ESPN’s former chief, John Skipper, quit the network months ago to deal with his drug addiction problems. However, now critics are blaming him for the “expensive calamity” that is the network’s newly launched morning show, Get Up!
In December, Skipper announced he was resigning as president of the cable sports network to deal with his addiction to cocaine. Skipper said that his drug dealer tried to blackmail him and that undermined his position at the network making his leadership there untenable.
But despite the fact that he left in December, Skipper’s baleful influence on the network has continued up to this month, upon the debut of the new morning show, Get Up! A show which Skipper had a big hand in planning.
Hosted by Mike Greenberg, Michelle Beadle, and former NBA star Jalen Rose, Get Up! premiered on April 2 after months of planning and advertising. But its first week saw dismal ratings.
The show’s debut earned a low 283,000 viewers on Monday. Then, day two saw ratings fall to 243,000 viewers. And the numbers kept falling. Wednesday earned only 200,000 viewers and Thursday hit only 198,000 viewers.
The show was even trounced in the ratings by kid’s cartoon Peppa Pig which earned 750,000 viewers on Monday.
Indeed, the ratings were worse than the show ESPN replaced. According to Fox News, “The first five episodes of Get Up! were down 15 percent compared to episodes of SportsCenter that ran in its time slot the previous week, according Nielsen.
“The first week finished with a dismal average viewership of 259,000 viewers. The first four episodes were down a whopping 24 percent compared to last year’s programming in the same time slot,” Fox wrote.
The debut was called a “complete and total disaster,” and some sportswriters laid the blame at John Skipper’s feet.
Outkick the Coverage’s Clay Travis, for instance, wrote, “In one incredibly disastrous move, Skipper torpedoed his most successful radio show of all time, blew up his most valuable TV franchise, and launched a dud of a new program.”
Skipper “spent millions of more dollars a year to make millions of dollars less,” Travis added.
Another problem Skipper left for ESPN is that the new morning show is filmed in an expensive, brand new studio built especially for the show in New York City. This expense has annoyed employees at ESPN, most of whom have seen hundreds of close friends laid off as a cost-cutting measure.
“ESPN suddenly has a brand new New York City studio and the cool kids, making all the money, get to go there to make a brand new show while all the losers get left behind in Bristol. It creates a substantial morale issue,” Travis wrote. “Particularly when it’s coupled with the fact that everyone knows more job cuts are coming and everyone also knows that hundreds of people have all been fired to allow investments in a show like this.”
Fox noted that Author James Andrew Miller also blamed Skipper for the mess.
‘I think they need to get their act together by the beginning of football season,’ Miller said. ‘It’s interesting to see what Pitaro’s patience level is going to be with it versus Skipper’s because Skipper gave birth to this.’
Miller predicted that changes won’t be made until next year’s Super Bowl ‘no matter what the ratings are,’ and said that Skipper would have given ‘Get Up!’ more room for error in the show’s early stages. Miller also said if the show fails, it could be a major roadblock the next time ESPN wants to lure talent from rival networks because executives won’t be able to promise success.
‘I think there’s a lot at stake just in terms of the world of ESPN. This network needs to be able to deliver a successful show. It’s just as simple as that,’ Miller said. ‘If you fail at doing this show, the ramifications are serious.’
“Some industry insiders feel ESPN will eventually blame Skipper for the show’s demise, as he would make an easy scapegoat who is no longer with the company,” Fox concluded.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.