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Marchand: Are McAfee's ratings worth the ESPN headache?

In the aftermath of the latest "Aaron Rodgers said what?" moment from The Pat McAfee Show, many have assumed that ESPN will tolerate the periodic kerfuffles because McAfee's numbers are worth it.

Andrew Marchand of the New York Post raises an interesting question: Are they?

As Marchand reports, Stephen A. Smith's First Take has been delivering 583,000 viewers to McAfee's show on ESPN since McAfee migrated in September. McAfee is holding 302,000 viewers. That's a 48-percent drop.

Those numbers are still great for a weekday afternoon show. The question is are they great enough to justify the issues that go along with it?

Marchand notes that, on some days, FS1's The Herd with Colin Cowherd "has nearly beaten" McAfee. Marchand adds that The Herd has had a 19-percent bump in its audience over the past year, pushing it to 156,000 viewers on average.

That's still roughly half of what McAfee is doing. And that's without considering McAfee's audience on YouTube. As of this posting, 58,000 were watching live on Friday afternoon. The clips posted after each show generate large numbers, too.

Still, when all views are tabulated and all beans are counted, is it worth it for ESPN, ABC, and Disney?

The fact that McAfee quickly apologized for the show's role in Rodgers's potential defamation of Disney colleague Jimmy Kimmel shows that McAfee isn't ready to draw any lines in the sands of Beach Bristol. It's nonetheless the first major test of the relationship.

If, as it appears, the marriage survives, it's fair to ask whether the next test — or the next — test will be the one that triggers a divorce or an annulment. As Marchand points out, McAfee has a habit of walking away early. With the McAfee-ESPN deal at five years, most would say it's not going to make it that long.

At some point, though, there's no place else to go. McAfee can always stream his show on YouTube and generate revenue through sponsorships. He can create a subscription service; it likely would do very well.

Regardless, the point is that, if McAfee and ESPN are going to thrive as a partnership, something has to give. Especially if McAfee's show isn't holding half of the audience that First Take gives it.