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Ratings for ‘SC:6′ with Jemele Hill and Michael Smith are tumbling 05.12.17 at 11:48 am ET
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Jemele Hill and Michael Smith are seeing their viewership numbers tumble.  (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Jemele Hill and Michael Smith are seeing their viewership numbers decline. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

ESPN’s “The Six” with Jemele Hill and Michael Smith is one of the most promoted shows on the network. Despite that, ratings are tumbling.

The Big Lead published a breakdown of “SC:6’s” viewership numbers this week, comparing it to the 6:00 p.m. “SportsCenter” hosted by Lindsay Czarniak that aired during the same time slot last year. Though the program enjoyed modest gains in three of its first four weeks –– viewership increased by 2.67 percent from Feb. 13 – Feb. 27 –– it’s fallen ever since. Since March, the show is down an average of 12.6 percent compared to last year’s figures.

To be fair, ratings are down across the board for ESPN’s afternoon block of programming. Pardon the Interruption” has been hit especially hard, with viewership totals declining an average of 13.7 percent compared to 2016.

Since PTI leads into “SC:6,” Hill and Smith are drawing viewers to ESPN. They’re also attracting a more diverse audience. Yahoo Finance reported two weeks ago the 6:00 p.m. “SportsCenter” has increased its reach among black viewers ages 18-34 by 15 percent over last year. On the whole, the show’s audience is 41 percent black.

Those numbers are probably important to ESPN, considering the network’s emphasis on diversity. But on the whole, the show’s lackluster performance must be viewed as a disappointment.

What’s especially concerning is “SC:6’s” failure to attract viewers when big events are going on. The debut episode, which aired on the Monday after the Super Bowl, saw a 19 percent audience drop compared to last year. Programs that aired before or after the first two rounds of the Masters, NFL Draft and NCAA men’s basketball conference championships experienced an average viewership decline of 19.6 percent.

The reviews for “SC:6″ have been harsh as well. Yahoo Finance writer Daniel Roberts noted recently that roughly half of the 3,000 comments on a story about ESPN layoffs were people advocating for the firing of Smith and Hill.

One of the show’s most ardent critics has been WEEI’s Kirk Minihane, who rails against the program’s politically correct tone. Last month, Hill said she wants to meet Minihane “face to face.”

Read More: ESPN, Jemele Hill,
Jemele Hill to Kirk Minihane: Meet me ‘face to face’ 04.27.17 at 10:02 am ET
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Update (May 3, 2:45 p.m.): Kirk Minihane and Jemele Hill are back at it, this time sparring over Hill’s commentary on the Adam Jones incident at Fenway Park:


None of the several dozen employees who ESPN canned Wednesday expressed animosity towards the WorldWide Leader on their way out the door.

Kirk Minihane did it for them.

While watching “SC:6″ with Jemele Hill and Michael Smith, Minihane offered up a less than flattering take about the show.

Despite receiving ample promotion, Smith and Hill have been unable to gain a steady audience for their new venture. As of last month, ratings for the 6:00 p.m. edition of “SportsCenter” were down 12 percent from 2016 –– on par with “Pardon the Interruption.”

The reaction to the program has been harsh as well. Yahoo finance writer Daniel Roberts tweeted this week roughly 50 percent of the 3,000 comments he received on a story about ESPN’s layoffs were people pleading with the company to cancel “SC:6.”

Hill, though, isn’t taking the criticism sitting down. After declining an invitation to join “Kirk & Callahan,” she said she wants to meet Minihane “face to face.”

If that confrontation aired on “SC:6″ one night, perhaps the show would finally draw a rating.

Read More: ESPN, Jemele Hill, Kirk Minihane,
ESPN’s ‘The Six’ with Jemele Hill and Michael Smith is a boring flop 02.23.17 at 12:27 pm ET
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Michael Smith and Jemele Hill previously hosted "His & Hers" on ESPN2. (Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports)

Jemele Hill and Michael Smith previously hosted “His & Hers” on ESPN2. (Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports)

When ESPN first launched “The Six” with Jemele Hill and Michael Smith, it was billed as a hipper version of “SportsCenter,” set to reclaim weeknight viewers who have fled the network’s outdated signature program. But in reality, the show is unimaginative and boring. There’s nothing edgy about it, unless you consider Smith’s proclivity to wear sneakers with his suit jacket to be wacky instead of forced.

Despite weeks of incessant on-air promotion, including a corny video that features Hill and Smith boogying to the 1988 hit, “It Takes Two,” ratings for the refurbished “SportsCenter” leave much to be desired. On Monday, three weeks after its debut, the show drew 568,000 viewers. That’s less than the 574,000 people who tuned into the 6:00 p.m. airing of “SportsCenter” on the same date one year ago.

Ratings for other ESPN programs are suffering as well. The audience for “Pardon the Interruption” was down 16 percent over the first two weeks of February compared to last year, giving “The Six” a depressed lead-in. But still, with all of the effort spent publicizing the show, the numbers are underwhelming –– just like the product.

At the start of Wednesday’s episode, Hill and Smith spent some time discussing DeMarcus Cousins’ debut press conference with the Pelicans. The most notable tidbit from the conversation was their insistence on calling him “Boogie,” as if they’re close pals. Smith went on to say he’s president of the “Free Boogie Fan Club,” while Hill giggled awkwardly.

Following a staid segment about Paul George’s future with the Pacers –– Smith kept calling him “PG” in a contrived attempt at informality –– the two moved on to Magic Johnson, who didn’t interview a black candidate for the Lakers’ general manager position before hiring agent Rob Pelinka. On The Undefeated, ESPN’s black-interest website, columnist Marc Spears quoted a couple of league executives who criticized Johnson for bypassing potential African-American applicants. Instead of responding with their own takes, Hill and Smith equivocated. They both said they “understand the frustration,” but also believe Johnson must do what he thinks is best for the organization.

“Jeanie [Buss] fired her blood brother. So if you don’t win enough games, she will fire her brother from another mother in a second,” Smith said.

It’s insulting to expect black sports commentators to feel strongly about race relations. But both hosts, especially Hill, have spoken passionately about the subject in the past. Last year, she hosted a televised town hall on ABC with President Barack Obama about race in America.

One of the apparent reasons why Hill enjoys a prominent role on ESPN is her willingness to engage on social issues. But yet, on “The Six,” she plays it down the middle.

And therein lies the biggest problem with the program: there’s nothing memorable about it. The discussions are stale, with Hill and Smith regurgitating talking points that are heard on ESPN throughout the day. Neither take a particularly strong stand on anything, and when they do, they usually side with the athlete in question. Somewhere along the line, ESPN decided to become a promotional vehicle for the players it covers. Hill and Smith, with their insistence on referring to NBA stars by their carefully branded nicknames, feed into that.

Hill and Smith don’t need to turn into screeching hyenas to have a successful talk show. But there must be some elements of provocation. The demonization of “hot take culture” has caused people to forget that nearly every popular sports pundit in history, from Howard Cosell to Michael Wilbon, has routinely shared strong opinions. Hill, who once said cheering for the Celtics is akin to calling Adolf Hitler a victim, is no stranger to controversy. While nobody is clamoring for Nazi analogies, it’s bizarre to see her play an even-tempered role. The show desperately needs a shot of adrenaline.

In order to generate interest, programs must give their audience something to reach to. Tedious segments, like Wednesday’s interminable discussion with analysts Jeff Goodman and Ryen Russillo about NBA trade rumors, don’t accomplish that. Those kinds of dry interviews are staples on indiscernible sports talk shows across the country. They shouldn’t be featured on a supposedly groundbreaking show that ESPN is counting on to help resurrect its “SportsCenter” franchise.

“The Six” is billed as innovative. But the truth is, you’ve seen it a million times before.

Read More: ESPN, Jemele Hill, Michael Smith,
Thursday’s Morning Mashup: Female ESPN hosts criticize network, Greg Hardy after Adam Schefter interview 04.07.16 at 8:20 am ET
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Welcome to Thursday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

MLB: Red Sox at Indians, 6:10 p.m. (NESN; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Astros at Yankees, 4:05 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: Twins at Orioles, 7:05 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: Rangers at Angels, 10:05 p.m. (FS1)
NHL: Red Wings at Bruins, 7 p.m. (NBCSN)
College hockey: Frozen Four, Boston College vs. Quinnipiac, 5 p.m. (ESPN2)
College hockey: Frozen Four, Denver vs. North Dakota, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
NBA: Bulls at Heat, 8 p.m. (TNT)
NBA: Spurs at Warriors, 10:30 p.m. (TNT)
Soccer: UEFA Europa, Liverpool at Borussia Dortmund, 3 p.m. (FS1)
Golf: The Masters, 3 p.m. (ESPN)


— ESPN’s Adam Schefter defended his interview with controversial defensive end Greg Hardy during an appearance with Dennis & Callahan with Minihane on Wednesday, but he’s not getting much support from some of his female co-workers.

Michelle Beadle, co-host of “SportsNation,” criticized her company for allowing Hardy — convicted of domestic abuse in 2014 — a platform to profess his innocence. Hardy refused to explain how his ex-girlfriend ended up with bruises all over her body, insisting only that he’s “an innocent man.”

“I feel dirty in that this guy has no job right now, and for some reason we’ve decided as a network that we’re going to give him the stage for his redemption tour as he basically goes out and tries to find some employment,” Beadle said Tuesday. “I don’t understand why we’re doing that. If he wants to figure out a way to get his message out there — which by the way, he hasn’t said he did anything wrong, so how a man is supposed to convince anybody he’s changed and yet not admit to actually doing anything? I have no idea. But why we’re giving him the forum to go out there and tell anybody that is where I’m a little bit confused.”

Added Beadle on Twitter: For the love of f&$@. Dude doesn’t admit to wrongdoing. Dude has changed? I give the hell up.

Meanwhile, Jemele Hill, co-host of ESPN’s “His & Hers,” focused her criticism on Hardy, who apparently is trying to repair his image as he seeks a new employer.

“Greg Hardy is despicable. And I hope he never wears another NFL uniform again,” she said Tuesday.”And if you choose to sign him I hope you get exactly what the Cowboys got, which is absolutely nothing and little to no return for somebody who honestly has no redeeming value.”

Hill was not swayed by Hardy’s insistence that he’s never laid his hands on a woman.

“For me, to have shown remorse and contrition and at least accountability is an important part of the forgiveness process or, for that matter, showing people that maybe you’re not what we think that you are,” she said. “Greg Hardy time and time again shows us exactly who we all think him to be.”

— Comedian John Oliver’s campaign to embarrass the Yankees continued Wednesday night, when women dressed in shark and unicorn costumes occupied four expensive seats behind home plate during New York’s game against the Astros.

Oliver hatched his plan in response to Yankees COO Lonn Trost saying the team discouraged secondary ticket purchases from StubHub because fans who pay full price for premium seats wouldn’t feel comfortable sitting next to someone “who has never sat in a premium location. So that’s a frustration to our existing fan base.”

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Read More: Adam Schefter, Greg Hardy, Jemele Hill, Michelle Beadle