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Like many legacy media brands, ESPN is in the throes of a digital reinvention. It has a new president — Jimmy Pitaro, the former head of Disney’s interactive media division — and a soon-to-launch OTT service. But on April 2, it will unveil a most traditional TV staple: a morning show.
Get Up!, which will air weekdays from 7 to 10 a.m., is hosted by Mike Greenberg (aka Greeny, the erstwhile partner of Mike Golic on ESPN Radio’s long-running Mike & Mike), Michelle Beadle (outspoken feminist and sports/culture observer) and Jalen Rose (NBA journeyman turned sports media star). Its executive producer, Bill Wolff, returned to ESPN in 2017 after stints with the likes of Rachel Maddow and The View.
It’s a big, costly swing for the network, including leasing a 21,000-square-foot studio and office complex in Manhattan’s South Street Seaport and nearly $15 million in talent salaries ($6.5 million for Greenberg, 50; $5 million for Beadle, 42; and $3 million for Rose, 45, sources say). Greenberg has worked with Rose on various ESPN platforms but never with Beadle, who returned to the network in 2014 after less than two years at NBC.
With the NYC studio under construction, the team has been rehearsing at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut. “From the first second she started talking,” says Greenberg, “the only thought going through my mind was, I better step up my game because she is ready.”
Adds Wolff: “From the first time they sat down on a set it was like ok, we got it. Alright, it was a good calculation. But it’s nothing but a theory until you do it. But the casting, which is the most important thing, is right.”
Get Up!‘s NYC locale should widen its booking pool, and its six-seat anchor desk will make room for guests including regular appearances from ESPN NFL analysts Booger McFarland and Damien Woody. And the plan is to eventually have several additional shows and personalities based there including NBA Countdown, First Take, Around the Horn and Pablo Torre and Bomani Jones’ High Noon. Katie Nolan, who recently joined the network from Fox Sports.
Wolff and the show’s hosts stress that the show’s top mandate is to cover sports as the network pivots away from a broader cultural focus cultivated by former president John Skipper.
“What we need to be is flexible,” says Greenberg. “Fans of sports have different needs on different days and we need to be all things to all people. There are days when we need to be the best news and information sports broadcast that there is; to cover a big story with the resources of ESPN. And then there are days that will lend themselves more to being stronger on analysis; the day after a particularly big game.”
Still, “when players take a knee, then it deserves coverage and conversation,” notes Wolff, referring to NFL players’ national anthem protests. “If something political makes itself part of our world, we are dishonest and inauthentic if we don’t discuss it.”
Rose notes that he has “never been muzzled in any way” during his decade at ESPN, he says: “I appreciate the fact that I’m able to talk about more than what happened in last night’s NBA game. And I think fans appreciate that. When our president tweets about sports, now he’s fair game.”
A version of this story first appeared in the March 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.