ESPN has set a radical new game plan for “Get Up!” its ambitious attempt at a morning sports-talk show that has so far failed to gain the network a broader audience in the time slot.
The Walt Disney-owned network said co-host Michelle Beadle, one of its most colorful and distinctive personalities, would leave the program as of August 29, and move to Los Angeles to focus more intently on her other duties at ESPN as the host of its popular “NBA Countdown.” The basketball program had originated from ESPN’s Los Angeles production facilities before moving to New York to accommodate Beadle’s new morning duties as well as those of “Get Up” co-host Jalen Rose. The former NBA star is expected to continue working on “Get Up” when “he has no ‘NBA Countdown’ responsibilities in Los Angeles,” the network said.
ESPN will also cut “Get Up” to two hours from three, ceding the 7 a.m. time slot to its venerable “SportsCenter” and leaving “Get Up” host Mike Greenberg to continue with the program along with a bevy of guest contributors. Heading into football season, the program is expected to drill down on pigskin, enlisting the aid of ESPN’s top NFL and college football commentators.
“We remain very committed to ‘Get Up!’ and the show continues to provide important context, wide-ranging expertise and strong analysis and opinions, led by Mike Greenberg, Jalen Rose and a very talented, hard-working team,” said Conor Schell, the ESPN executive vice president who oversees content, in a prepared statement. “It remains a central part of our revamped morning lineup.”
Beadle likely cemented her fate earlier this week when she announced on the show that she was no longer watching football due to the way the sport treated women — just before the NFL and college-football seasons are set to begin in earnest. ESPN is also on a campaign to boost its standing with the NFL, which hasn’t made the network’s flagship “Monday Night Football” a priority in recent seasons.
ESPN has, at least so far, not been able to move up with “Get Up!” The show launched in early April and has been hard-pressed to generate an audience on par with ESPN’s grander goals for the program. “Get Up” is one of several attempts ESPN has made to spar more directly with a horde of “hot talk” programs offered on rival sports-TV outlets large and small that give the hosts free range to criticize and rant. Another effort, setting Jemele Hill and Michael Smith in a reworked 6 p.m. hour of “SportsCenter” resulted in a mismatch of anchors and format — the hosts were told after several months on air to focus more on the scores and games and not commentary — and was scotched in January.
The network has been eager to move its production beyond what it can do from its headquarters in Bristol, Conn., and “Get Up!” was the first of a series of shows designed to hold forth from a snazzy new facility in New York, just steps away from Manhattan’s South Street Seaport. The show’s three anchors tackle sports issues each day with scenes of the East River behind them, in a studio festooned with neon signs and a spiral staircase. ESPN recently announced that Stephen A. Smith would begin anchoring his popular “First Take” from New York in September.
But “Get Up” has been plagued by criticism from the start. The hosts’ chemistry has been called into question, and ESPN has seemed particularly eager to keep “Get Up” from crossing into the lifestyle and entertainment territory typically mined by “Good Morning America” and “Today.” It’s a line the network has walked in the past, after it launched an ESPN2 morning program called “Cold Pizza” that sent correspondents to the Golden Globes and political conventions. On most days, “Get Up” has failed to capture more than 300,000 viewers, making it tough to feed audiences to late-morning and early-afternoon programming.
In May, ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro said executives stood firmly behind the program but were “monitoring it daily” to chart its progress.
Maria Taylor, Laura Rutledge, Dianna Russini and Jen Lada, each of whom has worked as a guest host on “Get Up!” since its launch, will make appearances on the show and also continue with their other duties. During football season “Get Up!” will feature at least one segment with a member of ESPN’s vast pool of football analysts, including Ryan Clark, Victor Cruz, Paul Finebaum, Dan Orlovsky, Jesse Palmer, Louis Riddick, Rex Ryan, Adam Schefter, Marcus Spears, Jonathan Vilma and Damien Woody.