ESPN to Relanch 'First Take' With New Format in June - Broadcasting & Cable

ESPN to Relanch 'First Take' With New Format in June

Stephen A. Smith moves to full-time role on morning program
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ESPN announced Tuesday that it will relaunch its morning show ESPN First Take June 4 with a slightly different format, moving featured commentator Stephen A. Smith to a full-time role.

The
two-hour program will now focus exclusively on debates with Smith and
the show's other featured commentator Skip Bayless. The current format
had Bayless debate with a revolving door of guest commentators and
analysts, although Smith was a frequent guest.  

Guest
analysts, current and former athletes and celebrities will continue to
have a presence during the show's second hour. Jay Crawford will remain
as host/moderator for First Take.

The
network said the move is designed to capitalize on the ratings success
that the show has seen in 2012, with year-to-date ratings up 34% among
all viewers.

Additional elements of the show will be changed as well, including a new set design, graphics and logo.

"We
tweaked the show format last year to focus more on debate and
specifically on presenting and challenging Skip's opinions and we saw
our viewers respond to that change," said Jamie Horowitz, ESPN's VP of
original programming and production. "Given the response we've seen on
social platforms like Twitter and Facebook, we dug a bit deeper into the
ratings data and know that the riveting combination of Stephen A. and
Skip debating their views resonates with our viewers. Our plan with
this relaunch is to give them even more of the show elements they like
best."

This
is the second -- albeit smaller -- change to the morning show's format
in less than a year. Last August, the show scrapped its first and 10 segments and greatly increased Bayless' role to focus exclusively on debates throughout the show. First Take, and its predecessor Cold Pizza, originally went with a traditional morning-show format.

Both Smith and Bayless serve a variety of roles at ESPN including contributions to ESPN.com, appearances on SportsCenter and various ESPN Radio programs.

The show airs weekdays at 10 a.m. on ESPN 2.

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