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WFAN Begins Search To Replace Mike Francesa

Jason Barrett

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The summer months at WFAN are often filled by personalities who are stepping in to give the station’s main weekday hosts a much needed break prior to football season. But this year those fill-in opportunities could potentially have a lasting impact.

With Mike Francesa taking the majority of the summer off, WFAN will use the time to get a closer look at potential replacements. Francesa’s final show on The FAN is scheduled for December 15th.

In a conversation with Newsday, WFAN PD and CBS Radio’s Vice President of Programming Mark Chernoff said he hopes to have a succession plan in place by Labor Day.

The early favorite to be part of the afternoon mix appears to be Evan Roberts, who currently works middays with Joe Beningo. The thirty three year old host has been working full-time at FAN since 2007 and has a proven track record and long-term growth potential.

Chernoff plans to have Benigno and Roberts spend most of the summer working apart, but no matter what happens over the next few months, each are part of the station’s future plans.

One candidate who will earn consideration and a fill-in opportunity alongside Roberts is Chris Simms. Kimberly Jones is also expected to appear on the station’s airwaves during the summer months as she has in year’s past.

Morning host Craig Carton said the station discussed the possibility of an afternoon move with him and his partner Boomer Esiason but the talks were more a matter of professional courtesy. With the station performing strong in mornings it wouldn’t be a good business decision for either side to explore such a change.

In addition to Roberts, Jones and Simms, it won’t surprise anyone if Chris Christie is given a deeper look over the next two months. What will be interesting is if Chernoff has local plans for either Gregg Giannotti, Brandon Tierney or Damon Amendolara. All three hosts have New York roots and already work inside the same building. If either were to be considered on FAN that would require additional changes on the CBS Sports Radio Network.

Another question some executives in sports radio circles have raised is whether or not The FAN will look to some of its local markets where hosts with New York connections currently occupy key weekday timeslots. Chris Carlin is working in Philadelphia for WIP, Adam The Bull is in Cleveland hosting on 92.3 The Fan, and Mike Valenti remains a strong force in Detroit for 97.1 The Ticket.

There’s also the possibility of taking a look at Danny Kanell who moved to Connecticut to work for ESPN and ESPN Radio. Kanell was let go by ESPN in late-April. He played for the New York Giants during his NFL career so he too has local familiarity.

It’s possible that Chernoff could look at talent working for different broadcast companies but that would seem to be a long shot. If he went that route, Sid Rosenberg is already in the market working for WABC, Scott Kaplan is in San Diego hosting on the Mighty 1090, and Andy Gresh, who hosted on FAN last summer, is in Providence hosting for WPRO. All three have ties to New York. A previous report in the New York Daily News stated that Adam Schein was given strong consideration for the opening, so going outside of the company can’t be entirely dismissed.

Although most of the names mentioned above may be familiar to sports radio audiences and have an attachment to the big apple, there’s always the possibility of Chernoff doing something outside the box. When FAN replaced Don Imus they brought through a number of sports radio personalities for on-air auditions. Craig Carton was not one of them yet he wound up landing the opportunity.

It may be fun to speculate about what FAN will do in the upcoming months but remember that it’s not just about talent and resumes. There are the complexities of contracts, on-air chemistry between two hosts, and who is best suited to handle the pressure that is sure to follow when Francesa departs.

Regardless of who emerges, it’s safe to say that Mark Chernoff has a number of excellent options to choose from. Whether or not they can duplicate Mike Francesa’s success is a much different conversation. Right now the main focus is to hire a good show with long-term potential and maintain the brand’s current level of success.

Sports Radio News

Jonathan Zaslow No Longer With WQAM

An attempt to reach out to Zaslow for comment went unanswered.

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WQAM midday host Jonathan Zaslow is no longer with WQAM in Miami.

The radio station has removed his show from the website and references to him and his normal 10a-2p ET midday timeslot program have been scrubbed from the station website.

Zaslow tweeted at 5:19p ET confirming the news.

Whether or not this has any effect on his involvement with the Miami Heat broadcasts is unknown as of now.

Barry Jackson, a veteran journalist with the Miami Herald, reports that 790 The Ticket morning hosts Brendan Tobin and Leroy Hoard will move to that 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. WQAM slot during the week of Oct. 3.

In more station movement, Joe Rose’s WQAM morning show with Zach Krantz now will be simulcast on The Ticket, replacing the Tobin/Hoard program. Audacy, which owns both WQAM and The Ticket, also simulcast Marc Hochman’s and Channing Crowder’s afternoon show.

Zaslow had been with 790 the Ticket since 2004. He was transitioned from Audacy-owned 790 to sister station AM 560 Sports WQAM last October. During his tenure he has worked with a number of established local voices including Joy Taylor, Amber Wilson, Brett Romberg, and Brendan Tobin amongst others.

WQAM has gone thru a number of changes, including a rebranding effort to call the station “560 The Joe”. That ended last year with the station returning to the AM 560 Sports WQAM brand listeners were more familiar with. What they have planned next in Zaslow’s timeslot is unclear but local listeners will likely get some answers next week.

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Sports Radio News

Vanessa Richardson Named Houston Rockets Sideline Reporter, Paul Gallant to Host Solo on ESPN 97.5

Vanessa Richardson will be on the sidelines for the Houston Rockets and Paul Gallant will host solo show on ESPN 97.5.

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Vanessa and Gallant

Changes are taking place in Houston sports media. First, the Houston Rockets will have a new television sideline reporter this season, and she’s a familiar name to Houston sports fans.

Vanessa Richardson, the now former co-host of ESPN 97.5’s Vanessa and Gallant, revealed that she will be on the sidelines for the NBA franchise covering the team for AT&T SportsNet Southwest.

She tweeted the news saying, “Elated to be the new Houston Rockets sideline reporter! I can’t wait to travel the country & share the stories of this dynamic team during 80+ games on AT&T SportsNet Southwest. I’ll continue to fill-in as a host/reporter for Astros broadcasts as well.”

Richardson’s co-host, Paul Gallant, tweeted that with Richardson leaving the show for the Rockets sideline gig, Vanessa and Gallant will become the Paul Gallant Show. The solo show led by Gallant begins Monday September 26th.

“We’re excited to have Paul host his own show”, said Todd Farquharson, General Manager of ESPN 97.5 & 92.5.  “He’s super creative, energetic, and likeable.  He’ll get the audience involved and have fun.”

Paul commented, “You know what I’ve always loved about sports talk radio?  That it’s interactive.  Whether through a phone call, text message, tweet or on Twitch, it’s the best place for sports fans to come together and celebrate…or vent.  And that’s what The Paul Gallant Show is going to be…Houston’s platform to talk about its teams. THE most interactive sports talk show in Houston.”

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Sports Radio News

Ken Carman: Al Michaels ‘Feels Untethered’ On Amazon Prime Video

“The thing that stuck out was Kirk Herbstreit ripping the elf,” said Carman. “Don’t be ripping Brownie the Elf, man.”

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The Cleveland Browns defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers during Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime Video. 92.3 The Fan morning host Ken Carman applauded Al Michaels for his performance during the presentation.

“Al Michaels feels untethered for the first time. He’s not network television anymore and he can say whatever he wants. We interviewed him on the pregame show and I was nervous,” Carman said.

“He’s a legend,” co-host Anthony Lima added.

During the final play of the game, the Steelers fumbled a lateral into the endzone which the Browns recovered to make the final score 29-17. Michaels said “that may be meaningful to some of you. And you know who I mean”, alluding to people who had placed wagers on the game.

Carman, who hosts two-hours of pre-game coverage on the Browns Radio Network, continued to discuss how nervous he was interviewing Michaels. He also discussed how impressive Amazon’s behind-the-scenes production was, pointing out the only football broadcast with more cameras is the Super Bowl. More than 400 people work behind the scenes for Amazon Prime Video.

“The thing that stuck out was Kirk Herbstreit ripping the elf,” said Carman. “Don’t be ripping Brownie the Elf, man.”

Carman later said people angry that Michaels misspoke by saying the Pro Football Hall of Fame is “down I-71” instead of I-77 were unreasonable, and joked “Al Michaels hasn’t been on a highway in 20 years”.

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