If you turned on ESPN2 this morning to watch “First Take,” you were probably disappointed — or at least confused.
The sports-debate show re-launched on regular ol’ ESPN Tuesday, a move many consider overdue. Max Kellerman told TheWrap that he thinks the timing was spot on — but of course he does, given that he joined the franchise a few months ago. Since then, he’s made made many forget or even wish good riddance to former “First Take” host Skip Bayless, who jumped ship for a similar gig over at prime competitor Fox Sports 1.
Since his summer start, Kellerman says he and co-host Stephen A. Smith — as well as moderator Molly Qerim and the rest of the staff and crew — have gotten to know each other and gotten in rhythm. They’ve also been getting “ramped up for this” relaunch, which arrives with the new year.
“When people make a big deal of a moment or a game or a show or… a demarcation in time, a launch of something — there is extra adrenaline,” he told TheWrap in an exclusive interview. “You want to use that adrenaline to keep you sharp, and to use it in the service of the show — and I think that’s what happened today … It felt celebratory.”
The move from ESPN2 to ESPN has been in the works for a while, company vice president and “First Take” overlord David Roberts told TheWrap. The timing seemed perfect.
“You’re talking about a changing environment,” he said. “We certainly know that there’s more competition — and I’m not just talking about the competition on Fox Sports 1.”
He’s referring to the Bayless show, “Undisputed,” which is basically a carbon copy of “First Take.” Roberts knows others are coming for his first-place podium, and doesn’t plan to give up his spot. He’s keeping a close eye on Bayless, Shannon Sharpe and others.
“My job is to watch all of the competition, but not to overreact to what the competition is doing,” Roberts told us. “My primary focus is on the product that we do here, but like any good leader, you have to be aware of what’s going on in the landscape around you.”
Roberts, who’s even newer to the gig than Kellerman, is quite pleased with his “First Take” rookie’s progress.
“Max Kellerman is Max Kellerman — and that’s a good thing. The last thing we want to do is to replicate who he replaced. That’s not gonna happen,” Roberts said. “All we expect is that Max will be the best Max Kellerman he can be, and he’s well on his way to achieving the next steps in his own evolution as a superb talent in this business.”
Watch “The Continued Evolution of Max Kellerman” — a.k.a. “First Take” — now on ESPN from 10 a.m. to noon.