If you’ve ever watched First Take and wanted nothing more to yell at Stephen A. Smith for an opinion you disagree with, ESPN has just the show for you.
On Thursday, the network announced First Take: Your Take, a thrice-weekly interactive debate show that will debut Monday at 3 p.m. on Facebook Watch. On Mondays, it will air a traditional (but exclusive) studio program debate featuring Smith, Max Kellerman, and Molly Qerim. On Wednesdays, it will feature video responses from Facebook users. And every Friday, the fan whose submission most resonated with producers will be brought on to debate one of the regular First Take commentators.
ESPN shared this teaser video, featuring sound bytes of fans (and also, naturally, LaVar Ball) discussing sports using hot-takey phrases such as, “That’s one of the most egregious statements I’ve ever heard.”
ESPN is promoting this new venture as a ground-breaking new innovation, but it’s not the first time we’ve seen something along these lines. Back in 2009, a debate show for fans called Fanarchy lasted one (somewhat painful) season on Versus. More recently, First Take itself tried something similar in 2016 with a fan contest that ended in two lucky(?) viewers appearing on the show.
Generally, the trouble with fan submissions is that they feature the bold opinions characteristic of sports debate, only without the polished television skills possessed by professional talkers.
That said, ESPN commitment to a regular First Take: Your Take show populated by Facebook users reinforces the network’s interest in social media-based content, at a time when cable viewership is decreasing across the board. The Snapchat version of SportsCenter, which debuted in November, has been a hit thus far, with two million viewers a day, most of them either teens or young adults. It figures that ESPN wants to tinker further with airing shows on unconventional platforms.
According to Variety, Facebook will pay ESPN to license First Take: Your Take for six months.