Sports Radio News
Tony Kornheiser Says Goodbye To ESPN 980
The Tony Kornheiser era on terrestrial radio in Washington D.C has come to an end. The popular sports personality broadcast his final show Wednesday on ESPN 980. Kornheiser revealed last month that he was leaving the local radio station to launch his own digital venture. He now has a new website and will begin delivering a daily podcast in the next 60 days.
During his final show on 980, Kornheiser mentioned that he’s not sad about leaving the local radio airwaves, in fact he’s happy. He took the audience behind the curtain and shared why he has a strong positive outlook on the show’s future while offering a deeper look at some of the business challenges that he considered in making the move into the digital space.
“All the people that I do the radio show with are coming with me, except for Kevin, who’s gone on to bigger and better things” said Kornheiser. “The only thing that changes is the method of delivery. It is the exact same show. What I feel bad about is that people my age, who I know listen to me, are too stubborn to even learn how to do a podcast, so they won’t change.”
“The opportunity to do this, I walked away from two years left on a contract,” explained Kornheiser. “I don’t know what is being written or what is being said, but the truth of the matter is, I walked away with two years left on a contract, which at my age is so stupid and an indefensible position. Why did I do it? Because I thought it might be nice to see if I could get [not] people to pay for it on a daily basis, but advertisers who I could bring a certain amount of listeners: smart, funny, affluent people all around the country.”
“Not only did I leave money on the table, like a moron; I’m not gonna make any money, and I’m gonna pay people money,” Kornheiser continued. “So if it fails, it can’t fail soon enough, and I’ll come back. But I can’t emphasize this enough: You know, Torie (Clarke), Liz (Clarke), Jeanne (McManus), Chris (Cillizza), and David (Aldridge). It’s the show it is. It’s a radio show.”
Moving away from terrestrial radio is a risky proposition but if anyone can make it work it’s Kornheiser. That’s because his brand and show have national appeal, making the local focus a little less important. He also has a daily profile on ‘Pardon The Interruption’ on ESPN and if he wants to gain promotion for his new project, media outlets won’t hesitate to book time with him and give him an opportunity to promote it.
That said, building awareness, and getting listeners to jump through a few extra hoops to hear a show isn’t always easy. It’s not the same as Howard Stern moving from terrestrial radio to satellite radio but certain similarities do come to mind. When an audience has to do extra work to hear a program they like, they sometimes lose patience and find new ways to be entertained. That will be Tony’s biggest challenge to overcome.
In recent times, Kornheiser’s show wasn’t a huge ratings winner for ESPN 980. Local competitor 106.7 The Fan regularly beat the show head to head. Using that logic, one could make the case that ESPN 980 stands to benefit by replacing his time slot.
However, the Tony Kornheiser brand had broad appeal and was attractive to advertisers for different reasons. In addition, his digital performance on 980’s website was massive. Sustaining those digital numbers and keeping business on the books will be 980’s main challenges especially in the short term until people become familiar with their new programming.
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
Sports Radio News
Mike Evans: ESPN is Going To Have to Cover the Nuggets Next Week
“If they want to get anything out of their investment, they’ve got to do their best to pump this thing up.”
When the Denver Nuggets advanced to the NBA Finals, much of the ESPN coverage centered around the Los Angeles Lakers being swept. Viewers perceived there being minimal mentions of Nikola Jokić, Jamal Murray and the rest of the Nuggets organization and what the team had just accomplished.
Brian Windhorst appeared on ESPN and stated the Lakers were terrific at going down in the series and calling the sweep an impressive performance by the team.
“I have to admit – my entire life as a sports fan, covering sports – countless locker rooms [and] press conferences – I don’t think I’ve heard anything dumber than that,” said Denver Sports 104.3 The Fan host Mike Evans.
ESPN has received its fair share of criticism, magnified when NBA on TNT studio analyst Charles Barkley expressed his disdain for the lack of Denver Nuggets coverage on television. LeBron James divulging that he is weighing retirement ostensibly played a role in the plans for talking points since he is widely regarded as one of the top players to ever take the court. Game 1 of the 2023 NBA Finals takes place on Thursday, June 1, meaning ESPN has over a week until the action commences; however, the show believes that placing the Lakers at the forefront imparts an agenda focused on garnering television ratings.
“‘What’s LeBron’s legacy?’,” co-host Mark Schlereth suggested as a topic on ESPN. “How does this win affect his legacy? Will he or will he not come back?’ Dude, the Nuggets just went to the Finals for the first time in their 47-year existence.”
“‘Kyrie Irving courtside!,’” Evans mocked an ESPN host saying. “‘Are they going to team up again?’”
The show proceeded to refer to Windhorst as a fanboy, especially since he covered James for the majority of his NBA career. They had ESPN on in a studio television throughout the show and saw no coverage pertaining to the Denver Nuggets, instead saying that the shows were centered around James, head coach Darvin Ham and the Lakers’ future. Nonetheless, Evans assumes things will change as the NBA Finals draw near.
“Starting next week, it’ll all be about the Nuggets and [Miami] Heat because ultimately no matter what you want to say about ESPN or how mad you are about ESPN, they do have the NBA Finals,” Evans articulated. “If they want to get anything out of their investment, they’ve got to do their best to pump this thing up.”
Sports Radio News
Jon Ritchie: ‘Not Realistic’ for Mike Florio to Expect Answers From Howie Roseman
“I think your ask of Howie is ridiculous for him.”
Things got contentious this week on Pro Football Talk Live. Howie Roseman would not answer Mike Florio’s direct questions about tampering. Jon Ritchie listened to the audio Wednesday morning on 94 WIP and put the blame on Florio.
Before the NFL Draft, the NFL ruled that the Arizona Cardinals were guilty of tampering with then-Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon the week that the Eagles were in Arizona for Super Bowl LVII. Gannon was named head coach of the Cardinals the next day.
When Florio asked Roseman about it, Roseman offered what sounded like a prepared statement saying that it did not make sense for the Eagles to dwell on the past. Instead, he thanked Gannon for his work for the team and said that any tampering penalties and arguments were “made at the ownership level.”
While that answer did not satisfy Ritchie’s partner Joe DeCamara, Ritchie said that he isn’t sure what Florio or anyone else would expect Howie Roseman to say in that situation.
“I don’t think it’s realistic to expect Howie to put his heart out and give his true feelings. He doesn’t want to come out against the league,” he said.
The duo played more audio from the exchange in which Florio accused Howie Roseman of deflecting and asking if he would like to read his talking points for a third time. Roseman shot back that Florio is easily on a list of the NFL’s top 5 conspiracy theorists.
Just how contentious things actually were can be debated, but according to Jon Ritchie, one of them deserves more criticism than the other.
“I thought Florio came across as rude yesterday,” he said. “I think your ask of Howie is ridiculous for him. We’re standing up like an adult and sticking to our guns, the high-road guns, and I appreciate that. Think of what you’re asking Howie to do, like take aim at the league…That’s not realistic.”
Sports Radio News
Fred Toucher: ‘ESPN is Now Just 3 People’
“Stephen A. Smith is on in the morning. He’s on the radio. He does a podcast. He’s at all the games. He does the postgames.”
How deep is the talent rotation at ESPN? Not very according to Fred Toucher. The 98.5 The Sports Hub morning host has certainly noticed that the network is turning to a small handfull of stars to do the bulk of the work.
“ESPN is now like three people, and Stephen A. Smith is on in the morning. He’s on the radio. He does a podcast. He’s at all the games. He does the postgames,” morning host Fred Toucher said. “Imagine if we had a microphone in front of us 12 hours a day…The guy’s going to snap one time.”
That led to a new segment on Toucher & Rich titled “Stephen A. Smith is horny” with music by R&B artist Barry White playing in the background. Throughout the nearly 20-minute aside, the show played clips from Smith’s Cadence 13-produced podcast recently renamed The Stephen A. Smith Show, and spoke about how he is now giving dating advice to close out episodes of his show.
“My man can’t help getting horny on it every single episode,” Jon Wallach said. “He is trapped with a microphone in front of him 18 hours a day – he really is. He’s on TV and the radio and podcast. It doesn’t stop.”
Because of Smith’s busy schedule across ESPN programming – including First Take, NBA Countdown, NBA in Stephen A’s World and guest appearances on shows such as SportsCenter and Get Up – he seems to be over the airwaves more often than not. On top of that, he hosts new episodes of his podcast at least three times a week. He has said the network did research that found he had reached 1.7 billion people on ESPN’s YouTube page last year, and that the number is expected to hit 2.4 billion at the end of this year.
The Boston morning show surmised that since Smith hardly has moments away from his profession, he cannot help but to talk about topics such as dating advice to vary the content.
“He just loves to drop into that sexy – ‘We’re going to do dating advice because everyone’s reaching out for dating advice from Stephen A. Smith,’” Toucher said.