With ESPN rapidly losing subscribers and several high-profile personalities, conventional wisdom says there are some problems at the WorldWide Leader. After all, no company lays off hundreds of employees if it isn’t experiencing a dramatic decline in revenue.
But it appears as if some of that conjecture is hyperbolic. Sure, ESPN may be going through a transition in the cord-cutting era, but the network is still loaded with cash. Management may now just be a little more selective about who they give that money to. One of those people is the Vanilla Broadcaster himself, Mike Greenberg.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Greenberg is now one of the highest-paid people at ESPN. He’s reportedly making more than $6.5 million per year, which is even more money than Fox Sports threw at Skip Bayless in 2015 to draw worse ratings than most programs on Nickelodeon.
Greenberg produces plenty of content for ESPN. He’s the lead host of its signature morning program, Mike & Mike, which is broadcast on hundreds of radio affiliates across the country and also airs on ESPN2. This new contract suggests the network intends on using Greenberg in other capacities as well. With ratings continuing to sag for SportsCenter, Greenberg could slip over to ESPN and host his own morning talk show. It would probably be exactly like Mike & Mike, with inevitably forced attempts to delve into general topics. You know, just like Hoda and Kathie Lee.
And therein lies the problem with centering a show around Greenberg: he’s not a draw. Mike & Mike serves as a promotional vehicle for ESPN, featuring interviews with celebrities and a bevy of sponsored segments. It’s designed to be milquetoast and inoffensive. That’s what happens when a show is run by advertisers.
The number of listeners to Mike & Mike varies in each market. In areas like Boston, New York City and Philadelphia, where they’re competing with local sports talk radio behemoths, they barely register on the Nielsen ratings. The show does better in smaller metropolitan areas, because it’s the only game in town.
The marketplace for morning television is crowded. Good Morning America and Today are institutions when it comes to mindless banter, and all of the cable news channels offer their own partisan versions of those programs. The audience for sports highlights in the morning is dwindling and those who listen to sports talk radio –– including Mike & Mike, which will presumably continue with Mike Golic if Greenberg leaves –– will continue to listen to sports talk radio. So the question is, what can Greenberg add to the current landscape?
Right now, it doesn’t appear that he’s capable of offering anything different. Due to Mike & Mike‘s corporate tone, he hasn’t shown himself to be a provocative personality. The radio show drives Greenberg’s brand, not the other way around.
ESPN has apparently decided it wants to center its programming around Greenberg. But at this point, there’s nothing to build off.