Ratings for ESPN’s revamped SportsCenter have seen a huge jump since its two “woke” hosts — Jemele Hill and Michael Smith — were replaced by a more sports-minded Sage Steele and Kevin Negandhi.
On June 20, ESPN excitedly tweeted out the news that the new Sage Steele hosted version of SportsCenter has seen “4 consecutive months of viewership growth.” The same tweet noted that the show is “up six percent current quarter to date.”
SportsCenter at 6 p.m. ET viewership is up!
— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) June 20, 2018
This loud ratings celebration is quite a kick to the face of Jemele Hill and Michael Smith, the two fired hosts who seemed more worried about social justice issues than sports.
But, it is an inescapable fact that with Steele and co-host Kevin Negandhi at the helm, SportsCenter has seen quite a noticeable hike in ratings. As ESPN said in its press release, since May 14 when Steele and Negandhi took over, “the program averaged 531,000 viewers through the rest of the month, up 19 percent over the 447,000 average for the same period in 2017.
“For the quarter of April, May and June to date, the program has averaged 491,000 viewers, a six percent rise over the average of 463,000 for the same period last year,” the network concluded.
OutKick the Coverage’s Clay Travis further noted that it is quite remarkable to see ESPN put out so many in-Hill’s-face press releases about her former platform doing so well without her.
Indeed, in its report on the sports network’s internal political divide, Hollywood Reporter seemed to notice that ESPN is directly working to undermine Hill and Michael Smith’s standing in the company. In its coverage of the news, HR wrote, “When Hill, who became a lightning rod with critics dubbing the show ‘WokeCenter,’ left in February, Norby Williamson, ESPN’s executive VP and executive editor of studio production, quipped in front of a room full of people: ‘One down, one to go.'”
Travis insisted that ESPN is putting on the pressure in the hopes that Hill — and maybe Smith along with her — will just quit over the disrespect they are suffering. But, with a $10 million annual salary that will not be easily replaced by any other outlet, one would think both Hill and Smith would sit tight and take all the abuse in stride until they are fired outright or until their contracts expire and are not renewed.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.