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Skip Bayless’ Revamped Show Falls Short Of ‘First Take’ In Ratings

  • ‘Undisputed Live’ debut draws 131,000 viewers to 448,000 for ‘First Take.’
  • SAS’ ‘First Take’ tripling audience of Bayless’ ‘Undisputed Live.’
Stephen A Smith vs. Skip Bayless
ESPN Photo/Fox Sports Photo.

Skip Bayless unveiled his revamped “Undisputed Live” show on FS1 this week. But one thing did not change: Bayless took a beating in the TV ratings race by Stephen A. Smith’s “First Take.”

Following the departure of Shannon Sharpe, Bayless’ “Undisputed Live” took an extended hiatus of nearly two months off the air before returning Monday with new castmates Keyshawn Johnson, Michael Irvin, and Richard Sherman. 

The new cast and format changes didn’t help much for the weekday morning show. 

  • The premiere of the new and improved “Undisputed Live” drew 131,000 viewers on Monday to 448,000 for ESPN’s top-rated “First Take,” according to sources.
  • The gap widened on Tuesday, with “Undisputed Live” averaging 120,000 viewers to 474,000 for “First Take.” 
  • On Wednesday, “Undisputed Live” plunged to 78,000 viewers vs. 423,000 for “First Take.”

The first three days of Bayless’ revamped program drew fewer viewers than Sharpe’s final episodes in June, which averaged 154,000 viewers to “First Take’s” 421,000.

To be fair to Bayless, drawing conclusions from a small ratings sample is difficult. 

Bayless’ show is coming off a two-month hiatus. He will get a huge boost with the start of NFL season. Plus, he won the week on social media, with his show trending all week on Twitter. And help is on the way for the pioneering 71-year-old Godfather of “Embrace Debate.” 

Josina Anderson, who made TV history as the first female national NFL Insider at ESPN, joined the cast on Friday.  Rachel Nichols, another former ESPNer, made her debut mid-week.

Fox Sports Radio personality Doug Gottlieb urged everybody to chill out after Monday’s rocky debut.

“Relax, first show. Shows always evolve,” tweeted Gottlieb. “‘First Take’ was a segment called ‘1st and 10’ on ‘Cold Pizza,’ which was rebooted after one year.”

Still, it will be difficult for Bayless to close the gap against his former protege Smith if “First Take” keeps drawing nearly three times the audience of “Undisputed Live.”

With the old “Undisputed” off the air for nearly the entire month, “First Take” posted its most-watched August in six years, with viewership growing 21% to 391,000 average viewers. 

During Monday’s debut of “Undisputed Live,” Bayless was drowned out by Johnson, Sherman, and especially a motor-mouthed Irvin, who had been suspended for months by ESPN and NFL Network for an alleged hotel incident before Super Bowl week. 

By reducing himself to a moderator, Bayless shrank “to the size of a postage stamp on his own show,” warned Dan Le Batard

Skip Bayless

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One source blamed FS1 management for putting their highest-paid talent at $8 million annually in a bad position.

According to the source, producers should not have put three big personalities on the air with Bayless simultaneously. 

By Friday, the show largely reverted to its original format, with Bayless and Johnson debating topics.

“It was a panicked producer’s decision to put everyone on Day 1. That is what desperation looks like,” said the source. “What did they think would happen with four Type A talkers? In an effort to do a show where (Skip) took on everyone, he ended up as a host.”

Meanwhile, Smith’s top-rated “First Take” will get its boost on September 4, when Sharpe joins the cast.

After teaming with Bayless for nearly seven years on “Undisputed,” Sharpe is scheduled to debate Smith twice weekly on “First Take.” 

FS1 and ESPN declined to comment for this story.

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