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Who Replaces Cowherd At ESPN?

Jason Barrett

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Traug Keller says ESPN did everything it could to retain Colin Cowherd. When the radio host suggested he wanted to move his base of operations from Bristol, Ct. to Los Angeles, ESPN management greenlit the proposal. Extra television opportunities? You bet, the company said. Keller, a longtime ESPN executive, would know the details of such contractual negotiations. The senior vice president of production business divisions oversees all aspects of the ESPN’s audio business including talent, staffing, national programming content, scheduling and event production. He’s also enjoyed a good relationship with Cowherd since hiring the host in 2003 to replace Tony Kornheiser for the late morning time slot on ESPN Radio.
But while ESPN’s offer was aggressive, it was not enough. Last week The Big Lead’s Ryan Glasspiegel broke the story that Cowherd was leaving ESPN at the end of his current contract.
“I’m close to Colin and I think he’s a unique talent,” said Keller by phone from Gleaneagles, Scotland, where he is attending The Open Championship. “But I think he was playing this around in his mind, ‘Is there something bigger and better out there for me?’ This was also, and make no mistake about it, this was about the bids that were put in. We put in an aggressive bid for Colin and I think he got a better one from Fox. As you know, that’s life.”
While an official contract has yet to be signed as of this writing, Cowherd is heading for Fox Sports as Keller’s quote above indicates. Negotiations are currently finalizing between that network’s brass and Cowherd’s reps. One of the questions remaining for Fox was whether ESPN would let Cowherd out of his contract early, keep him on air until the end of his contract, or pay him to sit on a California beach until his contract’s end. Keller would not confirm an end date for Cowherd but he did say it would be an amicable parting. I’m told Cowherd’s ESPN contract ends in December but he’ll be off ESPN well before that.
If you are looking for a starting date for Cowherd at Fox Sports, keep this in mind: Cowherd has a book coming out Oct. 1 and I’d guess he’d want to be at his new employer to promote that (as well as having his new employer promote the heck out of the book). Based on multiple industry sources I spoke with, the Fox Sports salary they anticipated for Cowherd was north of $6 million annually when you include radio and television work.
As for Cowherd’s replacement, multiple sources told SI.com that The Dan Le Batard Show, which currently airs on ESPN Radio from 4-7 p.m. ET, is thefrontrunner to take over Cowherd’s morning 10-1 p.m. spot. That would cause an opening in Le Batard’s current spot, with multiple in-house candidates being kicked around including Bomani Jones, who currently hosts an ESPN Radio show from 9-11 p.m.
The choice of Le Batard makes a lot of sense internally for a number of reasons. First, ESPN president John Skipper is personally fond of Le Batard and has said so in interviews with this column. Second, Le Batard is key talent figure in Rydholm Projects group, the company led by producer Erik Rydholm that produces Highly Questionable, Around The Horn and Pardon The Interruption in partnership with ESPN. Rydholm’s shows build on each other to funnel into what ESPN management considers its most important property in SportsCenter and whether he wants to admit it or not, Rydholm is the most powerful producer at ESPN. If you regularly appear on Rydholm shows, you can feel comfortable buying, as opposed to renting, that two bedroom loft in Brooklyn or Miami.
But just because ESPN management thinks Le Batard is a good fit by no means assures it will happen. Le Batard and Jones work on Highly Questionable, which tapes at 12:30 p.m. ET (the slot Cowherd currently hosts). That show is very important to Le Batard and Rydholm, not to mention ESPN’s TV side. Also, keep in mind Le Batard and his radio show have spent years establishing an audience during the drive-time hours in Miami. That’s something that group might not want to screw around with. It also seems inconceivable that Le Batard would make any move that has a negative impact on the television show he does with his father, Gonzalo. As for Jones, he does a lot of spots on Around The Horn (which tapes at 1:30 p.m.) so that’s also a factor with him. I believe Keller when he says nothing has been finalized.
Asked where ESPN Radio stood on a new lineup, Keller said, “We have a deep bench. There are great network programs. We have a guy named Le Batard in Miami who is doing a great radio show.”
Keller then rolled off a number of additional ESPN Radio names from Jones to the L.A.-based Max Kellerman and Marcellus Wiley to the Chicago-based duo of Tom Waddle and Marc Silverman to the New York-based ESPN Radio show featuring Michael Kay and Don La Greca to Michael Smith and Jemele Hill, the hosts of ESPN2’s His and Hers.
So file those names away, too, as part of a radio chessboard. “We have strong ideas but I am not ready to talk about it right now,” Keller said.
For those who think ESPN Radio is going to fall off a cliff from 10-1 without Cowherd, guess again. The person or persons who replace Cowherd will essentially be given a Wonka Golden Ticket.
Cowherd’s show airs on 400 terrestrial radio stations, Sirius XM, iTunes, Slacker, Tune-in and is simulcast on TV.
“I think about ‘Who is next?’ and that’s the fun part of my job, taking folks, putting them on, and watching it happen,” Keller said. “Look, you and I both know that after a 10- or 15-year run, people get the itch. Maybe it’s better over there. I get that and that happens. But the part that keeps me going and what I love that we have is this ability to take people and let them loose to see what they can do.”
To read the rest of this story, visit Richard Deitsch’s column on SI

Sports Radio News

Mike Rhyner Introduces Dallas to 97.1 The Freak

“So, where were we?” began Rhyner.

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Ben Torres / Special Contributor Dallas Morning News

There’s a new radio station in Dallas which features a number of personalities familiar to local sports radio listeners. 97.1 The Freak made its much anticipated debut and the first voice to be heard belonged to the ”Old Grey Wolf” Mike Rhyner.

97.1 The Eagle stopped regular programming late Monday morning and began stunting, a technique radio stations use to separate listeners from old programming and prepare them for new content. The station began by playing songs with the word “freak” in them before transitioning into a continuous loop of “The Waiting is the Hardest Part” by Tom Petty until 3p CT. Then, a voiceover detailing the Eagle’s history switched into the voice that Dallas-Forth Worth residents have gotten to know so well, Mike Rhyner.

“So, where were we?” began Rhyner.

Rhyner went on to relive his final moments at The Ticket in Dallas. He said he was getting his “head around being a Paw Paw” before getting a call from Ben Rogers of the Ben and Skin Show and thus an idea for The Freak began to take shape.

After that, the show’s intro music played and Rhyner welcomed in Mike Sirois and before you knew it, the guys were wondering about a quarterback controversy in Dallas.

97.1 The Freak is off and running with a lineup that includes “The Speakeasy,” with Jeff Cavanaugh, Kevin “KT’ Turner, Julie Dobbs, and Matt Cather in mornings (7-11am), “Ben & Skin Show” in middays (11am-3pm) and “The Downbeat” in afternoons (3p-7p) featuring Mike Rhyner alongside Mike Sirois and Michael “Grubes” Gruber.

The station is positioning itself as a lifestyle brand but given its talent connection to local sports radio and the strong interest in Dallas sports, it’s likely the talent will weave sports talk into their on-air discussions. Sports Radio 1310/96.7 The Ticket and 105.3 The Fan have enjoyed good ratings with the male 25-54 demographic and The Freak is expected to challenge them and every other brand that produces spoken word content.

“We’re beyond excited to introduce 97-1 the Freak – the level of talent is insurmountable, and we’re thrilled for the opportunity to further connect with Dallas Fort Worth,” Patrick Davis, Regional Senior Vice President of Programming Dallas, shared in an announcement.

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Sports Radio News

Howie Rose Plans to Travel for Mets Postseason Games

“Oh, I’m all-in if they play in Timbuktu,” Rose said.

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Howie Rose has cut back on his travel schedule as the radio voice of the New York Mets in 2022, but he says that no place is off limits during the playoffs.

“Oh, I’m all-in if they play in Timbuktu,” Rose told Newsday. “A lot of this was designed to make sure that I had enough reserve to be able to handle anything that comes up in terms of road trips.”

Rose, 68, readies for what is likely to be a Wild Card series start to the playoffs and because of their Wild Card status, a win there could mean a trip to Los Angeles for the National League Divisional Series.

“It’s not exactly like managing Edwin Diaz’s innings, but I think that doing the number of games that I have and more to the point, being able to take the breaks that I have, has enabled me to approach the postseason with a clear mind and the full-speed-ahead attitude that you need to have.”

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Sports Radio News

Jake Chapman Named Orlando Magic Radio Play-By-Play Voice

Chapman will make his debut as the team’s radio voice during its preseason opener tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies.

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Jake Chapman has been introduced as the new radio play-by-play voice of the NBA’s Orlando Magic.

Chapman is beginning his 10th overall season with the franchise. He has previously served as the pre-game and post-game host for the team, as well as the radio producer. He joined the club as in intern in 2006 before becoming a producer in 2009. He then joined the Detroit Pistons Radio Network in 2014 to become its pre-game and post-game host as well as executive producer. He later joined 92.3 The Fan and the Cleveland Browns Radio Network as a producer. He returned to the Magic in 2019.

Chapman will make his debut as the team’s radio voice during its preseason opener tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Brandon Kravitz will serve as co-host for pregame, halftime and postgame. The network pregame show, Magic Tonight, will hit the air 30 minutes prior to tip-off. Magic Tonight is scheduled to premiere on October 11.

96.9 The Game is the radio flagship of the Magic Radio Network.

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