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NEWS, TIPS, STRATEGIES & OBSERVATIONS ON THE SPORTS MEDIA INDUSTRY!
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    Ian Fitzsimmons will host ESPN Radio’s 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. ET the week of August 31 – September 4.  Fitzsimmons, host of The Ian Fitzsimmons Show, which airs Sundays at 3 p.m. on ESPN Radio, will be paired with a variety of voices during the week including Will Cain, Trevor Matichand Freddie Coleman.  Cain joined ESPN in March 2015 and is a contributor to several ESPN shows and platforms including E:60, ESPN The Magazine, First Take and His & Hers.  Matich serves as a college football analyst on ESPN Radio’s College GameDay, as well as ESPN television shows including SportsCenter and College Football Live.  Coleman can be heard weekdays from 11 p.m. – 2 a.m. on ESPN Radio’s The Freddie Coleman Show.  Coleman, who has been with ESPN since 2004, also appears on various ESPN television shows including His & Hers and First Take. Date Pairing Mon, Aug 31 Ian Fitzsimmons and Will Cain Tue, Sep 1 Fitzsimmons and Trevor Matich Wed, Sep 2 Fitzsimmons and Matich Thu, Sep 3 Fitzsimmons and Matich Fri, Sep 4 Fitzsimmons and Freddie Coleman

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    When the football season ends, stations usually add extra weekend programming to make up for the loss of NFL and College Football play by play and shoulder programming. On the network level, the strategy is no different, and this year ESPN Radio is making moves to strengthen its weekend offerings. The network will team up three of their highest profile female personalities with the debut of “The Trifecta“. The program will be hosted by Sarah Spain, Jane McManus, and Kate Fagan and air on Saturday’s from 12p-3p starting January 9th. Spain has been a contributor on Dan Le Batard’s show and previously hosted a weekend program with Prim Siripipat. McManus is one of espnw’s top NFL reporters and columnists, and Fagan also writes for espnw and has been a refreshing addition to “Around the Horn“. In addition, the network will launch another new Saturday program. ESPN New York’s Dave Rothenberg will join forces with Mike Golic Jr. and ESPN.com NBA reporter Michael Wallace Saturday evenings from 5p-8p. The trio will also debut on January 9th. Turning to Sunday, Fagan will add another program when she teams with ESPN contributor Will Cain for a new show titled “Will and Kate“. The show will air [...]

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    espnW has re-signed versatile writer and commentator Kate Fagan to a new multiyear agreement, which will keep yet another of the brand’s core voices in its ranks. Fagan will continue in her role as a featured reporter and columnist for espnW on multiple ESPN platforms including espnW.com, ESPN TV – including Around the Horn, First Take, His & Hers and others — and she adds two new national ESPN Radio shows to her resume. Fagan will host the new ESPN Radio show, Will & Kate, with ESPN contributor Will Cain, which will launch Sunday, February 14. The program, airing Sundays from 7 – 10 a.m. ET, will take an intellectual look at topical societal issues in sports by hosts who often find their opinions to be at opposite sides of the spectrum. She is also the co-host of espnW’s The Trifecta with Spain, Jane and Kate on ESPN Radio, which debuted January 9 (airing noon – 3 p.m.), alongside fellow espnW writers Jane McManus and Sarah Spain. The show capitalizes on the trio’s chemistry as they discuss the key stories in sports and across society with a distinct perspective that only espnW can provide. Fagan is the third espnW contributor to [...]

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    With Skip Bayless expected to join Jamie Horowitz’s burgeoning empire at Fox Sports 1, the focus shifts to ESPN’s replacement options alongside Stephen A. Smith on First Take. Say what you will about Bayless, and First Take’s programming approach, but the program has been ultra successful for the worldwide leader in sports. Ratings have been high, and the pairing of Smith and Bayless created curiosity, and instant reaction. Whether you loved or hated Skip and Stephen A., you paid attention. So filling the void of Bayless’ departure is not an easy task for ESPN executives. Not only are they challenged to make the second coming of the program better than the original (always tough to do) but they’re also saddled with keeping their one remaining star (Smith) happy, while finding the right partner to pair him with. Finding an opinionated personality in sports media isn’t difficult, but not every individual can be comfortable, and provide the right chemistry and fit opposite Stephen. Gaining his buy in is critical to making the show work in the future. Which is why some of the considerations mentioned all make sense. So which options are at ESPN’s disposal? I’m told by multiple sources that there are at [...]

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    It’s been a tumultuous time for the worldwide leader in sports. In 2015, ESPN lost a number of their best on-air talent, as Bill Simmons, Colin Cowherd, Jason Whitlock, and Keith Olbermann all vacated Bristol University. The company also shut down Grantland, and eliminated three hundred jobs, painting a gloomy picture for the largest sports media operator in the country. But then 2016 arrived, and many assumed that the worst for ESPN was in the rear view mirror. Yet aside from the devastation of losing 300 positions, ESPN finds itself in similar territory, dealing with major talent departures once again. In just four full months of the calendar year, the company has already lost or terminated Skip Bayless, Mike Tirico, Brad Nessler, Robert Smith, Keyshawn Johnson, Curt Schilling, Joe Schad, and Robert Flores. Another talented analyst Trent Dilfer is also expected to depart. If there’s a media company capable of overcoming these types of losses it’s ESPN. But, when you lose high profile talent consistently, it has a way of coming back to bite you in the ass. Keep in mind, we don’t know yet if Jeff Van Gundy or Mark Jackson will get scooped up by an NBA team looking for a [...]

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    Professional sports are an excellent teacher for understanding how a quest for power can rip apart an organization. When too much control is placed in the wrong hands, good situations turn into nightmares. Just look at the St. Louis Rams, Denver Broncos, and Philadelphia Eagles under Mike Martz, Josh McDaniels, and Chip Kelly. But for every individual who sends a franchise into a downward spiral, there are leaders like Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, and Pat Riley who remind us that great results can be achieved when power is placed in capable hands. In the radio business, the person making the final call on key decisions is often the Program Director or General/Market Manager. Some PD’s have strong vision, excellent decision making skills, and are empowered to do their jobs. Everyone inside the organization knows that it’s their way or the highway. In a few other instances, programmers are hired who are great caretakers, and schedule makers, but not equipped at making important hiring decisions. Some PD’s get hired because they’re willing to concede control to a GM who wishes to decide all key programming decisions. GM’s can operate very differently. Some put their trust in their programmers, allow them to make decisions, and hold them accountable [...]

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    ESPN has lost a lot of high profile talent over the past eighteen months, but that hasn’t tempered John Skipper’s enthusiasm. The President of ESPN remains confident that the talent roster offered by the worldwide leader is still the best in sports media. “I didn’t see any lack of talent on our stage today,” said Skipper following ESPN’s annual Upfront presentation. “We are very happy with the people who work for us, and highly focused on new voices, diverse voices, and changing the way we look to reflect the way the fan looks now. So we are quite happy with our complement of talent.” When asked for an update on how the search to replace Skip Bayless was progressing, Skipper said a decision had not yet been made. He also declined to comment on speculation that Max Kellerman and Will Cain were the top two contenders for the open chair on “First Take”. Although the focus remains on those two internal options, there are other candidates receiving serious consideration who don’t currently work for ESPN. Speaking of “First Take”, Stephen A. Smith was also present at the Upfronts presentation. Speaking on-stage to a room full of media buyers, Stephen A. said that [...]

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    ESPN Radio are set to roll out a new fall weekend lineup with a heavy focus on the 2016 college football and NFL seasons. The network has announced the addition of two new programs, including a three-hour program titled “McNabb & Custer”, featuring former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb and veteran Emmy Award-winning broadcaster Brian Custer. The new show will debut Sunday, September 11th at 10pm ET, or immediately following Sunday Night Baseball. The new weekend lineup will be in place until the end of the football season. “Without question, the biggest names in sports talking football will be on ESPN Radio all weekend,” said David Roberts, vice president, ESPN Audio network content. “Fans can expect the most comprehensive information, from an array of diverse voices who will always be willing to provide a provocative, informed point of view on America’s number sport. We are looking forward to serving the sports fans anytime and anywhere across the audio platforms this fall.” Louise Cornetta, ESPN Radio program director II, added: “The Fall means football. The goal is to give our fans the most comprehensive and entertaining coverage for College Football on Saturdays and the NFL on Sundays. The new weekend lineup will [...]

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    ESPN continues its trend of announcing contract extensions for a number of its on-air performers. This week the news revolves around baseball analyst Eduardo Perez and commentator Will Cain. For Perez, he’s signed a new multiyear deal to continue providing analysis on ESPN’s Monday Night Baseball (since 2016) and making additional appearances on Wednesday Night Baseball and Baseball Tonight: Sunday Night Countdown. The veteran MLB analyst will also deliver commentary on the network’s news and information programs, including SportsCenter. Pérez joined ESPN in 2006 and was with the company until 2011. He left to pursue opportunities as the Miami Marlins hitting coach and the Houston Astros bench coach. He returned to the worldwide leader in 2014. The second contract extension involves Cain. As part of his new agreement, Cain will continue offering commentary on programs such as First Take, Outside the Lines and E:60. He’ll also contribute on ESPN Radio, and to ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com. Cain made the jump to ESPN in March 2015 after serving as a political analyst for CNN and The Blaze. He’s also contributed to the National Review, as a guest-host on ABC’s The View and MSNBC’s Way Too Early. He has appeared on Fox News, MSNBC’s Morning Joe, and HBO’s [...]

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    ESPN Radio has announced upcoming lineup changes which will go into effect January 2, 2018. The news confirms the departure of Bomani Jones and Jalen & Jacoby from terrestrial radio to create exclusive digital content. Israel Gutierrez is also replaced alongside Sarah Spain by Jason Fitz. The biggest news though involves an expanded presence for Stephen A. Smith who takes over weekdays from 1p-3p ET. The move results in Ryen Russillo shifting to afternoons where he’ll now team with up with Will Cain. Smith’s program had been airing locally during those hours in New York and Los Angeles. Industry insiders expected Smith to be a featured attraction on the network last January when he departed from SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Radio but network officials decided to wait on making the move. All ESPN Radio shows will be available live and as podcasts via ESPNRadio.com and the ESPN app, as well as on SiriusXM Channel 80 (live only), Apple Music, TuneIn and Slacker Radio. “Top to bottom, ESPN Radio will have the strongest, most experienced and most thought-provoking lineup in sports talk radio,” said Traug Keller, senior vice president, ESPN Audio. “Diverse voices with a variety of perspectives will provide listeners with compelling content all [...]

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    The problems continue for ESPN, except this time it’s the radio network that’s been affected. One month after announcing lineup changes which would begin in January, a key member involved in those plans has announced he’s not planning to stick around. Ryen Russillo, who had been with ESPN Radio for over a decade, and who had been hosting weekdays 1p-4p ET and was expected to shift to afternoons 3p-6p ET with Will Cain, has decided not to resign with the company. An official statement has been released regarding the unexpected change. Russillo said today on his program that he will finish out the week before turning afternoons over to Will Cain. The plan was to initially announce the news on Monday but due to the John Skipper story it was pushed back. Russillo said that he was offered a new deal by ESPN but chose to turn it down citing a change in time slots, a neutral compensation offer and a lack of happiness with his current career direction leading him to question where he was headed at this point in his career. Additionally, Ryen shared that he’s excited by the idea of moving to California to pursue opportunities as [...]

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    The new year is here and we’ve got plenty to catch you up on from across the sports media universe. A reminder to my industry friends, I’m happy to help you tell your story if you take the time to pass it along. Whether it’s a major development or something smaller, if it’s relevant to the sports media business and worth informing listeners or advertisers about, I’m here to help. All tips can be relayed via email to JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com. Now here’s the latest news! BSM will have a piece coming out on Friday taking a look at the fall ratings for a number of sports stations across the country. Be sure to visit the website or keep an eye out on social media for the column. 2018 began with a number of new shows premiering across the nation. The one though under the largest microscope is WFAN‘s new afternoon show featuring Chris Carlin, Bart Scott and Maggie Gray. The trio officially took over for Mike Francesa on Tuesday January 2nd and have already earned the scorn of the New York Daily News. To read the newspaper’s blistering review of the show click here. Newsday‘s Neil Best provided a less scathing assessment of the [...]

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    They may not steal the headlines in the sports media world but news is news. Here are a couple of smaller items you might have missed. A reminder, if you have news to share and would like to have it included in a future column please pass it along via email to JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com. Now here’s the latest. Michelle Smallmon has announced her exit from ESPN Radio. Her final day at the network was Friday where she helped produce Will Cain‘s afternoon show. During her past few years in Bristol, Smallmon produced Ryen Russillo, Danny Kanell, Jorge Sedano, Cain, and a slew of others. All the best to her as she prepares to write the next chapter of her career. Speaking of ESPN, former producer Jason Romano has added the title “author” to his resume. Romano’s brand new book Live To Forgive went on sale this week. To pick up your copy and support a member of the sports media fraternity click here. All the best to 98.5 The Sports Hub‘s Marc Bertrand. The midday host was involved in an accident on Saturday which resulted in his vehicle being totaled and a trip to the hospital. Bertrand says he sustained injuries but has [...]

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    Michelle Smallmon is heading home. After recently announcing her departure from ESPN Radio, the former producer for Ryen Russillo, Danny Kanell, Will Cain and Jorge Sedano has been hired by her former employer 101 ESPN in St. Louis to become Bernie Miklasz’s partner in morning drive. “I’m so thrilled to be reunited with Bernie Miklasz and my 101 ESPN family in this new role” said Smallmon. “Getting the opportunity to work at ESPN in Bristol was a dream come true, and I’m so grateful for my time there and to all the amazing people I met at the network. But St. Louis is my home, and it feels great to be back in the community that means so much to me.” Prior to moving to Bristol, CT to produce for ESPN Radio, Smallmon spent time producing and contributing to Miklasz’s show. Now after gaining more experience and honing her skills, she’s ready to head back to where it all started and take on a bigger on-air role working with one of St. Louis’ best on-air radio personalities. “I gave Michelle her first full-time gig in sports-talk radio” noted Miklasz. “I chose her as my producer even though there were more [...]