In the wake of layoffs and the departure of its top executive, ESPN is preparing to launch a new show that it hopes will become a valuable franchise for the sports network and reinvent its morning lineup.
Set to premiere this spring, “Get Up!” is being framed as a morning show that will balance news and analysis — something more entertainment-driven than key franchise “SportsCenter,” but less bombastic than pure opinion programs such as “Pardon the Interruption.” Hosts Mike Greenberg and Jalen Rose appeared at the Television Critics Association press tour Friday with executive producer Bill Wolff.
Greenberg spoke enthusiastically about the show’s prospects despite recent turmoil at ESPN, which last month saw John Skipper step down as president at the organization, which has also been affected by a steady stream of layoffs.
“Seeing people laid off is something that no one wants to see,” Greenberg said. “It’s very difficult whether it’s people you’ve known for years or someone you’ve never met. Wherever it happens, it’s a reality of life in corporate America now, but it was terrible to see. But I personally am excited be working with Jalen and working with [fellow host Michelle] Beadle and getting something new started.”
The new show, he said, “is something we’ve never done before. This is uncharted waters for the company, but I think we’re a good bet.” Regarding Skipper, he said, “I was certainly stunned and saddened myself. I like John and I hope that he’s doing well.”
Rose expressed support for Skipper, saying, “I like him very much as well. He’s done so much for me and so much for the company,” adding, “I’m sad to see him go.”
Last month, Skipper departed his role as ESPN’s top executive, citing a long-term problem with substance addiction. The move shocked the sports and TV worlds, and came at a time when ESPN’s struggles with subscriber declines have become a drag on corporate parent the Walt Disney Co.
ESPN has also been entangled in controversy over its talent’s use of social media. The network in November unveiled new social-media guidelines after months of controversies over anchors talking race and politics. ESPN suspended “SportsCenter” anchor Jemele Hill last year after she took to Twitter to suggest followers boycott advertisers and sponsors of the Dallas Cowboys after team owner Jerry Jones’ asserted that players who knelt during the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner” would not be able to play.
“It’s an unusual time in America right now,” Wolff said. “So politics have encroached on our happy little world a little more than we’re used to.” He added, “I think that the work that was done in the second half of 2017 to formulate reasonable guidelines for people and to communicate them was effective.”
Greenberg downplayed the possibility that politics and social issues will play a significant role in the new show.
“My audience is there because they want my opinions on sports,” he said. “That’s what they are coming to me for they go other places when hey want other things.”
Rose said that his audience is “a little bit different than Greeny’s” in that it expects him to speak out occasionally on social issues. He defended the company’s track record with talent. “[I’ve been] working for the company 10 years. I’ve never felt muzzled,” he said.