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Media Mailbag: ‘First Take’ Future, Diversity, YouTube Censorship, Top Media Openings

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Thanks to all the readers who sent in questions this week. Keep checking back to OutKick for details on what we have planned coming up.

Also, I recorded two interviews this week that will hit the site soon. Look out for those.

“Do you see First Take eventually replacing Max Kellerman with a full-time host or will ESPN use a bunch of different people long-term? Who will be in the rotation?”

The plan is to rotate several personalities for now. Remember, First Take did this previously with Skip Bayless before catching lightning in a bottle with Stephen A. Smith. Should that happen with Smith and another talent, perhaps ESPN would consider replacing Kellerman with one person. However, that’s unlikely.

Smith and Kellerman never worked because Smith never let them mesh as a duo. For much of the past five years, Smith has been dismissive of Kellerman, often uncomfortably rude. In Smith’s mind, only a handful of personalities are on his level, which most notably includes Skip Bayless. Fox Sports recently re-signed Bayless to a four-year deal, quashing a Bayless-Smith reunion.

Furthermore, even if ESPN found an eventual successor to Kellerman — well, really Bayless — Smith still likely won’t want to share the show with a co-host. Smith has wanted to take First Take in this direction for several years. As I explained Wednesday, Smith has a unique level of power at ESPN, not only because of his stardom but because of his relationship with ESPN Senior Vice President Dave Roberts. Smith has Roberts in his pocket.

To your second question regarding the upcoming rotation: sources expect several ESPN analysts to sit opposite Smith, such as Keyshawn Johnson, Marcus Spears, and Kendrick Perkins (during the NBA season).

For an out-of-house guest, sources say Stephen A. Smith is hoping to get Michael Irvin into the First Take rotation.

It’s worth noting that, for a show that spends so much time talking about diversity, First Take could go in a direction without any diversity of its own. I’m not referring to the diversity of thought — that left the show when Will Cain moved from ESPN to Fox. Instead, First Take could end up with a lineup of only black personalities. Thus far, all the names percolating around the industry about First Take are black.

If First Take includes only personalities of one skin color moving forward — how seriously can viewers take the show’s constant accusations of white privilege and the lack of inclusion in sports?

And quite frankly, after years of ESPN not re-signing talents, Dan Orlovsky and Mina Kimes are the only non-black NFL analysts who could do First Take with Smith.

What does “diversity” actually mean to ESPN, First Take, and Stephen A. Smith? We will find out. I’m guessing it’s not the definition of the word.

“How much does YouTube’s censorship impact reporting? Are news publications also worried about what they are posting for fear of being taken down or losing the ability to monetize?”

That is such a good question.

YouTube’s censorship, or the threat of censorship, has dramatically impacted what media outlets post and report.

YouTube and social media companies are ingrained in the business plans of media companies. Companies, like individuals, answer to who pays them. And TV and digital companies make substantial amounts of money per year on YouTube, Facebook, and to a lesser degree, Twitter.

In ways, YouTube is more crucial than a network’s top sponsors. Top shows can replace a lost sponsor to some degree. However, there’s no quick way to make back the lost money from YouTube.

While Rumble is a growing alternative to YouTube, some media accounts on YouTube have millions of subscribers. It could take years to build back that base on another platform.

Thus in many ways, YouTube dictates content.

What’s alarming, though, is that YouTube responds to outcries from the Left on Twitter. It’s possible that YouTube would censor a brand for violating its arbitrary rules on their own shows, even if they leave those segments off YouTube. Would anyone be stunned if YouTube punished someone for asking questions on-air about the vaccine or COVID? Of course not.

Beyond YouTube, the entire social media space has degraded the media industry. Whether because of censorship or fear of the mob, media pundits are now more reluctant to ask questions or give opinions that differ slightly from those expressed on mainstream outlets. YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook have made us more alike because many are afraid of not being “one of them.” Being part of the in crowd comes with protection, and those who have dared to challenge their “rules” are often de-platformed or terrorized by left-wing blue checks.

Worst of all, media executives fear social media more than their employees do. Make no mistake about it: management considers the risk and reward of each potential media employee. If you are someone who could upset Big Tech’s inconsistent demands, you need a tremendous amount of drawing power to offset that red flag.

In a column I wrote earlier this week, I encouraged individual personalities with an audience to consider an independent move to Rumble and Substack. In 2021, too many people have to answer to the faceless vultures running Big Tech somewhere in Northern California in addition to their bosses.

Networks need YouTube more than star media personalities do. Look at Glenn Greenwald.

“You had a tweet last week, with the best openings in the media. How would you rank them?”

I forgot The View, so I think I don’t have to include that?

You caught me off guard. Uhmm, okay:

  1. Fox News Primetime at 7 pm
  2. Amazon NFL coverage
  3. Host next to the Mannings on Monday Night Football
  4. GMA Weekend
  5. Liberal chair on The Five
  6. Fox Sports Radio mornings
  7. NBA Countdown — the show sucks. It will still suck.

Follow Bobby Burack on Twitter.

Written by Bobby Burack

Bobby Burack covers media, politics, and sports at OutKick.

6 Comments

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  1. ” First Take could end up with a lineup of only black personalities. Thus far, all the names percolating around the industry are black.”

    (Q) Why would this matter? We’ve had shows with all white host. Who cares? We don’t have white majority rules in this country. I’ve watched shows with all white host or cast. America is white people’s country. What I miss?

    ” First Take includes only personalities of one skin color moving forward — how seriously can viewers take their constant accusations of white privilege and the lack of inclusion in sports?”

    (Q) Because it’s hard out here for the white.man? MLK thinks you are crying like Lil botches. Yeah it’s hard out here for the AWM ? Just stop…that’s why people pick on you.

    Amazing how is just a mere 70 years Conservatives have manged to lose everything. “Thought you was when you weren’t “

  2. Leftists and race hustlers are always talking about “disproportionate” this & that. By that measure, 13% of media spots should go to black talent At ESPN, its more like 60%. Talk about disproportionate. But nobody cares about ESPN anymore, so left wing blacks can dominate that trashy network all they want. It’s like the Gary, Indiana or Camden, NJ of TV networks. A once thriving place which is now an irrelevant slum.

  3. Let `em go all black in the morning. Who cares? Nobody is watching ESPN outside of game programming anyway. Whatever is left of their morning viewers will be gone after these brothers bitch about being “held down”. What a fuckin` trainwreck. It may as well go burn in the `hood because that`s about where that show is at.

  4. ESPN no longer cares about diversity of viewpoint for their weekday shows or any “debate” oriented show for that matter. Their choice for a talking head should appeal to the demo that watches that stuff and wants validation for what they believe. Every debate show regardless of network or topic behaves this way. Good business sense. No one is forced to watch. Appeal to those who choose to.

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