of programming and promotions for ESPN, said the ratings of ESPN2 have grown since the four-hour “Mike & Mike in the Morning” kicked off after moving to the network from ESPN News. “Cold Pizza,” ESPN2’s two-hour daily sports equivalent of “The Today Show” or “Good Morning, America,” also has gotten a boost in the ratings since it moved from 8 to 10 a.m., pushed out by “Mike & Mike.”

Berson said ESPN2 will try to absorb some of the staff of “Hollywood” into such shows as “Cold Pizza” or ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” which on some days can run for as many as 12 hours.

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