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Francesa Addresses Future of App & WFAN Show

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WFAN continues a year long stretch of being in the news for the wrong reasons.  On Monday, Mike Francesa commented on the station’s most recent matter which saw Knicks, Rangers and Madison Square Garden owner, James Dolan ban all employees from Entercom owned radio stations.

Dolan’s decision derives from a rant by Maggie Gray this past summer, where the WFAN host took issue with the billionaire’s song titled “I Should Have Known,” about his friend Harvey Weinstein.  Francesa always had a good personal and working relationship with Dolan and the Garden, but the MSG ban includes Mike’s WFAN show.  Although not discussed on-air, the door could be open for Garden personnel to join Francesa on one of his Mike’s On App shows that are not broadcast by WFAN.

Francesa took issue with the Garden public relations team and Dolan for implementing the ban, but he also defended the billionaire owner because Mike believes most disparagement of Dolan in the last 15 years has been unfair.   Francesa went on to criticize his WFAN Maggie Gray, accusing her of going over the top with her now infamous Dolan rant, in an attempt to draw attention to the show, Carlin, Maggie and Bart.

After discussing Entercom’s current relationship with MSG, Francesa closed the segment by dropping a second bombshell regarding the future of a partnership between WFAN and his oft-criticized app.

“I knew it was going to be uncomfortable, and maybe it was more uncomfortable than I thought,” Mike said about his May return to WFAN.  “It’s been successful, we’ve done what we’ve had to do, I think from a business standpoint they’re thrilled, but still, it’s not the most comfortable thing.”  Mike furthered the statement by saying he upset the apple card by changing the station’s lineup and promoting his personal app, which Entercom was supposed to buy an ownership stake in.

Mike often promotes his app while on-air at WFAN, attempting to drive listeners to purchase the platform and listen to his shows that are not broadcast by the station.  Anytime a caller questioned Francesa for advertising the app while on-air, Mike would reiterate Entercom’s ownership in the app, but apparently that partnership has yet to happen.

“We haven’t even come to a deal yet, which makes me think that maybe the app and the show don’t work together, and maybe that’s something we’re going to have to adjust, one way or the other,” said Francesa. “We’re going to have to wait and see about that, because we still don’t have a deal, so maybe it’s not the right…maybe the app and this show can’t work together. That’s possible. And if it is, we’ll adjust one.”

After James Kratch of NJ.com wrote a story deducting that the above statements could mean the end of the app, Francesa quickly responded to vehemently refute the sentiment.

“And if anything leaves, it will not be the Mike’s On app. So got it?” responded Mike.  “Underline it, put a punctuation mark and own it. The Mike’s On app is going nowhere. Nowhere, and FAN has nothing to do with it. And that, in essence, may be the conflict, because to utilize this show to promote the app may be something that doesn’t work as well as I had hoped it did. That’s all…But the app is going nowhere. Because you guys have been wrong about the app from the beginning.”

Mike continued, “I will be with CAA as long as I’m working professionally. You can take that to the bank. They are great people, I love working with them. They’ve put some wonderful people on the app who have done great work. Their technical people have done great work, everyone has been committed to it in front of my guys, who have done a great job with it. The guys I handpicked to put on it and work on it have done a great job. Everybody’s put in a lot of time and effort, and it’s done incredibly well. CAA is thrilled with it, we’re thrilled with it, it’s going nowhere.

“The other part? We’ll see what happens. Now, see if you can figure it now. Now that I’ve took you there, I’ve left the crumbs for you, let’s see if you can put the pieces together without screwing it up.”

While Francesa certainly made a clear threat that he could leave WFAN, the iconic radio host tried that less than a year ago and quickly returned.  Maybe Francesa now views his app as a stable home for a daily sports show, but it’s also possible he decided to pile on Entercom while they’re vulnerable, attempting to pressure them into purchasing a stake in the Mike’s On platform.

Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here.

Sports Radio News

Parker Hillis Named Brand Manager of Sports Radio 610

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Goodbye snow and hello heat! Parker Hillis is headed to Houston. Audacy has announced that he will be the new brand manager for Sports Radio 610.

“Parker is a rising star,” Sarah Frazier, Senior Vice President and Market Manager of Audacy in Houston, said in a press release. “He has impressed us since day one with his innovative ideas, focus on talent coaching and work ethic. We’re thrilled to have him join our Audacy team.”

Hillis comes to the market from Denver. He has spent the last three years with Bonneville’s 104.3 The Fan. He started as the station’s executive producer before rising to APD earlier this year.

In announcing his exit from The Fan on his Facebook page, Hillis thanked Fan PD Raj Sharan for preparing him for this opportunity.

“His leadership and guidance set the stage for me to continue to grow and develop in this industry, one that I absolutely love,” Hillis wrote. “This is a special place, one that I am honored to have been a part of and so sad to leave.”

Sports Radio 610 began the process to find a new brand manager in February when Armen Williams announced he was leaving the role. Williams also came to Houston from Denver. He started his own business outside the radio industry.

“I’m excited to join the Sports Radio 610 team in Houston,” said Hillis. “The opportunity to direct and grow an already incredible Audacy brand is truly an honor.”

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Schopp & Bulldog: NFL Has To Figure Out Pro Bowl Alternative That Draws Same Audience

“The game just could not be less interesting.”

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After years of criticism and declining television ratings, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell publicly stated this week that the Pro Bowl, as it is currently contested, is no longer a viable option for the league and that there would be discussions at the league meetings to find another way to showcase the league’s best players.

Yesterday afternoon, Schopp and Bulldog on WGR in Buffalo discussed the growing possibility of the game being discontinued, and how the NFL could improve on the ratings it generates with new programming.

“The same number of people [who] watched some recent… game 7 between Milwaukee and Boston… had the same audience as the Pro Bowl had last year,” said co-host Chris “The Bulldog” Parker. “….Enough people watch it to make it worth their while; it’s good business. They’ll put something in that place even though the game is a joke.”

One of the potential outcomes of abolishing the Pro Bowl would be replacing it with a skills showdown akin to what the league held last year prior to the game in Las Vegas. Some of the competitions held within this event centered around pass precision, highlight catches and a non-traditional football competition: Dodgeball. Alternatively, the league could revisit the events it held in 2021 due to the cancellation of the Pro Bowl because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which included a virtual Madden showdown and highlight battle, appealing to football fans in the digital age.

Stefon Diggs and Dion Dawkins of the Buffalo Bills were selected to the AFC Pro Bowl roster this past season, and while it is a distinct honor, some fans would rather see the game transformed or ceased entirely – largely because of the risks associated with exhibition games.

In 1999, the NFL held a rookie flag football game on a beach in Waikiki, Hawaii before the Pro Bowl in which New England Patriots running back Robert Edwards severely dislocated his knee while trying to catch a pass. He nearly had to have his leg amputated in the hospital, being told that there was a possibility he may never walk again. Upon returning to the league four seasons later with the Miami Dolphins, Edwards was able to play in 12 games, but then lost his roster spot at the end of the season, marking the end of his NFL career.

“You might not want to get too crazy with this stuff, but there’d have to be some actual contests to have it be worth doing at all,” expressed show co-host Mike Schopp. “Do you not have a game? I don’t know.”

The future of the Sunday before the Super Bowl is very much in the air, yet Goodell has hardly been reticent in expressing that there needs to be a change made in the league to better feature and promote the game’s top players. In fact, he’s been saying it since his first days as league commissioner in 2006, evincing a type of sympathy for the players participating in the contest, despite it generating reasonable television ratings and advertising revenue.

“Maybe the time has come for them to really figure out a better idea, and maybe that’s what’s notable [about] Goodell restating that he’s got a problem with it,” said Parker. “If there’s some sort of momentum about a conversation [on] creating a very different event that could still draw your 6.7 million eyeballs, maybe they’ll figure out a way to do something other than the game, because the game just could not be less interesting.”

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Iowa Adds WCKG As Chicago Radio Affiliate

“The Hawkeyes open their season at home on September 3 against FCS power South Dakota State.”

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Iowa City, home of the University of Iowa, sits just over three and a half hours from Chicago. It makes sense to assume plenty of alumni move to the Windy City after school and that other Iowa fans live in the metro area as well. That is why the Hawkeyes have struck a deal with WCKG to become their radio affiliate in Chicago.

The station, which is heard on 1530 AM, will air the entire season of Iowa football.

“Iowa Football’s storied history, continued success, and loyal fan base and alumni network throughout Chicagoland made this move a no-brainer for WCKG,” WCKG Sports Director Jon Zaghloul said in a press release. “I’m excited to bring the Hawkeyes to Chicago, and can’t wait to start airing games this Fall. It’s a huge acquisition for our brand, and, more importantly, our devoted listeners.” 

The Hawkeyes open their season at home on September 3 against FCS power South Dakota State. Gary Dolphin has called all of the school’s sports on radio since 1996. Ed Podolak is his partner in the booth during football season.

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