On the surface, it was a win for Get Up to average 434,000 viewers on Friday morning after the first round of the Draft. However, every silver lining has a touch of gray, as even though this was the most people who watched Get Up in its first month on ESPN, it was a drop of more than 20% versus the corresponding SportsCenter programs last year.
All told, the much-ballyhooed program with Mike Greenberg, Michelle Beadle, and Jalen Rose was down nearly 18% year-over-year versus SportsCenter for the month of April, while also dragging down the viewership for First Take, which had been making incremental gains for months but finished April down over 6% versus 2017.
With numbers from Showbuzz Daily (and @SportsTVRatings, who filled in the blank for last Weds), here is the chart for how the two programs performed in April:
1) These numbers represent our counting of April as opposed to how Nielsen classifies the month; if you were going by Nielsen’s calendar, 2017 went from March 27-April 30, 2017, while 2018 went April 2 – April 29, which means last year measured an extra week. However, we just tabulated the days actually in April 2018 individually, and measured them against the corresponding days last year, which included Monday, May 1st to correspond with this past Monday, April 30th.
2) A large reason the post-Draft episodes were down so big, even though aggregate NFL Draft viewership was up this year when you count all networks, is that Fox picked up coverage of the Draft. That ate into ESPN’s market share. This year the first night of the Draft averaged 5.3 million viewers on ESPN while last year it drew 6.7 million.
3) Even though it is still early and Get Up should reasonably be expected to get through the Super Bowl to see if it can find its footing, it’s a very bad sign that it is posting these numbers at the start of the NBA playoffs. According to Austin Karp of the Sports Business Journal, aggregate NBA playoff ratings are up 2% versus last year. This should mean that discussion should not be seeing double-digit declines, especially on a program where two-thirds of the main panelists are directly connected with NBA bumper programming.
4) Beadle and Jalen are spending A LOT of time together between Get Up and Countdown, and some agitation is starting to bleed through the screen. Look at the 2:20-mark of this clip:
5) As we noted verbatim when we covered this topic a couple weeks ago, ESPN issued a press release at the beginning of April touting how strongly its studio shows had performed in March. With regard to First Take, it was noted that the month was up 2% year-over-year, that the show’s audience had grown for nine straight months, and that it was the most-viewed first quarter of the year ever for the program. For that quarter, First Take averaged 474,000 viewers a day and was up 4% year-over-year. Clearly, Get Up has negatively affected First Take’s audience, and ESPN is lucky in many regards that the show has such loyal viewers that the hemorrhaging of its lead-in hasn’t had worse consequences.
Even with the drop, First Take achieved the following (and is still in aggregate up 3% for the year vs. 2017):
6) While it may be true that Get Up didn’t get the borderline obscene promotion that past ESPN launches like SC6 received, don’t let anyone tell you this was a soft launch. If you watch ESPN every day, you have seen ads for Get Up featuring a talking baby or cup of coffee an agonizing amount of times. Greenberg, Beadle, and Rose are making nearly $15 million combined, the incremental New York studio and union production costs are not inexpensive, a cash cow radio show was broken up to make way for this program, and they are losing nearly a fifth of the viewers from a show that ESPN executives were evidently displeased with the performance of because they deemed that it needed dire upheaval.
Before it launched, the show’s producer Bill Wolff told the New York Times, “We need to try to increase the number of viewers that come to us. That’s measurable. That’s tangible.”
A month in, the decrease has been measurable and tangible.