The midday debate show “First Take” with Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman had a great run as the number one show on ESPN. And this past week, numerous outlets have been reporting about the severe ratings decline since Max Kellerman departed to join the ESPN morning TV and syndicated radio show “Keyshawn, JWill & Max,” and to launch his own afternoon TV show “This Just In.”
Fans of “First Take” seem to have been overwhelmingly displeased by the move. Perhaps viewer John Ferguson said it best in the comments of the YouTube video announcing Max Kellerman’s departure, when Ferguson simply stated: “This show needs him, definitely won’t be the same.”
Stephen A. said on radio he saw numbers that suggested @FirstTake‘s viewers wanted Max Kellerman off. The early ratings say otherwise.
This week, First Take is losing to Get Up and NFL Live, in addition to PTI and ATH:
Get Up: 408k
NFL Live: 413k
— Bobby Burack (@burackbobby_) September 24, 2021
The two-hour program “First Take” generated countless viral clips with Stephen A. Smith giving hot takes on a variety of sports topics. So it’s understandable why some would assume that he was the sole star of the show. But social media clout doesn’t always indicate one’s true level of popularity in real life, especially when one’s counterpart doesn’t really seem engaged on social platforms.
Because “First Take” is at its core about debating sports, it’s odd that Stephen A. Smith’s on-air partner Max Kellerman didn’t get more credit for the success of the show. If Kellerman wasn’t great at what he did, “First Take” would not have worked so well during their five-year run.
Now that “First Take” has gone from first to worst on ESPN, we have some questions.
❏ Was Steven A. Smith wrong about change needing to come to “First Take”?
❏ Were Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman equally responsible for the success of “First Take?”
❏ Was research done to discover how viewers felt about both Stephen A. and Max?
❏ When Stephen A. Smith renegotiated his contract, was getting Max off of “First Take” part of the deal?
❏ Will the ratings for “First Take” return to #1 if Max Kellerman comes back?
❏ Can Stephen A. and Max recreate their on-air magic if ESPN executives were to bring Max back to “First Take”?
The Talent Report has requested an interview with Stephen A. Smith. We hope to bring you answers to all of these questions soon.