ESPN First Take is going to relaunch itself with a new format, focusing on debates between commentators Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith.
ESPN’s 2-hour morning show gets its makeover on Monday, June 4th. Stephen A. Smith will be joining the show full-time, five days a week. Though Smith has long been a valued ESPN commentator and featured guest, he’ll now be sitting side-by-side Skip Bayless at the debate desk. The two will debate each other for the first hour, with the second hour dedicated to guest analysts, former athletes, and other sports pundits. Jay Crawford will stay on to moderate.
“We tweaked the show format last year to focus more on debate and specifically on presenting and challenging Skip’s opinions and we saw our viewers respond to that change,” said Jamie Horowitz, ESPN’s vice president of original programming and production. “Given the response we’ve seen on social platforms like Twitter and Facebook, we dug a bit deeper into the ratings data and know that the riveting combination of Stephen A. and Skip debating their views resonates with our viewers. Our plan with this relaunch is to give them even more of the show elements they like best.”
Social media has played a big role in the decision, and has backed ratings for First Take, which has seen year-to-date ratings up 34% among all viewers in 2012.
“Stephen A. and Skip have both enjoyed long and successful journalism careers and their years of experience enable them to offer compelling opinions on a variety of topics,” Horowitz said. “They will both passionately defend their positions and while viewers may not always agree with either Skip or Stephen A., the response across social media and the data both suggest that they are often entertained by the insightful conversations.”
Do you think Stephen A. Smith’s inclusion in the new format of ESPN First Take will be successful?