ESPN Has Never Been Able To Fill The Void Of ‘Mike & Mike’

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Sports fans drove to work, rode to school, ate breakfast, and started their day with Mike & Mike for 17 years.

It was the biggest show on sports radio for much of the nearly two decades it aired. As it was the most lucrative.

Mike & Mike also found a presence on ESPN2, in its latter years as the anchor to First Take. Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic appeared on David Letterman. They were more famous than some of the athletes they covered.

The program ended in 2017. Greenberg moved on to front a television show called Get Up. Greenberg established himself as one of the faces of the network. ESPN used the show to groom its younger personalities, namely Dan Orlovsky, Laura Rutledge, and Marcus Spears.

To ESPN, the decision paid off.

Though at the same time, the ending of Mike & Mike sealed the fate of ESPN Radio. Mike & Mike set the tone for sports talk that day. It attracted blue-chip sponsors. The radio division no longer generates much conversation or is the advertiser-coveted cash cow it was.

Greeny and Golic lasted 17 years. And this fall, ESPN will introduce a fourth show in its former time slot in five years.

LAS VEGAS, NV – APRIL 19: Sports broadcasters Mike Greenberg (L) and Mike Golic, hosts of ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike” show, speak as they are inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Broadcasting Hall of Fame during the NAB Show Radio Luncheon at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino on April 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. NAB Show, the trade show of the National Association of Broadcasters and the world’s largest electronic media show, runs through April 21 and features more than 1,700 exhibitors and 103,000 attendees. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Golic & Wingo succeeded Mike & Mike in 2017. The show was a noticeable downgrade.

Morning television and radio require hosts to at least pretend they don’t abhor the early hours in which they work. Wingo didn’t pretend. He wanted off the show almost immediately. And he departed the network in 2020.

That fall, ESPN introduced Keyshawn, J-Will, and Zubin. The ratings were sour. Zubin Mehenti experienced health complications. And ESPN needed a role for Max Kellerman, whom Stephen A. Smith had removed from First Take.

So, the show lasted less than a year.

Kellerman is a talented broadcaster. But he never seemed invested in the show. Keyshawn Johnson is overbearing. His aggressive tone doesn’t work in the morning. Jay Willaims offers a unique perspective, but the cheap topic selection of ranking QBs and catering to Keyshawn’s ego was not a fit.

Keyshawn, J-Will, and Max will end this summer. ESPN is canceling the show, as The New York Post first reported.

Jay Willaims, Max Kellerman, and Keyshawn Johnson.

Back to the drawing board. Yet this time there are even fewer choices from which the network can choose.

Stars used to covet morning radio. Today, ESPN’s stars would be insulted if the company even gauged their interest in hosting the show.

Moreover, ESPN failed to groom radio hosts for the future. It had that in Will Cain and Ryen Russillo, both of whom have since departed.

The best radio host at the network is Pat McAfee, who joins ESPN this fall to host a radio-formatted show that won’t air on radio.

What does that tell you about the future of ESPN Radio?

The company could elect to move up one of its two afternoon shows, Fitz & Harry or Canty & Carlin. However, both shows have gotten such little promotion that morning listeners would wonder just who they are should they appear.

Chris Canty is the only one of the group to make waves, and he did so only in a segment suggesting Cooper Kupp is overrated because he’s a white man.

Racially-motivated sports talk doesn’t work. ESPN learned so the hard way when it aired Bomani Jones in the afternoon.

Still, do not be surprised when Sarah Spain and Domonique Foxworth end up on morning radio. We are — hopefully — kidding.

Perhaps the channel will explore its television division. Matt Barrie would do well on radio. He’s a throwback to a traditional sports anchor. He’s not political and he appreciates the games he discusses.

The inclusion of McAfee this fall also creates a need to move Barrie as McAfee assumes the noon hour in which Barrie co-hosts SportsCenter.

It’s unlikely ESPN grants the next morning show a substantial investment. The slashing of Keyshawn, J-Will, and Max comes as the company plans widespread talent layoffs by the tune of $30 million.

Thereby don’t expect ESPN to poach any outsiders for the role.

ESPN does not have the roster to recreate Mike & Mike. That’s obvious. It won’t even try. The question is whether it can form even a competent new morning show. It hasn’t in its last three tries.

Written by Bobby Burack

Bobby Burack is a writer for OutKick where he reports and analyzes the latest topics in media, culture, sports, and politics..

Burack has become a prominent voice in media and has been featured on several shows across OutKick and industry related podcasts and radio stations.


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