For almost two decades, a couple of Mikes have been waking up and talking sports on ESPN Radio.
Here in Philadelphia, the duo of Mike Greenberg and former Eagles defensive tackle Mike Golic were heard for years on 97.5 The Fanatic before being replaced by a local show hosted by Anthony Gargano. In fact, local listeners can still tune in every morning on WTEL 610 AM, though it appears all good things must come to an end.
According to Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch, ESPN executives are moving forward with a long-rumored plan to remove Greenberg from the popular Mike and Mike radio program and shift him to a new morning show on the network that will combine elements of SportsCenter with a typical morning show.
A spokesman said ESPN is not commenting on the news, and there is no timeframe in place on when any changes would happen. Neither Greenberg or Golic commented on the news on their show on Friday.
Mike & Mike currently airs weekdays on ESPN Radio from 6–10 a.m. and is simulcast on ESPN2. Greenberg recently signed a new deal with The Worldwide Leader that reportedly pays him $6.5 million a year.
It would be a big move for ESPN, and carries a good deal of risk. Not only has Mike & Mike been one of ESPN most successful and long-running programs (not to mention a significant source of revenue), the ratings of ESPN2’s simulcast of Mike and Mike often top the 3-hour average ratings for SportsCenter on ESPN from 6-10 a.m.
It also would mean more changes to SportsCenter, arguably still ESPN’s most important brand. A SportsCenter branded and driven by Greenberg would be in line with other unique versions of the venerable highlights show, such as Scott van Pelt's midnight show and the Coast to Coast version hosted by David Lloyd and Cari Champion from noon to 1:30 p.m. ESPN is also launching a new 6 p.m. version of SportsCenter hosted by Michael Smith and Jemele Hill the day after Super Bowl LI.
The move would likely force Temple alumni Kevin Negandhi, who currently hosts the 7 a.m. weekday edition of SportsCenter, into another slot on the network. Negandhi recently signed a multi-year contract extension with ESPN.
Greenberg's move to morning television would complete an overhaul of ESPN’s weekday morning schedule. Recently, the network moved “First Take,” hosted by Max Kellerman and former Inquirer reporter Stephen A. Smith, from ESPN2 to the main network, where it currently airs from 10 a.m. to noon.
So far, the move has led to a 26 percent year-to-year increase in ratings for First Take, according to the television tracking website Sports TV Ratings. But it has also led to a 58 percent decline for the 10 a.m. to noon SportsCenter, which swapped places and now airs daily on ESPN2.
There is no word if Golic, who started his broadcast career with a weekly Golic's Got It segment on The Randall Cunningham Show, would stick around on a new show. Deitsch says current host Trey Wingo is the frontrunner to replace Greenberg. But some at ESPN have speculated Golic could also join his son, who also works at ESPN Radio, and combine to form a Golic & Golic show.
All this comes at a uncertain time for ESPN. According to Nielsen, the network is at an 11-year low in subscribers after shedding 9 million viewers over the past three years, thanks largely to the increasing trend of cord cutting. ESPN currently earns $7.21 a month for each of its 90 million or so remaining pay-TV subscribers.
At the same time, the network’s costs are rising, even as ratings for expensive sports programs like the NFL are on the decline. Costs will increase 17 percent this fiscal year, largely due to a $600 million increase in the network’s contract with the NBA, according to Bloomberg news.