Mike & Mike’s evolving format helps spark ESPN2 ratings surge

In Studio E, (L-R) Mike Greenberg, Mike Golic and Cris Carter discuss matters on the ESPN2/ESPN Radio simulcast of Mike & Mike. (Nick Caito/ESPN Images)
In Studio E, (L-R) Mike Greenberg, Mike Golic and Cris Carter discuss matters on the ESPN2/ESPN Radio simulcast of Mike & Mike.
(Nick Caito/ESPN Images)

This fall, Mike & Mike has reached new levels of success with its ESPN2 simulcast, earning its best television audiences in September and October since 2011, representing a 29-percent increase. Front Row spoke with Amanda Gifford, ESPN Radio’s senior director daytime programming, about the show’s direction.

Amanda Gifford ( Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images)
Amanda Gifford
(Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images)

What was the plan for Mike & Mike for this fall?
We try to get the entire show team together seasonally and look ahead to what things we want to change, evolve or do differently from the previous season. Ray Necci, program director of Mike & Mike, and I gathered the team in the summer to look ahead to the fall. We evaluated the features, the guests, the presentation and what new content we wanted to create.

Each person brought at least two new ideas for the fall. Once we gathered the initial list, we met with the Mikes [co-hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic], whittled it down, and came up with a pretty robust plan. The goal is always to increase ratings on every platform. It’s a unique challenge trying to serve radio, TV and the digital audience equally.

What are some of the more successful ideas that have been implemented?
We added a few new features, including the addition of a celebrity guest picker every week. Talent producer Josh Drew has been instrumental in getting some of the biggest names: [actor] Ty Burrell, [golfer] Jordan Spieth, [comedian] Seth Meyers, [NBA star] Chris Bosh, etc. Through careful analysis of the ratings, we found viewers and listeners really like when there are a lot of voices within the show.

The goal is always to increase ratings on every platform. It’s a unique challenge trying to serve radio, TV and the digital audience equally.
– Amanda Gifford

Clearly, it’s still Mike & Mike, but giving the guys some different voices to work off of has added another dimension to the show. You’ll notice hours with [ESPN NFL analyst] Cris Carter, extended segments with [ESPN Chicago radio co-host] Tom Waddle, [His & Hers’ co-hosts] Jemele Hill and Michael Smith, [ESPN college football analyst and ESPN Radio co-host] Danny Kanell, etc.

We also found ways to improve the workflow between radio and TV. One thing that has particularly worked well has been the use of video clips rather than just the radio sound bites. Our post-show and planning meetings became more inclusive; this led to better communication and execution for all platforms. [There are] still some ways to go, but it has improved a lot.

Where does the show go from here?
We’ll continue to find ways to grow audience. We’ll add voices post football season – they could be an NBA/college basketball-specific person or could be generalist. We’re in the process of making that list now.

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