Tag Archives: Skip Bayless

Embrace debate helping or hurting ESPN

 BY ANTHONY ALFORD

Is it more important for a show to be defined by creditability and integrity, or by ratings and attention? That is the issue for ESPN2’s two-hour morning show, First Take, starring Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith. Initially, this program was designed to be a lighter, general interest counterpart to ESPN’s Sportscenter. But the ratings never supported the format and First Take was in danger of being canceled. But then came Tim Tebow and the show went from respectable, but irreverent to a joke with high ratings.

The show’s tagline “embrace debate” has caused conflict among the ESPN networks. This show should be a flop considering the personalities of it stars. Stephen A. Smith is a loudmouth who wins arguments by talking louder than everyone else in the room. Skip Bayless is considered by many to be a joke. He takes the unpopular opinion just to get attention, not because his opinion is actually logical and correct. He uses his daily two-hour platform to openly cheer for Tebow, call LeBron James overrated and challenge athletes to “debate” him.

Last week, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman took the bait and debated Bayless. Sherman’s main adjective was ripping Bayless during their entire debate. And while Bayless-haters believe this was a win for Sherman, this was really a win for Bayless and First Take. In fact, as ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd explains, this was a “walk-off grand slam” for Bayless because Sherman gave Bayless an endless amount of free promotion and attention.

According to ESPN, First Take has increased its total viewership by 21 percent between 2011 and 2012. The big number is their target audience of males, ages 18-34, which is very attractive to advertisers. Between 2011 and 2012, First Take gained 32 percent in viewership in the male 18-34 demographic.

Given the show’s success, it has impacted viewership for SportsCenter. According to Nielsen data, Sportscenter (10-11 a.m.) led First Take in ratings by 636,000 viewers in September 2011. However, the difference between the two shows decreased dramatically as First Take offered more time to Tim Tebow when he was quarterback for the Denver Broncos. By March 2012, when Tim Tebow was traded to the New York Jets, Sportscenter only led by 182,000 viewers according to Nielson data. First Take is no longer a secondary option; it became Sportscenter’s competition.

Since that time, the morning Sportscenter has taken on a debate flair of its own. Most recently, ESPN analysts debated which win streaks between the NBA’s Miami Heat and the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks is better.

First Take has certainly put a dark cloud over ESPN and its flagship program. This is ill-timed considering it will have competition later this year from Fox Sports 1, Fox’s new 24-hour sports network. The ratings are certainly increasing, however the ESPN and Sportscenter brands are losing creditability by the day. The answer is not eliminating First Take as many media writers have suggested. Instead, the morning Sportscenter must improve the quality of its show so it’s not competing with its ESPN2 counterpart. Limit the worthless debate segments and present an intelligent program that Sportscenter is capable of producing.

First Take a ‘must watch’

BY MATTHEW OSTROW

The setup of ESPN’s debate show is Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless discussing various issues in sports with Jay Crawford as host.  Stephen A. and Skip are both strong personalities who constantly take stances on the current issues in sports.  Both make very bold claims constantly, which makes for an entertaining show.

Earlier in the year, after Scottie Pippen said Lebron James is the best player ever, Stephen A. was very angry. He responded, “Scottie Pippen ought to be banned from Chicago for the day.” Stephen A. has also called former Raider’s quarterback Jamarcus Russell, “Jabba the Hut, lazy fat slob.”  It is statements like this that make Stephen A. a television personality people either love or love to hate.

Skip has become one of the most vocal people in the media giving Lebron James grief.  Skip has gone on to call Lebron names such as, “the Frozen One” and “Prince James.” This baffles Stephen A. Smith who is a pretty big Lebron supporter.  Stephen A. often uses words such a blasphemous and absolutely ridiculous.  Sometimes, while Skip makes his point, Stephen A. pretends to fall asleep or look at his phone. 

The issue with First Take is, at times, it can become more about whose prediction was right and not about the actual sporting event.  Nonetheless, the show has become something fans talk about during the actual sporting event.  During the final game of the NBA finals, after Lebron won, many people were very excited to see what Skip would say about it. 

First Take is one of the most entertaining sport talk shows on television.  With celebrity guests and the larger-than-life characters, First Take has become must watch sports entertainment.