The goal of any executive who runs a sports studio show is to create compelling (and hopefully authentic) conversation, and that is what GameDay coordinating producer Lee Fitting is charged with every Saturday morning. He will not be afforded uninterrupted two-hour blocs, given that ESPN isn’t PBS, but as the coordinating producer of the network’s most successful studio production, Fitting has a lot of freedom and power on the direction of his show. He has a massively successful product — GameDay expanded to three hours last year (9:00 a.m.-noon ET on Saturdays) and averaged 1,830,000 viewers, a 10 percent increase over the same period on ESPN in 2012 — but plans to make some changes he believes will improve the editorial flow. The show opens its new season at Sundance Square Fort Worth on August 30 in advance of the Cowboys Classic between Florida State and Oklahoma State. The game will air that night on ABC at 8:00 p.m. ET.
Below, I examined some of the changes.
• GameDay will have limited commercials in its opening hour this year as viewers will get long stretches of conversation, with an aim toward hardcore football fans. “I think we need to have stronger opinions and more opinions, but do so organically,” Fowler said. “I think one of the reasons GameDay has had its long-term success is we don’t force things in merely for theater.
• Fitting says the show is looking to add a full-time DJ to keep the crowds (mostly of college students) entertained. The DJ will occasionally appear on air, and the hope is to hire a woman in the role. “One of the challenges we have run into with the show going three hours is we are asking the kids to be out there for 3-5 hours and they lose energy,” Fitting said. “So we thought: Why don’t we bring a DJ out that plays music off air during breaks? You keep the crowd energized and it becomes more of a party.” This person would then slowly become on-air talent for GameDay. Fitting said that since the show is “overloaded with middle-age males,” his preference was to get a female DJ.
• Fowler’s schedule is obviously a major story, since he has replaced Brent Musburger on the ABC Saturday Night Game. He said he is doing specific game prep earlier than he has done before and already knows what ABC’s second Saturday Night Football game will be — it has not been announced yet. The travel schedule he and Herbstreit will likely employ will involve arriving on Thursdays at one of the schools playing in the Saturday Night game, and then flying Friday to theGameDay site if the site is different from their game. “It’s not about Saturdays — Saturdays are just about having the stamina to do it,” Fowler said. “It’s how you make it work from Sunday to Thursday before you go on site.”
Added Fitting: “We are not blowing up how we operate during the week. I told my bosses that I could see our guys for the first time all week at 8 a.m. Saturday and we will be good. Chris will not let this fail in terms of doing both. The way in which he hosts GameDay will not be affected. He will restructure the way he organizes his week to make this work.”
• As for how long Fowler will do the GameDay-Saturday night double, ESPN executive vice president John Wildhack told SI.com in April that “ours and Chris’s focus is on the upcoming season. We always evaluate each and every season in detailed scrutiny.” Fowler agreed on that timeframe.
“There is no way I perceive it being a long-term thing,” Fowler said. “I view everything either year by year or even week by week. I’m pretty good at staying micro. Management’s job is to look longer term. An announcer’s job is to look at the next assignment and do it well. I want to see if I am enjoying GameDay and if it is not too busy.
• The dream celebrity pickers once again include President Barack Obama and golfer Tiger Woods. ESPN has been in contact with the White House — Fitting said Obama is interested – but there is no set date and it would obviously only work if the President’s schedule deemed it so. Fitting said he also spoke with Woods’ caddy, Joe LaCava, a month ago and Woods is interested in doing it. Again, the schedule has to work.
• As for a new dream celebrity picker: Fitting said Playboy founder Hugh Hefner is high on the list. “We have always wanted Hugh Hefner,” he said. “I don’t know or care if he has a connection to a school. He’d be fun.”
• Fitting said Fowler and Herbstreit’s game assignment will not dictate whereGameDay goes. Last year, GameDay went to eight ABC/ESPN games and seven non-ESPN/ABC games. “I can promise you we will not be going to sites just because Fowler and Herbstreit will be there,” Fitting said. “Our bosses have been great. They have always said, “Go where you need to go.”
• Corso, who turns 79 in August, is not going anywhere anytime soon. “This is a topic that I lose zero sleep over and spend little time thinking about,” Fitting said of Corso’s eventual replacement. “I don’t see him shutting it down anytime soon. He is in great health. At times his speech is slurred as he knows, we know and the viewer knows. To me, for what he brings to the show, the sport and the chemistry of the show, I can handle a handful of slurred words for everything else he brings.”
• ESPN said the first week of GameDay will be the 240th headgear selection for Corso. His first-week record picking games is 9-6 all-time.
• Fitting said GameDay will talk more gambling this year in an organic way. “We will weave in naturally more gambling references and tips and information,” Fitting said. “But it won’t scream gambling. I think gamblers will pick up on it, but non-gamblers will not be turned away. I like gambling information when it appeals to the non-gamblers.
• SEC Network contributor Paul Finebaum will be on GameDay again even with his new job. Fitting said Finebaum will appear either via satellite in the first hour of the show or as part of a segment when he is not appearing on the SEC Network’s SEC Nation pregame show. Viewers should also expect SEC Network staffers Tebow and Marcus Spears to show up on GameDay occasionally. The reverse will also occur, as Pollack will appear on SEC Nation. The cross-promotion will exist, Fitting said, when the editorial dictates it.
• Fitting said GameDay staffers loved going to Fargo, N.D., last year and he would consider going again.
• Fowler is more than just the host of the show: Think of him as GameDay’s co-CEO with Fitting. Fowler said the toughest part of his dual role this year will be juggling the early part of the college football season when it intersects with the U.S. Open tennis tournament. “I don’t want to give up the U.S. Open; it’s important to me,” Fowler said.
• The national semifinal games will have dueling studio sets in Pasadena, Calif., and New Orleans, and the studio hosting will be split up between Rece Davis, John Saunders, Joe Tessitore, Scott Van Pelt, Chris Cotter, Sam Ponder and perhaps even Fowler. “How they are involved we have not figured that out yet,” Fitting said.
For the rest of the article visit Sports Illustrated where it was originally published
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at [email protected].
KNBR’s Brian Murphy Speaks for First Time After Paul McCaffrey Laid Off
“Paulie Mac is my guy, will forever be my guy. The best thing I could ever wish anyone is that you get to work with someone as loyal, energetic, funny, consistent as the guy his Jersey buddies call ‘Smack’.”
Earlier this week, KNBR underwent a round of layoffs, affecting a pair of programs on the Bay Area sports station, including the departure of longtime morning host Paul McCaffrey. His longtime partner — Brian Murphy — has taken to X to share his thoughts.
In a thread to X, Murphy shared his admiration for McCaffrey, whom he hosted Murph and Mac with for 18 years.
“Paulie Mac is my guy, will forever be my guy. The best thing I could ever wish anyone is that you get to work with someone as loyal, energetic, funny, consistent as the guy his Jersey buddies call ‘Smack’,” wrote Murphy. “So much love.”
He then shared that everything listeners and fans of the program have shared on social media has been read by the duo, and thanked them for the outpouring of love and support.
Finally, Murphy addressed his future. Fill-in host Dieter Kurtenbach shared on Thursday he did not have a definitive answer about Murphy’s future with the Cumulus-owned station.
However, Brian Murphy has shared he will return to the airwaves on Monday morning.
“I’ll be back Monday morning on KNBR with our guy Markus (Waterboy) Boucher,” Murphy wrote. “Come on. It’s Niners-Eagles. Wouldn’t miss it. As Paulie Mac’s board itself would say: The show goes on.”
Mike Mulligan: Sports Radio is More Difficult Than Other Formats Think
He shared that he has worked with people on morning shows that he has seen come to a station fully hungover who play music and proceed to sit on the couch.
On Friday morning’s edition of Mully & Haugh on 670 The Score in Chicago, co-host Mike Mulligan outlined the difference with music radio that hosts are not continuously talking to the audience, instead taking mic breaks and then interspersing commentary with different songs.
Filling in for David Haugh on Friday’s edition of the program was Gabe Ramirez, who used to work in the format with B96 as the host of its morning show. Mulligan’s assertion about the differences between the two formats resulted in a conversation about the differences between the grenres, with Ramirez explaining the difficulties that music radio hosts face on the air.
“The music station’s still creating content,” Ramirez said. “You get to have a guest – since I am going to defend my music stations – you get to have a guest and toss them a softball question and listen to them rant for five minutes.”
Mulligan disagreed with this perspective, conveying that he does not feel their program provides guests with easy questions. Additionally, he shared that he has worked with people on morning shows that he has seen come to a station fully hungover who play music and proceed to sit on the couch.
“As a former sportswriter, we sit around and we talk about sports,” Mulligan said. “We talk about the sports we cover and we talk about other sports.”
“You have to talk about Justin Fields seven days in a row,” Ramirez replied. “As a morning show for music, you have to come up with new content every day.”
Rather than taking umbrage towards the response, Mike Mulligan explained that the key to effectively performing his job is being able to discuss important stories of the day even when they are not the headlines. Furthermore, he expounded on the commitment that it takes to watch the amount of sporting events and to be properly informed on the action so he is able to take the air.
“That I will agree with,” Ramirez said. “I’ve told people this – they ask me, ‘What’s the biggest difference?’ The prep, without question, is way more difficult in sports radio because everyone that’s listening to you already knows the answers and you have to be equally if not more informed in all of those things.”
Minnesota Twins Set to Tab Cory Provus as New TV Voice, Kris Atteberry as Lead Radio Announcer
Provus has been the radio voice of the Minnesota Twins since 2012.
After Dick Bremer exited the Minnesota Twins TV booth in October, the search began for his replacement. The MLB franchise didn’t have to look far, though.
Twins radio voice Cory Provus is reportedly set to become the new TV play-by-play broadcaster for the club, according to a report from Dan Hayes of The Athletic.
Provus has been the radio voice of the Minnesota Twins since 2012. Many immediately tabbed him as the club’s replacement for Bremer, who retired after 40 seasons as the lead television voice of the American League club. Before joining the team in 2012, Provus worked for the Milwaukee Brewers as the number two broadcaster after spending two seasons as the radio pregame host for the Chicago Cubs.
Meanwhile, Kris Atteberry has been signaled as the person set to replace Provus inside the franchise’s radio booth. He has served as the pregame and postgame host for the Minnesota Twins Radio Network since 2007. Atteberry joined the club after spending five years calling games for the then-Independent St. Paul Saints from 2002-2006.
While the television and radio broadcast crews appear set, questions remain about where the team will televise its games in 2024. The club’s contract with Bally Sports North has reportedly expired, and it has yet to sign an agreement with the bankruptcy-laden RSN, or with a local over-the-air television station.