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Paul Finebaum: ESPN Layoffs Caused Uncertainty

“It was, to say the least, a terrible day at ESPN.”

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Paul Finebaum
Courtesy: Shanna Lockwood, USA Today Sports

Just before the long holiday weekend, layoffs of ESPN talent took much of the sports media world by surprise. The decision to move on from a variety of key, long-tenured talent was made in order to better position ESPN for its future, ahead of the company reporting its earnings for the first time this November. Some of the talent affected by the layoffs included Jeff Van Gundy, Suzy Kolber, Jalen Rose and Max Kellerman – and more news of departures continued to be announced this week.

ESPN Radio and SEC Network host Paul Finebaum was not sure if he was going to be safe during the layoffs and recalled a hectic, stressful day at the office on Friday. Filling in for New York Post sports media reporter Andrew Marchand on The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast, Finebaum spoke about his experience watching the layoffs occur in real time. Finebaum went out to lunch at a local Smoothie King and was approached by a fan of the show who asked him if he had been laid off, a question to which he seemingly did not know the answer.

“I said, ‘Not yet,’” Finebaum replied to the fan. “I got back to the office a minute later and we learned of more people. Our guys who were in that day producing – you’re preparing a show, but how can you not be looking and seeing what is happening around you?”

The layoffs took place for talent under contract for several more years in order to move their salaries off of the books. Those affected, however, will reportedly be paid the remainder of their contracts by ESPN, but will need to renegotiate their deals should they land a new job with another network during their active contract. Finebaum did not know his status at the company when he took the air for his show on Friday, a similar sentiment to many of his other colleagues, as the company seemingly restructures parts of its coverage.

“It’s pretty tough, and I say that loving my job and loving the company,” Finebaum said. “But it was the worst day in my 10 years at ESPN. I can’t explain Bob [Iger’s] thinking. I think you have to trust his track record, but it doesn’t really excuse the state of mind that a lot of us, if not all of us, were in.”

Finebaum took the place of Marchand on the show, who was on vacation last week and still breaking news of the ESPN layoffs. As a longtime reporter with a litany of sources, Marchand is plugged into the media business and frequently breaks news in the space. On Friday, people at ESPN were fixated on his reporting and learning of what dominoes were falling in real time.

“It was, to say the least, a terrible day at ESPN,” Finebaum stated. “I asked one of my colleagues; I said, ‘So what’s the latest?’ He said, ‘Oh, let me refresh Andrew [Marchand’s] Twitter feed for a second.’ Literally that was the life that all of us people were living on maybe the worst day we’ve ever had. I say that jokingly about Andrew, but he’s done quite a good job of knowing a lot more than anyone else.”

As it pertains to specific talent, Finebaum was surprised by the amount of well-known talent that was let go and had to come to accept the new reality of the “Worldwide Leader.” Through using social media, he observed how there were some people seemingly looking for certain talent to be laid off or celebrating others losing their jobs. While he spoke about the layoffs, there was a palpable tone of dejection evident in Finebaum’s voice, effectuating the extent to which these layoffs perturbed and/or disheartened people within the company itself.

“Does it make you angry? Yes,” Finebaum said. “But who can you be angry with? The people that were let go; they weren’t taken off the air because they were inefficient or incompetent. It was a business decision, and that’s the part you have to understand when you work there. There’s good and there’s bad.”

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Boomer Esiason: People Watch Stephen A. Smith ‘Because of Him and What He’s Going to Say’

“What other alternative or where else can he go?”

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Graphic for the Boomer & Gio Show and a photo of Stephen A. Smith

With reports coming out that ESPN had made an initial contract offer of 5 years and $90 million dollars to Stephen A. Smith, various sports show hosts have weighed in and given their opinions. Such was the case during Boomer & Gio this morning on WFAN with Boomer Esiason and Gregg Giannotti.

“Have you seen any of this Stephen A. Smith contract stuff that’s going on?” Giannotti asked.

“I have seen it, yes,” Esiason said. “Listen, the guy works his ass off, he is definitely a firestarter for that network and quite frankly he has built himself into a one man show.”

Giannotti replied, “He’s had success. He’s one of the bigger voices in sports if not the biggest voice in sports.”

Esiason added, “What’s different about him compared to Troy [Aikman] or Tony [Romo] or somebody else – people are going to tune in to watch the football game no matter who is doing it. People are watching him because of him and what he’s going to say.”

Giannotti reviewed the report of how much was offered and mentioned the other reports that say Smtih is looking for closer to $25 million per year. He also mentioned Dan Le Batard saying he thought ESPN had lowballed Smith with the offer.

Giannotti said, “This is one of those things that is just hard to calculate. I don’t know how much money they would lose if he wasn’t there. This is something I’d love to know…how many advertising dollars, how many things that they sell because he is there equates to a loss if he leaves?”

Esiason then said, “Here’s what I would ask. What other alternative or where else can he go?” He then later added, “In our medium on a national basis…both he and Pat McAfee have brought eyeballs or attention to ESPN for different reasons, and I think that if they can extract that kind of money out of those companies, good for them. I have no problem with any of it.”

Giannotti continued to ask about the ad dollars, but Esiason explained there were a lot of other factors that come into play.

“I don’t know about the advertising,” he said. “I think it’s more about the subscription services. I think it’s more about the fact that they use him in every single aspect they possibly can…He’s on that morning show…but then he’s all over the NBA playoffs, he’s all over the NFL playoffs. He’s all over everything. I couldn’t even imagine. I know what it was like for me when I was doing NFL Today, Monday Night Football and this radio program. It was exhausting…I know that he has complained about how much he is asked to do over there.”

All of this led to a discussion about a weekly Smith guest on First Take, Chris ‘Mad Dog’ Russo. “I tell you what, when he is on there, I find him to be extremely entertaining,” Esiason said. “The interaction between the two of them is about as entertaining as it can get on television…If I was ‘Dog’ I would quit [SiriusXM] cuz nobody hears you and go over [to ESPN] and take a full-time spot over there and get paid.”

“I don’t know if they’re offering a full-time spot for him over there, he’s like a novelty,” Giannotti replied.

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ESPN Chicago Announces 2024 Football Fest with Adam Schefter and Field Yates

“Football Fest is the unofficial kickoff of the NFL season, and I am excited about this year’s fest, from the stars we’ll have in the room to the show we have planned.”

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Graphic for ESPN Chicago's Football Fan Fest
Graphic Courtesy: ESPN Chicago on Facebook

ESPN Chicago announced the return of Football Fest, an event they started in 2022. The 2024 edition will take place at the Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana on Sunday, August 25. ESPN NFL insiders Adam Schefter and Field Yates are back as guests and will share insights and engage with fans throughout the event.

“Football Fest is the unofficial kickoff of the NFL season, and I am excited about this year’s fest, from the stars we’ll have in the room to the show we have planned,” said Danny Zederman, director of content for ESPN Chicago in a release. “We listened to fan feedback, and we’ve added new ways for fans to interact with their favorite ESPN Chicago and Bears Radio Network personalities, as well as a live onstage version of our fan-favorite, unfiltered podcast Crosstalk Unhinged with Carm, Jurko, Waddle, and Silvy.”

ESPN Chicago and Bears Radio Network personalities will be available for meet & greets with fans taking photos and signing autographs. The Good Karma Brands owned station says the event “will consist of live programming from local and national experts on the upcoming football season, fantasy football, as well as games, vendors, and more.”

$10 tickets for the event are on sale through Ticketmaster.com.

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ESPN 103.7/104.1 Unveils New Lineup; Dawson Eiserloh Gets Solo Midday Show

“Can’t wait for this new challenge that’ll begin live from SEC Media Days next month.”

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Logo for ESPN SWLA and a photo of Dawson Eiserloh
Photo Courtesy: Dawson Eiserloh X Account

ESPN 103.7 in Lafayette, Louisiana and 104.1 in Lake Charles have announced a new, all live and local weekday lineup. Local programming will now be heard from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Starting on Monday, July 15 former LSU basketball player Jordy Hultberg will move The Jordy Hultberg Show to morning drive and go from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. He will be followed by Footenotes with Kevin Foote from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

The lunchtime show will still feature RP3 and Meche, hosted by Raymond Partsch III and James Meche and it will air from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. That show had also previously featured Dawson Eiserloh, however, he will now move to the 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. slot to host his own show which will be called The Lohdown with D-Loh.

Eiserloh posted on his X account, “Really excited to announce I’ll be getting a solo show weekdays from 1-3 pm on ESPN Southwest Louisiana. Can’t wait for this new challenge that’ll begin live from SEC Media Days next month.”

After Further Review with Matt Moscona will follow in afternoon drive and airs from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. The station also carries play-by-play for LSU athletics and the Houston Astros.

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