ESPN Chose Pat McAfee Over Dan Le Batard Because McAfee Is Better | Bobby Burack

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The Pat McAfee Show debuted on ESPN last week as the first radio/podcast show to air on the main network. Previously, shows like The Herd, Mike & Mike, and Stephen A. Smith Show aired on secondary channels: ESPN2, ESPNNews, and ESPNU.

The decision to elevate McAfee has former ESPN host Dan Le Batard questioning why the network didn’t make him the first. He suspects ESPN held him back on the basis of his politics:

“What is funny about what just happened with McAfee is I don’t know if it’s so because I can’t I can’t go back in time and know if it would actually be possible to have my politics and be what that is, because it’s inescapable that post George Floyd, what happened there is they told me focus groups showed no politics with this and that show’s not going to have politics,” Le Batard said Monday. “But it looks a little bit like ours. Like all of it, the fun formula and all that stuff. But at the center of it is a professional wrestler who’s vastly more entertaining than me.”

Specifically, Le Batard claims ESPN chose McAfee over the more liberal pundits:

“God, do I admire his story! Bet on himself, did it his way and now cashes all of the king’s riches. But ESPN chose that over Bomani and me and Sarah and whatever it is that we were doing that doesn’t fit with the politics of whatever McAfee’s doing, which is not going to go near Trump and is going to rah rah the hell out of football very well all season.”

Dan Le Batard and Pat McAfee. (Getty Images)

There is a lot there. And nearly everything Le Batard said is either wrong or out of context.

The comparison between McAfee and Le Batard, Bomani Jones, and Sarah Spain is quite strange. Does he really want to know the difference between McAfee and the other three, including himself?

If so, let us take it step-by-step:

ESPN gave Bomani opportunities for over a decade. The network moved his radio show to afternoon drive. It made him a co-host on Highly Questionable with Le Batard. It built a full TV show around him called High Noon to follow Stephen A. Smith.

However, Bomani set record lows on radio and in two different TV time slots (12 pm and 4 pm). And when he guest-hosted on shows like PTI, the ratings crashed.

Bomani failed. He failed on four different occasions. If it weren’t for the race card, he would have been fired years ago. He spoke ill of sports fans. Sports fans rejected him, in return.

That’s why ESPN declined to renew Jones in June, as OutKick first reported.

Spain is a non-starter. No one who knows Sarah Spain likes Sarah Spain. She is a headache for her bosses. She is rude to her co-workers. Spain is a below-average broadcast talent.

McAfee’s podcast is an industry leader. If Spain still hosts a podcast, only Spain and her producer are aware.

Regarding Le Batard, he and McAfee both stream their shows live on YouTube. So, we thought it would be apt to compare how they perform to better understand why ESPN might prefer McAfee.

Here are the results from YouTube:

Monday, Le Batard’s show drew 38,000 views. McAfee drew 485,000.

Friday, McAfee had 435,000 views. Le Batard had 30,000.

On the first day of the NFL season, McAfee beat Le Batard 476,000 to 26,000.

The highest-rated episode of the Pat McAfee Show (Mar. 15, 2023) drew 1.6 million views. Le Batard peaked at 112,000 (Jan 30, 2022).

ESPN put McAfee on television, in part, because of his success on YouTube. The network hopes to convert social media users to linear television. While challenging, McAfee’s numbers give the network hope. Le Batard’s pedestrian view count did not.

And it’s not that ESPN never supported Le Batard when he was there. In 2015, the network moved his show to mid-morning radio to replace Colin Cowherd. The national 10 am to 1 pm broadcast used to be a cash cow.

Do you know why the slot is no longer a cash cow for ESPN? Because Le Batard tanked the ratings by around 50% and local affiliates dropped him immediately.

Dan Le Batard poisoned the ratings like he was Bomani. Okay, not that bad. But still bad.

Le Batard failed on radio because he spoke down to his audience. McAfee speaks to his audience.

McAfee interviews Aaron Rodgers. Le Batard interviews Jemele Hill and alleged wife-beater Howard Bryant.

McAfee built a community so passionate that his watch-long on ESPN2 Saturday helped Texas/Alabama edge Nebraska/Colorado in the ratings:

ESPN could not have produced successful watch-alongs with Le Batard or Bomani. Who would want to watch a ManningCast-type broadcast with two people screeching about the injustices of American sports?

Pat complains about the refs. Bomani complains about the white people.

What’s the problem [with the NFL]? White people,” said Bomani Jones last year.

Those damn whites.

As you see, ESPN didn’t choose McAfee over Le Batard, Bomani, and Spain. The viewers did.

Sports fans like McAfee. They don’t like Le Batard and Bomani. They don’t know Sarah Spain and wouldn’t like her if they did.

Believe it or not, sports fans prefer sports talk over sports-adjacent grievances.

Written by Bobby Burack

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.