After First Take did a reboot from being the Today Show of sports television to All Debates, All the Time, the show has been in need of a host after anchors Dana Jacobsen and Jay Crawford either left or were reassigned.
There were reports that former NESN Red Sox on-field reporter Heidi Watney was a candidate to host the show, but instead, Cari Champion of Tennis Channel was tapped to be the new host and moderator to sit in between Skippy Bayless and Stephen A. “A is for Argumentative” Smith.
Cari has been the social media repoter and interviewer for Tennis Channel during the French and U.S. Opens. She also anchored various studio updates for the network. Now she’ll need lots of Tylenol sitting in between Skippy and Stephen and hearing them yell for two hours.
Here’s the press release.
Cari Champion Joins ESPN as Host of First Take as Show Ratings Surge
Broadcast journalist and television personality Cari Champion will join ESPN2’s lively morning debate show, First Take, as host on October 1. Champion joins featured commentators Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith as a full-time member of the show where she will moderate the debate topics while offering her perspective and insight.
Champion joins First Take as the show’s ratings are on the rise with year-to-date ratings up 33% among all viewers. Despite Olympic competition during the third quarter of this year, First Take is up 21% year-over-year from 3Q 2011 and is up even more among the coveted male 18-34 demographic with a dramatic 54% quarter-over-quarter increase.
“Cari brings a wealth of broadcast experience spanning both sports and entertainment across various networks, and we’re excited to welcome her to the show,” said Jamie Horowitz, ESPN’s vice president of original programming and production. “It takes a strong personality to moderate this program and Cari knows how passionate Skip and Stephen A. get while defending their sports opinions. She’s prepared to grab the reins and attempt to keep the show on track each morning. We wish her the best.”
“I have been an avid watcher of the show. I love the barbershop debates that make First Take feel different than other programs,” said Champion. “I am excited to join the show and will try to speak when Skip takes a breath and Stephen sips his water.”
Champion has worked across the country covering network news, entertainment, and sports stories of national interest for ABC, CBS, NBC and other cable networks. A native of Southern California, Champion graduated from UCLA and moved to West Virginia for her first reporting job. She then moved to Florida where she covered the Williams sisters’ superstar status in tennis and quickly created a name for herself which allowed her to cover more nationally televised events. From Florida’s devastating hurricanes to high-profile human interest stories, Champion has covered all aspects of news.
Champion joins ESPN from the Tennis Channel where she was an anchor and a courtside reporter, most recently covering the 2012 U.S. Open. She has also served as an entertainment/lifestyle reporter doing features for The Insider, Hollywood 411 and Starz Entertainment.
There you have it.