Media Mailbag: New ESPN Radio, Mark Levin, GameDay

Another great week of questions for the Outkick Media Mailbag. The mailbag will now go live every Wednesday. Thank you for your support and questions.

Here we go:

"You are so right that the new ESPN lineup is complete trash. Embarrassing. What time slots is it the best in now? None?"

Ha, well, I didn't say it was "complete trash." I said, overall, it's a downgrade.

To your question, it's not definitively the best sports radio option in any slot.

I'm high on the Mike Greenberg and Max Kellerman shows and I expect them to work. But Greenberg's two hours and Kellerman's first go directly up against The Herd, which is currently considered the top sports radio show. Cowherd, Greenberg, and Kellerman are all A-level stars in the industry. You can rank them in any order. It will be fascinating to see how they compare. Certainly, some will choose Greenberg/Kellerman; others will stick with Cowherd. All three should be some of the best sports shows this fall.

Also, Kellerman's final hour goes up against Chris "Mad Dog" Russo, who might be the most entertaining radio host in the business. Thus, I can't say Kellerman is a better option than Russo at 3 p.m., but it will be close. With that said, Russo is now the clear best sports radio offering from 4 - 6 p.m.

I don't like ESPN's direction as a network, but they nailed it on radio from 12 - 4 p.m. 

As for the rest of the new radio lineup, I don't see much success there. Additionally, keeping Dan Le Batard and Sarah Spain in the lineup will prevent the growth with affiliates the network is hoping for.

"Great column today re new line up at ESPN radio! Mailbag question: how do ratings compare for those shows on Sirius v those on terrestrial radio? Compounding this is those radio shows on both platforms? Finally, does streaming or downloads of shows get factored in? Seems confusing to see what ratings take into account in determining total listeners/popularity! Thanks for the great work at Outkick!"

A difficult question to answer.

We don't really know what works on SiriusXM. I can guess, based on signings, but I don't know for a fact.

Yes, streaming and downloads are assessed in measuring a radio show's success. Now, the degree varies on the decision-maker and show. The money still favors terrestrial radio. They are still radio shows. That's what matters most. If a show doesn't work on radio, but is successful digitally, like the Le Batard Show, it shouldn't be on radio; just air it as a podcast.

If a show can succeed on both mediums, then, yes, it is unquestionably more valuable as a result. Both The Herd and the Dan Patrick Show perform well on terrestrial radio and in podcast form.

The other factor is how the digital version is monetized. If a radio show has an exclusive sponsor for its podcast form, that show's podcast performance is more essential

"Mark Levin seems next up for a cable news primetime show, no? He’s energetic and his FNC show is great on Sun."

The show you are referring to is Life, Liberty & Levin on Fox News, which draws around 2 million viewers a week.

The issue with Levin in primetime is that his radio show airs from 6 - 9 p.m. ET. As lucrative and appealing as primetime cable news is — it's one of the best jobs in media — Levin probably isn't aching to move off his radio show, the fourth most-listened-to in the country. 

No doubt he would be a grand slam addition, though. He's wild on-air and might be better at re-naming his opponents than Sean Hannity and President Donald Trump. Levin would come into a primetime show, as he has with Life, Liberty & Levin, with a built-in, passionate audience. 

CNBC reportedly had previous discussions with Levin for a TV role. CNBC is now considering pivoting to a conservative primetime lineup.

If a channel could make it work with his radio show, the fire-igniting Levin is the best available choice. 

Brian Kilmeade is another talent who could jump into a primetime role with instant success.

"What’s the future of College Gameday and Big Noon kickoff? Fox can deal with their crew in studio. I’m not sure Gameday would work in studio."

As is everything with college football right now, it's up in the air.

Big Noon Kickoff, as you said, worked fine in the studio last year. Though I did hear, pre-pandemic, Fox was considering taking it on the road more frequently. 

GameDay would take a hit if it were in the studio this upcoming season. The historically acclaimed program is known for its unmatched atmosphere on college campuses. But it may not have to give that up entirely.

Even if fans are not able to attend this season, the show could still go on the road. GameDay could air on campuses absent of fans, or inside the stadium. That's a possibility. Not ideal, but would be a better option than the drastic change of airing in a studio.

Similarly, SEC Nation is facing the same uncertainty. It, too, has aired weekly on the road. The SEC pregame show is debuting a new cast, as Outkick reported, of Laura Rutledge, Tim Tebow, Roman Harper, and Jordan Rodgers. Its first season with the new crew is vital.

"Do you think some sports provider will start offering just stadium noise with no announcers as an SAP option so we can literally just focus on watching sports and not listen to any announcer's political views? If I'm wagering on a game, I don't care about the politics of the athletes, coaches, or leagues honestly. I know ESPN offers crowd-only noise for special events like the college football championship online, and personally I prefer it anyway as I feel much more like I'm part of the crowd. Thank you."

This is an interesting one. I honestly have no idea. I won't pretend to. But I doubt it on a large scale.

I do think there will be more alternative options for major broadcasts; that makes sense as one of them. It's definitely a cool idea.

You raise an interesting point about political views. I can't imagine the broadcasters will offer their political stances during a game. I'm not saying it's impossible! But, if so, that'd be alarming and shameful. Will they mention the players' political comments and actions? That's very possible. To that, I agree, the fans would disapprove. 

It's one thing to discuss these topics on a sports show, which is terrible for ratings, but during a game? There would be severe negative results. By that, I mean people changing the channel and not coming back.

Written by
Bobby Burack is a writer for OutKick where he reports and analyzes the latest topics in media, culture, sports, and politics.. Burack has become a prominent voice in media and has been featured on several shows across OutKick and industry related podcasts and radio stations.