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This week, ESPN debuted its new, much-discussed radio lineup.
Here are thoughts on each new show:
Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin
Morning drive is the most lucrative and important national radio time slot and the new show, Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin, came in with the most question marks. Some have yet to be answered.
ESPN had been in talks with and agreed to a contract with Keyshawn Johnson. The network discussed pairing him with Max Kellerman and then later with Jalen Rose and David Jacoby, sources say. Ultimately, those conversations didn’t advance.
At the last minute, ESPN matched Johnson with a SportsCenter host (Zubin Mehenti) and an animated television analyst (Jay Williams). And, so far, that’s exactly what the show is: a radio personality with an anchor and an opinionist.
Of the new programs, the morning show needs the most time to paint a clear picture of what it can be. A three-host show is difficult to do well, especially when all three come from different mediums.
Mehenti is key to the show’s future. In the broader conversation, he’s an unknown who is making a first impression. He has a radio voice, high energy, and an upbeat personality. However, as the show’s point guard, he’ll need to eventually take that big, memorable shot.
Through four days, the highlight was the newsworthy interview with Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback, Justin Fields.
At midday, Mike Greenberg is off to a strong, promising start.
Greeny differs from Mike & Mike and Get Up, which was and is, respectively, a fast-paced, in-and-out show. Greenberg’s solo radio program features a loose, long-form conversational format. In addition, Greenberg opens with solo monologues that combine news and opinion.
Stephen A. Smith’s midday radio show was disappointing. It was rushed, sloppy, and secondary to First Take. Smith repeated one-two topics he found interesting from his television show — mostly NBA — then took random, often off-topic phone calls. Greeny isn’t an afterthought to Get Up. It comes with a different perspective and prepared conversations. Furthermore, it’s a vehicle, as Greenberg explained on-air, that allows him to elaborate on topics he didn’t in the morning.
This week, Greenberg has opened his second hour with appealing, podcast-style interviews with Charles Barkley and Brett Favre.
Oh, and yes, the signature Mike & Mike teases are back.
The Max Kellerman Show
Like on television, Mike Greenberg leads into Max Kellerman.
Kellerman’s solo ranting is the highlight of the new lineup. It’s the hardest skill in broadcasting, and when done well, the most effective. Thus, the stardom of Rush Limbaugh, Colin Cowherd, Mark Levin, and Sean Hannity.
Kellerman is one of ESPN’s most talented broadcasters. This is often overlooked as he’s asked to co-star next to Stephen A. Smith, the industry’s biggest star.
The Max Kellerman Show’s format mirrors Hannity’s radio show. (Yes, I know, there are not two individuals more different.) From 2-4, radio listeners get every side of Kellerman: the hot takes; the smart, thought-provoking perspectives; and the light, humorous reactions.
Moving forward, the show should omit phone calls. On the national level, calls are mostly negatives. And in Kellerman’s case, they are unnecessary.
Chiney and Golic Jr.
Finally, Monday, Chiney and Golic Jr. debuted in the afternoon.
Quality-wise, there are positives early on. Ogwumike and Golic Jr. have chemistry. Secondly, Ogwumike’s personality is working on the medium. Coming in, this was a question mark. Historically, the transition from TV to radio is mixed in results. She’s easy to root for, fun, and friendly on-air.
The two are also different. It’s not an “odd-couple” pairing, but it’s enough that it gives listeners different sides and insights into a topic.
They brought over the family-friendly feel of a Golic show, which included a surprise appearance from Ogwumike’s sister, Nneka.
The topic selection needs work, though. On Monday, Ogwumike and Golic Jr. spent too much time on Jason Wright’s new role with the Washington Football team. While it’s worth mentioning, it’s not what radio listeners tune into sports radio for.
Chiney and Golic Jr. is carried in football-centric markets. Its success is dependent on how well it discusses the NFL this fall.
Overall, relatability is the new lineup’s most glaring issue. For sports radio, it is a box as important to check as talent. That host who reminds you of the conversations you have with your friends. A broadcaster sports fans want to have a beer with.
There isn’t a Scott Van Pelt, a Dan Patrick, a Will Cain, or a Mike Golic. ESPN Radio now only has that at night in Freddie Coleman.
Each new show, save for the Spain & Fitz reunion, simulcasts on ESPNEWS. Though, all feature radio-first presentations. Whereas, Mike & Mike, on ESPN2, was more a TV show on radio.
Radio success is measured over time and seasons. The definitive answers are still weeks and months away.
To interview Bobby Burack, contact him on Twitter @burackbobby_.
3 CommentsLeave a Reply
Who would listen to ESPN radio in the age of Podcasts, YouTube, Pandora, and Apple Music? We timed out a Mike and Mike show about 10 years ago and found that of the 60 minutes in an hour, more than 20 of it was commercials. You are literally spending almost half your time listening to the local car dealership, hotwire.com and O’Reily commercials, with the occasional SJW community service message.
I have trouble listening to sports commentary from individuals rooting against sports being played.
That lineup doesn’t scream an increase in ratings. Greenberg is the classic stale keep the training wheels firmly secured. Keyshawn. This guy was pissed when that fat greaser mentioned that Magic wasn’t qualified for the Lakers GM job. Hey Key, LeBatard is one of your own. You that clued out. Was he ever interesting. What if he college balled at Kansas State and NFL’d in Jacksonville. No offense. Kellerman, the classic wokester. Do you find smoking hot takes like the Fighting Irish is offensive and should be banned or LeBron getting that Jewish Money tweet isn’t offensive at all. I think Kellerman is massively overrated. The losers who like that woke talk are not going to be listening. That’s the bitch about getting woke, the target audience doesn’t like sports. That is what we call an obstacle.