First Take December Ratings Down 15 Percent From 2011, The Tim Tebow Effect?

Jamie Horowitz has made his vision for First Take clear. Customers show what they want with their eyeballs. Criticisms about integrity and taste level matter little. What happens when race-baiting, an attractive host and carnival antics are no longer attracting eyeballs and people are not embracing debate?

First Take’s December ratings were down 15 percent from December 2011, an ESPN source told me. What’s not entirely clear is the reason for it.

We would hope viewers would be fed up with the race-baiting. December saw Rob Parker suspended and eventually let go for questioning “cornball brother” Robert Griffin III’s blackness. It also came in the aftermath of Stephen A. Smith dropping the N-word. It is hard to credit those incidents, though, when cheap racial discourse and Stephen A. Smith getting a little too loose with his barbershop banter have long been fixtures of the show.

Tim Tebow may be your answer. In December 2011, Tim Tebow was causing discord and creating national memes while steering the Denver Broncos to the playoffs. First Take was the show most shameless about going wall-to-wall Tebow. He was still quite a big deal in August. Months later the Heisman-winning quarterback is a non-entity, at risk of getting run out of the league.

A solid eight to nine months of relevant Tebow material might explain why, via ESPN PR, First Take ratings for all of 2012 were up 21 percent over 2011.

First Take’s recent ratings decline may be encouraging, but critics should not get too excited. According to the source, It may take a sustained three or four month decline before the network reevaluates the show. Prominent Bayless target LeBron is now a non-starter, though that’s still plenty of time for a Tebow or Jeremy Lin type to reignite the contrived debate format.

[Photo via USA Today Sports]

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