12 May 2015

Some significant changes are coming to ESPN Radio

It is only Tuesday and we already have some big changes heading the way of ESPN Radio. On Monday, the great John Ourand broke the story that Mike & Mike was adding a permanent third voice in Molly Qerim, who will join from NFL Network's 'NFL AM,' and will move from ESPN headquarters in Bristol to studios directly above 'Good Morning America' in Times Square following Super Bowl 50. Then came today's news that Scott Van Pelt will be leaving his ESPN Radio program, SVP and Russillo, this summer in order to host a midnight edition of SportsCenter.

Factoring all of that in with some rumors that Colin Cowherd may leave ESPN to dive into talk radio and all of a sudden, ESPN Radio could be poised for a major shakeup.

Considering the nature of radio, the fact that Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic have worked together since 1998 on the ESPN Radio morning program is pretty stunning. But as one could expect, the show has gotten stale and thus one can see why they are adding a third host and moving the show to New York. The addition of Qerim is interesting considering that she, not to my knowledge, has no radio experience and is an outside hire from NFL Network. The move to New York is likely to make it easier to lure big-name guests in-studio especially considering the proximity to the GMA studio. However, I also get the perception that they are aiming to make it more of a television show rather than a radio show on television and if that is the case, it could be interesting to see the response of affiliates.
UPDATE: Mike & Mike will stay in Bristol.

The Van Pelt news was also a surprise as it appears that this new edition of SportsCenter at midnight will be more of a traditional late night program, albeit one with highlights and the like. It seems like a nice fit for a versatile talent like SVP but in the meantime, it leaves a sizable gap in the ESPN Radio schedule as SVP & Russillo was perhaps the top show on their lineup. It seems unlikely to me that Ryen Russillo will host the show by himself so either ESPN will give him a new partner or there will be a whole new program altogether.

Even as his contract is expiring this summer, it seems unlikely to me that Cowherd would leave to dive into political talk radio as the link suggests. After all, talk radio is not the easiest forum to break into (look at Mike Huckabee's recent effort) considering the long-standing dominance of the big names in the field. It is hard to see Cowherd getting a bigger platform that he has right now but if the rumors that he wants to leave ESPN are true, it would leave another hole in the key 10-1 timeslot.

ESPN Radio is no stranger to lineup shifts considering we saw one less than two months ago with a new evening lineup and the afternoon lineup saw a shift back in the fall of 2013 with Dan Le Batard's excellent program being added (and now his show will be simulcast on Fusion). And even with syndicated programs largely being at the mercy of affiliates, so many stations in smaller markets clear ESPN Radio's full schedule that changes to their lineup likely will not change much. That said, such changes will certainly be fun to watch.

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