Media Mailbag: ESPN Radio Preview; Dan Patrick on YouTube; Woke Programming

Another great week of questions for the weekly Outkick Media Mailbag. Thank you for your support and questions.

Here we go:

“How quickly will we know if the new ESPN Radio lineup is working? What are some predictions?”

It’s important to give new shows time. But first impressions are invaluable. And without football games, a positive reaction is complicated. Which is why I question the choice to debut the lineup on August 17, before football season.

A portion of the audience will give the new lineup a try, then quickly decide if it’s for them. This is, particularly, challenging for the new morning and afternoon shows. As for the two new midday programs, Max Kellerman and Mike Greenberg both have established names with followings. Topic selection is less important.

My predictions remain the same as they were early on. I, like many I’ve talked to, doubt that the new morning and afternoon shows can take off. In the morning, Keyshawn Johnson makes sense; Jay Williams and Zubin Mehenti do not. For all the reasons explained here, ESPN foolishly overlooked the negative impact of removing Mike Golic.

In the afternoon, radio listeners are unfamiliar with Mike Golic Jr. and Chiney Ogwumike. Radio is notoriously difficult to do well. Ogwumike now moves from TV to radio, a path historically met with mixed results. Not impossible, not easy. Ogwumike and Golic Jr. are in a trying position taking over for the Will Cain Show, which picked up major markets during its time on-air. Chiney and Golic Jr. won’t retain the Los Angeles market.

Jason Fitz, who is a talented radio broadcaster, is back with Sarah Spain. This is a mistake. Fitz can lead a show. Instead, he’s with Spain, who has now struggled on-air with more than one co-host.

The positives are at midday. This fall, Greenberg and Kellerman will be two of the top national sports radio hosts.

Interestingly, the No. 1 ESPN Radio storyline doesn’t include its new programs. It’s the Dan Le Batard Show. ESPN took away its third hour, reducing it to two hours. Sources say, pre-pandemic, ESPN discussed moving the show off radio entirely. Le Batard continues to create negative headlines for the network. This week, his show posted a poll asking if Jonathan Isaac’s ACL injury is “funny.” The show soon deleted the poll. ESPNLA opted to carry three of the first four national radio shows. Le Batard’s is the odd show out. Instead, while Le Batard airs nationally, ESPNLA will carry Keyshawn, Jay, and Zubin on delay as Greenberg and Kellerman follow.

“Has the Dan Patrick show’s tv ratings taken a hit since going over to YouTube or are they now gaining viewers? Thanks.”

Great question.

It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. TV ratings are measured by the average number of people watching a program at any given minute it airs. YouTube measures total views.

I don’t look at Dan Patrick’s radio show moving from TV to BR Live to YouTube as a downgrade. Digital is the future. Sources say sports shows, with large audiences, are beginning to make real money on YouTube. Partly, because a host can own their show.

YouTube programming is monetized in two ways: commercials and live reads. The latter is immensely important as advertisers pay more to have their logos in the background. Thus, podcasts beginning to air in video form. In political media, both Ben Shapiro and Dan Bongino have gone this route. Above all else, it’s the lucrative chopped-up clips that matter.

Now, I’m sure in the right situation, Patrick would prefer his show on TV. But there aren’t many high profile destinations for a sports radio simulcast.

Patrick’s show isn’t going to air on ESPN’s airwaves; at least not while he’s with iHeart. CBS Sports Network doesn’t even subscribe to Nielsen. Patrick left NBCSN over a year ago. And FS1 airs Undisputed from 9 am to noon ET.

The Herd is the only radio show that benefits noticeably from a TV partner. ESPN airs its radio shows on ESPNNEWS, which doesn’t have an audience outside of a presence in bars and restaurants.

“What do you believe ESPN needs to do to turn around their decision of going woke to becoming a respected, highly watched sports broadcasting network again?”

First off, does ESPN want to be? I really don’t know.

I’m assuming you mean the studio shows? Because the viewership for the live games is out of ESPN’s control. Sure, they could tone down calling Colin Kaepernick a “hero” on NBA broadcasts and pretending current players are Muhammad Ali. But viewers don’t much care what channel games are on (as long as it’s included in their cable package). The channel doesn’t change whether a viewer is for or against the players’ social statements.

For the network’s programming, it will take time. Identities don’t change overnight. Nearly all of ESPN’s talents who speak out on social and political topics are at least left-leaning; many are far-left. The ones who are in the center, or dare say it, the right, don’t express those beliefs. They are aware of the double standard. Given recent programming decisions, I’d bet against a non-left-leaning talent feeling comfortable to do so anytime soon.

But, again, I’m not sure ESPN wants to shed this label. You are right, the ratings are concerning. Despite the NBA’s return, the viewership for the daily studio shows remains alarmingly low.

Written by Bobby Burack

Bobby Burack covers media, politics, and sports at OutKick.

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