ESPN is shaking up its morning schedule beginning April 2, as the sports network launches a three-hour morning show called Get Up in an effort to attract audiences during one of the only times of day when TV viewing is still a regular part of their schedule.
The series, which will feature Michelle Beadle, Mike Greenberg and Jalen Rose, is “ESPN’s first real stab at morning television,” Bill Wolff, vp of studio production for ESPN, said at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour.
The news, opinion and analysis show will air on ESPN at 7 a.m each morning with a repeat viewing at 10 a.m. on ESPN2.
“[Get Up is] an opportunity for a new chapter at ESPN,” said Greenberg, who just wrapped two decades as half of Mike & Mike on ESPN Radio. “We’re going into unchartered waters for a company. I think we’re a good bet.”
Wolff said mornings are still one of the only times of day when people’s routines “still include TV,” adding, “there’s a great opportunity to aggregate audiences at this time of day.”
Added Rose, “They need this. It doesn’t exist. We’ve got to give the people what they want.”
The new morning show “will offer news and analysis of the previous night’s sporting events, but we’ll also try to be the table-setter for a whole day of talking about sports” by “establishing narratives and making theses,” Wolff said.
What will set Get Up apart from ESPN’s other shows is “personality,” according to Wolff.
“So much of television news and information programming really comes down to the cast you put together,” he said. “We’ll be somewhere on the spectrum between straight news and all-argument.”
The focus on personality also means pressure on those personalities to deliver. “As far as I’m concerned, failure is not an option,” Rose said.
Greenberg said he asked for Rose to be part of Get Up because “he makes it fun every day.” When you’re making a three-hour show, “if it isn’t fun, then that’s going to come across every day on television,” he said.
Beadle, who skipped the Get Up press tour appearance because she had the flu, “is extremely comfortable with who she is,” Wolff said. “Michelle Beadle makes good TV.”
While Get Up is a big priority for the network, so is the show it’s replacing in the mornings, SportsCenter, which will shift to ESPN2 in the mornings but continue to air on ESPN during the rest of the day.
In the past three or four months, Wolff said, “the focus on the production of SportsCenter has gone up, and the product has improved markedly.”
He said energizing SportsCenter, the most successful brand in ESPN history, “is a huge priority for the network.”
While ESPN’s layoffs in November were “terrible to see,” Greenberg said he feels “great” about ESPN’s future.
“I think the new show is going to be phenomenal,” he said.
Greenberg said he was “stunned and saddened” by ESPN CEO John Skipper’s sudden departure from the network last month to deal with addiction problems.
“I like him very much and I hope he’s doing well,” he said.
As politics has increasingly encroached into the world of sports, “it’s an unusual time in America right now,” Wolff said. But companywide, “we are in the business of sports, and our responsibility is entertainment in regard to sports.” He thinks people come to ESPN as an escape from politics, and it is the network’s responsibility to offer that.
Rose also addressed the recent controversy over ESPN personalities who have come under fire for their social media feeds, like Jemele Hill, who was suspended last October because of a late-night tweet. In his 10 years at the network, “I’ve never been muzzled” and told what to say or how to dress, Rose said.