ESPN’s new morning program, “Get Up!” has a complicated relationship with the word “different.”
On one hand it is the obvious challenge of diving into a crowded media landscape. On the other, everyone involved insists it is not the be all and end all of their mission.
Take host Mike Greenberg and vice president of studio production Bill Wolff.
After a rehearsal on Tuesday in advance of the April 2 premiere, Greenberg said, “You don’t try to do that. I have been involved in the show from its inception, and Bill and I have been brainstorming things forever.
“And at no point did we sit down and say to ourselves: How can we be different from everything else?”
Ten minutes later, Wolff said, “You hope that you can put together something that’s fresh, something that’s just a little bit different. Not different for difference’s sake, but different and, we hope, good.
“It’s really the best you can do. You can’t shake the audience by its lapels and say, ‘You must watch!’”
Not that those sentiments necessarily are in contradiction. It’s just, again, complicated.
The show, which will be on from 7 to 10 a.m. weekdays and star Greenberg, Michelle Beadle and Jalen Rose, has the benefit of the network’s high profile. So at the least, it will be sampled.
“We’re on a channel people watch, so over the course of the first couple of weeks that we’re on, I’m sure almost every really big sports fan will have seen it,” Greenberg said. “Then they’ll make up their own mind if they like it or not.”
But there are only so many ways of chewing over the previous night’s games or framing the sports debate du jour. In the end, the producer and hosts agree, the show will sink or swim based on personalities.
“The scores of last night’s games are the scores of last night’s games,” Rose said. “ I think the personality that drives a television show is ultimately what people enjoy. We hope they gravitate to our program and want to hear our opinions and how our show is put together.”
Said Beadle, “Look, sports are sports. The scores are the scores and the stories are the stories. None of us are doing anything that’s going to reinvent the wheel. It’s just a matter of relationships and liking us, our conversations . . . It’s just try and be interesting and don’t be [only] highlights. We’re trying to be a little different from what’s already on the air.”
There’s that word again. But ESPN is making a big bet on it working, from the hosts’ salaries to their glitzy home in a building at South Street Seaport’s Pier 17 that eventually will house other ESPN shows, including “First Take.”
The setting is grand, from the window behind the main studio desk to a rooftop deck with spectacular views of lower Manhattan that sometimes will be used for programming.
The original plan was to premiere on Jan. 2, but construction delayed that by three months – to the day of the NCAA Tournament final. If Michigan defeats Loyola-Chicago on Saturday night, former Wolverine Rose will be ready.
“I guess you can tell what I’m probably going to wear on the show that day,” said Rose, who initially told colleagues he planned to travel to San Antonio for the game if Michigan made it.
“He thought he was going to go,” Beadle said. “I was like, ‘No, you’ll be here.’”
Beadle and Rose will continue to appear on “NBA Countdown,” which also will emanate from Pier 17.
For Greenberg, the new gig is a big change after nearly two decades of morning radio alongside Mike Golic, who now teams with Trey Wingo.
ESPN2, which for years simulcast Greenberg and Golic, will carry “SportsCenter” in the morning, while Golic and Wingo will be simulcast on ESPNEWS.
The good news for Greenberg is that unlike many of his colleagues, he is used to the early morning shift, which has its drawbacks and its benefits.
Greenberg said morning work allowed him to pick up his children from school every day when they were younger, write four books and take 17 shots off his golf handicap, to a seven.
“That’s a lot of freaking golf lessons,” he said, “because I had a job that ends at 10 o’clock in the morning.”
“Get Up!” faces competition from sports TV and radio shows, from non-sports shows, from social media, and from the toasting of bread, shaving of faces and making of trains.
“There’s a lot of competition in the morning,” Wolff said. “There are established brands on the networks and the cable networks and the radio, so it’s a crowded playing field and so that’s a big challenge. Our play, and I like the play, is to bet on the talent. I think Greenberg and Beadle and Jalen Rose, this is elite talent. These are pros, and they’re appealing people.”
Said Greenberg, “The way we do stuff is a little different from the way other people do it. I think our pacing is different. You’ll see the pace is very fast, especially at the top of every hour, because I think people don’t have a lot of time, and if you can give them something quickly I think that’s beneficial.
“But ultimately the show is going to be a sports show built around the personalities of the hosts, and people will either like it or they won’t. I don’t think the goal is to be different. There’s no way to do that.”
He added, “We need to find a big enough audience that makes it work for everybody – makes it work for the business, makes it work for us. As long as we do that, then God bless everybody. There’s plenty of room out there.”