• Loading stock data...
Sunday, February 25, 2024
Rates for the 2024 Best Venue Awards increase this Sunday at 11:59 p.m. ET

Sharpe’s Impact Propels ‘First Take’ to Soaring Viewership in Just Six Weeks

  • Since teaming with Stephen A. Smith, the former Fox Sports personality co-starred in three of the four most-watched shows.
  • Three-time Super Bowl winner joined the ESPN show part-time on September 4.
ESPN vs. Fox Sports battle
ESPN Images/Fox Sports

Stephen A. Smith’s recruitment of Shannon Sharpe to ESPN is shaping to be one of the biggest sports media talent coups in years.

After being courted by Smith, Sharpe joined “First Take” on a part-time basis on Sep. 4. But in only six weeks on the air, the Pro Football Hall of Famer has already co-starred in three of the four most-watched “First Take” episodes this year, said sources.

Monday’s top-rated “First Take” edition with Smith, Sharpe, and Molly Qerim drew 852,000 viewers. 

That’s behind only the 892,000 viewers who tuned in to “First Take” the morning after Damar Hamlin’s on-field heart attack on Jan. 2. 

And nearly five times the 172,000 viewers for Skip Bayless’ “Undisputed” on Monday.

Despite a rusty Sharpe inadvertently calling Smith “Skip,” his “First Take” debut on Sep. 4 averaged 727,000 viewers. 

And his Tuesday morning appearance after Aaron Rodgers’s season-ending injury on “Monday Night Football” pulled 726,000 viewers.

According to sources, several factors are at play here as the NFL enters Week 6. 

First, ESPN’s “First Take” and “Get Up” morning shows have become the def facto agenda-setters for the week’s football storylines. Sharpe’s timing was perfect as he joined ESPN at the kickoff of the NFL’s 2023 regular season.

Second, Smith plays the chief Dallas Cowboys hater role while rival Bayless waves the pom-poms for “America’s Team.” 

So many viewers enjoy tuning in to watch Smith’s reaction after a Cowboys win or loss. But especially after a brutal loss like the Cowboys’ 42-10 dismantling by the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

Decked out in a black cowboy and adopting a broad Texas accent, “Southern Stephen” taunted miserable Cowboys fans on Monday’s show. These appearances are comparable to a “Saturday Night Live” skit.

“‘First Take’ is the place to be – because evidently the Big D is not the place to go,” Smith cackled.

Former ESPNer Dan Le Batard has clashed with Smith over the years. But even he’s impressed by “First Take,” pulling nearly 900,000 viewers this week.

“That is a monster number. When all numbers are declining, that is a giant number to have stationary in daytime. It represents twice as much as what that show has always done at its best,” noted Le Batard on his show Wednesday. 

Sharpe Boosts ‘First Take’ Ratings, Leaving Bayless Behind

ESPN’s “First Take” continues to dwarf Fox’s “Undisputed” in ratings.
September 14, 2023

Smith and Sharpe have traveled via private jet to Deion Sanders’s Colorado football games with their bromance in full swing. They’ve also appeared on each other’s independent podcasts.

Their chemistry positions Sharpe as Smith’s heir apparent should Smith leave “First Take” for late-night TV, entertainment, or politics. 

Sharpe appears on “First Take” roughly two or sometimes three days a week along with a rotating list of guest debaters, including Ryan Clark, Marcus Spears, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, and Dan Orlovsky.

The three-time Super Bowl champion left Bayless’ “Undisputed” this June after nearly seven years together on the air at Fox Sports’ FS1 cable network.

During an appearance on “The Stephen A. Smith Show,” Sharpe warned Bayless and his revamped “Undisputed” cast, including Pro Football Hall of Famer Michael Irvin, Keyshawn Johnson, and Richard Sherman, they’ll never beat “First Take.” Even if Smith leaves the show.

“Y’all not going to be better than me and Stephen A. That’s not going to happen. I promise you, that is not going to happen. Ever. EVER,” Sharpe declared. 

“Now, if Stephen A. says, ‘Shannon, I want to go in a different direction,’ you all are still not (going to beat us). Because Stephen A. is that dude. If Stephen A. ever decides to leave and turn the reins over to me, you all know I’m that dude. I’m him. Now the problem y’all got is you got two hims to go up against.”

Sharpe also tweeted he will fill in for Smith on Friday’s “First Take.”

Linkedin
Whatsapp
Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

Sham Gods: The Rapidly Growing World of Sports Impersonators on X

Fake Schefters and Wojs, fabricated trade demands, and borrowed profile pictures.
Sep 24, 2023; Oakland, California, USA; A general view of the Oakland Athletics dugout after the game against the Detroit Tigers at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

Murky Future: Everything You Need to Know About the A’s Move to Las Vegas

Breaking down one of the most drawn-out, multifaceted sagas in sports.

WBD Touts Streaming Profit, Sports Alliance While Stock Is Hammered

TNT Sports parent sees tough reaction from Wall Street to latest earnings.
Nick Saban

Coaches Aren’t Happy With College Football—Some Are Getting Out While They Can

NIL and the transfer portal have many college football coaches getting new jobs.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

How the Negro Leagues Are Staying in the Game

0:00
0:00

Featured Today

Sabrina-Steph Wasn’t the ‘Battle of the Sexes’—But It Was Part of the Bigger War

The competition could play a factor in increasing the WNBA’s media value.
NASCAR Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace (23), in a Star Wars rebel alliance X-wing fighter pilot-inspired race suit, motions to the crowd to get louder during the driver introductions for the Cup Series Championship race at Phoenix Raceway in Avondale on Nov. 5, 2023.
February 17, 2024

Celebrity Owners, International Ambitions, and $7B Media Deals: Welcome to the New NASCAR

NASCAR boldly keeps pace with the increasingly competitive sports and entertainment world.
February 16, 2024

Wilson Introduced an Airless Basketball for $2,500. We Had Questions

The black, 3D-printed ball appeared in last year’s Slam Dunk Contest.
Emily Henegar, a baker and content creator, made a batch of NFL-inspired cookies featuring Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce.
February 11, 2024

The ‘Life-Changing’ Economy of Taylor Swift’s NFL Outfits

Appearing in Swift’s game-day wardrobe has been “life-changing” for small businesses.

Careers

Powered By

Careers in Sports

Looking for a new job? Check out these featured listings and search for openings all over the world.
Finance Manager
FanDuel
New York, NY
Senior Technical Artist - Sports Technology
EA Sports
Orlando, FL
Assistant Manager, Affiliate Operations
Adidas
Portland, OR
Arizona Diamondbacks

Diamondbacks Heading Into Another Season With MLB in Charge of Media Rights

The D-Backs chose the league over getting their own over-the-air partners.
A Bundesliga camera operator during a match
February 22, 2024

Fan Power in European Soccer Grows As German Football Deal Scuttled 

Weeks of increasingly strident protests lead to end of proposed private equity deal.
Chad Powers
February 22, 2024

Tuned In: Hulu Turning Glen Powell Into Eli Manning With ‘Chad Powers’ Comedy

The ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ star will play the comedic QB Manning created for ESPN+.
Sponsored

Live Sports Are Now High-Tech Experiences

Oracle is leading the technology revolution happening in stadiums across the world.
Inter Miami forward Lionel Messi following the victory against Los Angeles FC at BMO Stadium.
February 21, 2024

Lionel Messi Phenomenon Spurs Specialized Media Attention

Messi joins Taylor Swift and Beyoncé for celebrities to have their beat writer at ‘USA Today.’
FuboTV signage
February 21, 2024

FuboTV Lawsuit Against Sports Streaming Giants Likely Faces Uphill Climb

Legal and regulatory drama heightens around the high-profile streaming alliance.
Athletes Unlimited
February 21, 2024

Athletes Unlimited Is Getting All Four of Its Women’s Pro Leagues on ESPN Platforms

The league is reducing its ESPN+ games to make room for other partners.
Amazon-NFL
February 21, 2024

Tuned In: Amazon Said to Be Paying Record $120M to Stream NFL Playoff Game

Is JJ Redick aiming to become ESPN’s Charles Barkley?