The end of one of the longest-running partnerships in sports radio is coming soon.
SI.com has learned via multiple sources that ESPN executives are moving forward with the plan to shift Mike Greenberg—one half of the long-running Mike & Mike radio show on ESPN Radio—into a new role as the lead host of a television show that would air in the mornings on ESPN. The new show will have elements of SportsCenter—which currently airs at that time—as well as a traditional morning show. It is expected to be based in New York City. The new program would put an end to end to Greenberg’s on-air partnership with Mike Golic, which began in October 1998. Mike & Mike currently airs weekdays on ESPN Radio from 6–10 a.m. ET and is simulcast on ESPN2.
Via an ESPN spokesperson, Greenberg and ESPN executives Traug Keller, Burke Magnus and Connor Schell declined comment.
Breaking up the Mikes means ESPN has a large radio slot to fill; Mike & Mike has been a revenue-driver for the division for a decade-plus. It’s also the signature show for ESPN in many radio markets across the country. The leading in-house candidate to emerge as a replacement is Trey Wingo, who has experience on ESPN Radio and is one of the network’s signature NFL hosts. Wingo is the expected replacement for Chris Berman on ESPN’s coverage of the opening night of the NFL draft. [Update: It is unclear whether Mike Golic would stay as part of a new show. Mike Golic Jr., who already works for ESPN Radio, could be part of a new show in some role if his father stayed on with a new partner.] There is no timeframe yet for the end of Mike & Mike or the beginning of the new program, but sources said to expect the transition to take place sooner than later.
The Mike & Mike brand has been in the news for the last two years, mostly for potential changes to the show. In May 2015, during its annual upfronts for ad buyers, ESPN boldly announced the show would move from its long-time Bristol, Connecticut, location to ABC’s Times Square studio in New York City, beginning in February 2016. The move was designed to turn Mike & Mike into a Good Morning America-style program, including interacting with the ABC show, which is also under the Disney aegis. The move never happened. ESPN pulled the plug on the idea a couple of months later. But as Jim Miller reported in The Hollywood Reporter last month, CAA recently closed a deal for Greenberg “that makes him one of the highest-paid sports personalities at ESPN and beyond (reportedly north of $6.5 million a year).” ESPN would not offer such a deal for Greenberg merely to continue his radio program.
There is risk here in dissolving a program that has generated significant revenue for ESPN. There is also the larger question of what this means for the SportsCenter brand in the morning. On Jan. 3, ESPN moved the 10 a.m. to noon ET version of SportsCenter to ESPN2 in order to prop up First Take, the long-running debate show that occasionally threatens NBA MVPs such as Kevin Durant. Greenberg’s new show could be branded as a SportsCenter, which is the current trend ESPN management is heading with personality-driven shows for its flagship brand. It is unclear what would happen to the current SportsCenter AM talent, though anchor Kevin Negandhi recently signed a long-term deal with the company.
While the current SportsCenter AM ratings have struggled at times, the show can still be a heavyweight. On Tuesday, following the college football national championship game, SportsCenter AM outdrew every studio show except Pardon The Interruption that day—showing the power of the show after big events. (The 7–8 a.m. hour drew 987,000 viewers; Mike & Mike had 305,000 viewers on ESPN2.) Can Greenberg front a show with other ESPN personalities that can rate in the morning? It will be a tough chore against traditional news and entertainment morning programs, as well as sports-specific programs.