Big changes are underway at the ESPN Radio Network. The longtime SVP of ESPN Radio and the ESPN Talent Office, Traug Keller, has announced he’s retiring. Keller is expected to help the network thru a transition before stepping away from daily activity sometime next month.
With Keller at the helm, ESPN Radio has become one of the most successful and respected brands in the country. Under his watch, ESPNRadio.com became the most listened to live stream of any terrestrial broadcaster in the world, reaching more than 700,000 unique listeners per month. He’s also led the expansion of the ESPN Audio brand to the ESPN apps, SiriusXM, Apple Music, Slacker Radio, TuneIn.
During his time with the network, Keller has had direct oversight of all aspects of ESPN Audio’s business including talent, staffing, national programming content, scheduling, and event production. In May 2016, he added the responsibility of managing the ESPN Talent Office, which is responsible for recruiting and retaining ESPN’s more than 1,000 on-air personnel.
Prior to joining ESPN, Traug served as the President of ABC Radio Networks, leading all aspects of network programming, affiliate relations, engineering, finance, research, IT, international programming, and marketing. Prior to his time at ABC, Keller worked as a sales manager in New York for the CBS Radio Networks, and held marketing and sales positions with the New York Times.
Also retiring from the company is Marcia Keegan. Keegan worked for the company in the early 1980’s and returned for a second run in 2007. She recently served as vice president of national radio programming and production following stints as the vice president of production, and vice president of content integration & strategic planning. Most recently, she oversaw the network’s weekday shows First and Last, Golic and Wingo, The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz, The Stephen A. Smith Show, The Will Cain Show, Spain and Fitz, Freddie and Fitzsimmons, and SportsCenter AllNight.
In an email distributed today to ESPN employees, executive vice president of event and studio production Norby Williamson said, “Both Traug and Marcia have been pivotal in successfully leading the Audio division to continued growth in a dynamically changing industry.”
To fill Keller and Keegan’s roles at the network, ESPN will turn to the team of Dave Roberts and Amanda Gifford. Both have prior experience working with ESPN Audio and ESPN television. They’re both well respected, talented professionals with a lengthy track record inside the company.
Roberts, currently serves as the Vice President of Production at ESPN, overseeing production of First Take, the 6pm ET SportsCenter, Get Up, High Noon, Highly Questionable, Around the Horn & Pardon the Interruption. He is directly responsible for 35 hours of programming per week on ESPN’s airwaves.
Previously, Roberts held the title of vice president of ESPN Audio network content, leading a group focused on strategy for national talk and play-by-play content. Roberts had a big role in bringing Bomani Jones to the network, and added shows such as espnW Presents: The Trifecta, Izzy & Spain, and The Morning Roast.
His experience includes time spent in New York as the general manager of ESPN Radio New York 98.7FM. He’s also held roles as senior coordinating producer of studio production for ESPNEWS, and coordinating producer for ESPNEWS, SportsCenter and Baseball Tonight. He joined ESPN after 25 years in local news, both in front of and behind the camera.
Gifford on the other hand started her career at ESPN Radio in 2004 as an intern, advancing to a producer role on ‘The Herd’ with Colin Cowherd, before taking the plunge into management. She currently serves as Coordinating Producer II, overseeing content planning and strategy for SportsCenter and the network’s studio shows. Her responsibilities include managing ESPN’s Talent Producers, and having direct oversight of guests booked on the network’s key shows and platforms.
Prior to her promotion to the CP role in February 2019, Gifford worked in the ESPN Talent Office, handling all talent matters related to SportsCenter, ESPNEWS, ESPN Radio, ESPN2’s daytime shows, MLB, NBA, Soccer, Golf and Tennis. Part of her role included assisting with contracts, and helping to recruit talent.
But radio is where Gifford first earned her stripes as a manager. As the network’s Senior Director of daytime programs, she oversaw the content, production staffs, talent and operations of “Mike and Mike,” “The Dan Le Batard show with Stugotz,” and “Russillo and Kanell.“ She also managed other programs such as “College GameDay,” “GameNight,” “The Erik Kuselias Show,” “The John Kincade Show” and “The V Show” with Bob Valvano. Gifford has also been heavily involved in the planning, organizing, and executing of the annual ‘Don’t Ever Give Up V Foundation Auction’.
Though Roberts and Gifford are taking on the responsibility of running the ESPN Audio division, both will remain involved in their current roles on the television side as well.
Last but certainly not least, the network has confirmed that Tim McCarthy, ESPN Audio’s Senior VP and GM, and head boss at 98.7 ESPN NY will take over GM duties of ESPN LA 710 in addition to continuing to operate 98.7 ESPN NY and managing network play by play. Scott McCarthy, who’s managed the L.A. brand in addition to holding a VP and GM role with ESPN Audio, will shift his focus to overseeing business operations for the audio division, which includes network ad sales, affiliates, marketing, digital, and podcasting.
Barrett Sports Media congratulates Traug and Marcia on all of their accomplishments with the company, and Dave, Amanda, Tim and Scott on their new opportunities.
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 JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
Mike Felger: Radio Row Allows Us to Do Something Different
“We don’t do a lot of guests…I don’t like having guests on. Let’s face it. Most guests don’t say anything anyway.”
When you are doing something you love as a job or when it gets very busy at your place of employment, the day can tend to go quicker than usual. While a four-hour show may seem like a long time to talk about sports, it can be the quickest part of the day for others. Mike Felger, the co-host of Felger and Mazz on 98.5 The Sports Hub, was a guest on The Press Box Podcast with Bryan Curtis this week and he said that the show is the quickest four hours of his day and it’s because of the prep that the guys put into the show.
“Quickest 4 hours of my day. It flies. We try to keep it moving, We put a lot into it. I think one of the reasons it goes quickly for me because we are pretty much working the whole time. We sort of map out the whole show before. All 16 segments, they are not scripted, but we will talk about this here, that there. We put something into all 16 segments.
“Mostly, if there is a game the night before, we will either have watched the game or portions of the game, we will have either watched or read the postgame press conferences, we will have read some of the coverage, and the trick there is to find something there that bugs you even if they won. What did you see in the game that you didn’t like? What did someone write that you thought was stupid or off the mark? Did someone say something that bothered you in the postgame? We put effort into the sports part of it and then we grind it out the next day. It goes quickly because we put a lot into it.”
The show is at the Super Bowl this week in Arizona as a part of Radio Row and Felger mentioned it allows the show to do something different since they don’t usually have guests on.
“For us, it’s a chance to get out of the studio, do something different, and talk to a few people. We are kind of a rare sports talk show where we don’t do a lot of guests. I don’t like having guests on. I don’t like phoners, I think it interrupts the momentum of a show, the flow of the show. Let’s face it. Most guests don’t say anything anyway.
“We don’t really do guests. We will go weeks at a time without a single phone guest or someone from outside the show. This sort of forces us to sit down and talk to some other people. It’s also just a change of scenery. We are also simulcast so it’s also a different backdrop, we are out of the studio. It’s just a little something different for us.”
While the show doesn’t have a lot of guests on, they will take a good amount of callers. With that being said, in Felger’s mind, the calls have to be quick and a good point has to be made for the show to have a good tempo.
“I like the way we do them. It’s 30 seconds. You get 30 seconds. At most, if it’s good, we will let you go to 45. It’s rare that a caller is on for a minute. If you suck, we will drop it at 12 seconds. It’s about tempo and pace of the show. I think calls are good if you go from one to the next to the next and they have to be good. If listeners can’t hear you, can’t do it. We have to hear you and you have to have a point. If you don’t have any of those things, I’m sorry, I love you, but you are gone.
“I think calls are valuable for how they pace the show. They bring tempo to the show if you do it quickly and pointedly.”
Ricky Keeler is a reporter for BSM with a primary focus on sports media podcasts and national personalities. He is also an active podcaster with an interest in pursuing a career in sports media. You can find him on Twitter @Rickinator555 or reach him by email at RickJKeeler@gmail.com.
ESPN 660 Orlando Officially Launches
“ESPN Radio offers the access to play-by-play, nationally known talent, and athletes that cannot be replicated.”
ESPN Radio has returned to Orlando with the launch of ESPN 660 Orlando from JVC Broadcasting.
The shift officially took place this morning, with former “Florida Man Radio” — a “guy-talk” and politics format — being moved to an FM translator.
“ESPN Radio offers the access to play-by-play, nationally known talent, and athletes that cannot be replicated,” JVC Director of Programming Stevie Demann said. “ESPN 660 Orlando will air events like the Daytona 500 and the College Football Playoffs, giving radio listeners long-awaited access to these ‘must listen to’ sports, that previously were not available in Central Florida. We will have the largest selection of compelling sports content on ESPN 660 Orlando.”
The ESPN Radio brand was last seen in the market on 580 WDBO until it flipped to a news/talk format in June 2020.
“I’m thrilled with the partnership our Orlando team put together with ESPN Radio. ESPN 660 Orlando brings the biggest sporting events in the world to the Central Florida radio audience,” said JVC President and CEO John Caracciolo. “A market like Orlando is on the go all the time. This is a great chance for our business partners to reach mobile sports fans across the region and giving radio listeners access to their favorite games on one radio station!”
ESPN 660 Orlando becomes the second sports station in the market, competing with iHeartMedia-owned 96.9 The Game, the flagship station for the Orlando Magic Radio Network.
Toucher & Rich Continue Fake Liner Gag With Super Bowl Players
“There’s always a moment when their about three-fourths of the way down where they kind of look up at you like ‘What’s happening?'”
Super Bowl Opening Night is an eclectic mix of hardworking, serious journalists, mixed with interesting characters. It is safe to say 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich fall into the latter category.
As an ongoing gag, the show asks lower-profile players from the teams participating in the Super Bowl to record liners for their show. However, it isn’t for their show, it’s for fake shows that do not exist, with ridiculous taglines. The show’s Rich Shertenlieb said the premise is quite easy to pull off.
“Everyone is available for interview and only 11 people are at those big important podiums and everyone else just kind of wanders,” Shertenlieb — who is at Radio Row in Arizona while Fred Toucher remained in Boston — said. “You can just go up and speak to them and interview them.”
The first victim of the gag was Grant Calcaterra, a backup tight end for the Eagles. After a quick interview, Shertenlieb asked him to read a liner for a show that doesn’t exist.
“Hey this is Grant Calcaterra, and you’re listening to Captain Fiddlesticks and the Banjo Bandit. All aboard the hot take train. Woo Woo.”
“There’s always a moment when their about three-fourths of the way down where they kind of look up at you like ‘What’s happening?’ and then you just grab it and go ‘Thanks!’ and you walk away and find yourself buried in the crowd and hope they don’t see you again,” Shertenlieb said.
Tyrese Robinson, a rookie offensive lineman for the Eagles, was also recorded by the show.
“Hey this is Tyrese Robinson and you’re listening to Wilford Brimley and the Quaker Oats Kid. Want sports for breakfast? Why not? You’re already obese,” the Eagles rookie said.
“He caught on to your game,” Toucher said.
“By the time he got to ‘obese’, he just handed me the paper and walked away,” added Shertenlieb.
Eagles safety Reed Blankenship was interviewed by Shertenlieb, where he was asked to record a liner reading “Hey this is Reed Blankenship and you’re listening to Nard Farnsworth and Bill the Sad Hobo on 98.3 The Goat. It’s hobo-rific.”
“That is a guy that did not think you were kidding,” joked Toucher.
Another Eagles offensive lineman — Andre Dillard — was quickly interviewed by Shertenlieb. The 98.5 The Sports Hub host asked Dillard to read “Hey this is Andre Dillard and you’re listening to The DA Show. Hope you like feet,” to which Dillard responded “Wait, what?!” while reading the line. “Because DA really likes feet. Foot-tastic.”
One of the higher profile players the show recorded was Eagles backup quarterback Gardner Minshew, who incorrectly pronounced one of the words in the read.
“Hey this is Gardner Minshew and you’re listening to The Syracuse Guys, dudes in suites (sic) with nice teeth. We love lukewarm takes, safe hip hop, and The Bachelor.”