It’s been one of the worst kept secrets in the media industry, and now the cat is finally out of the bag. Mike Greenberg is leaving his ESPN radio program alongside Mike Golic after 18 years.
We had alluded to this possibility in previous posts, and Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated has nailed down the confirmation. ESPN executives want to move Greenberg into a new role as the lead host of a television show that would air in the morning on ESPN. The new show will be a blend of a traditional morning show and some of the regular features which sports fans have come to expect from SportsCenter. The show is expected to originate out of New York City.
In making the move, there is certainly a sudden impact to the ESPN Radio network which will now have lost Greenberg, Colin Cowherd, and Scott Van Pelt all within a span of three years. The loss of those key personalities has led many programmers to become frustrated with the programming choices from the network, which makes it even more important that the network delivers big when replacing Greenberg. A false move could lead affiliates to terminate relationships in favor of local programming or other partnerships with FOX Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio, NBC Sports Radio or SB Nation Radio.
Mike and Mike were inducted into the NAB radio hall of fame in 2016, which seemed to signal the beginning of the end for the pair. Greenberg also switched agents, and was signed to a new contract at ESPN for a reported 6.5 million dollars, which indicated that other plans were in the works for him. The network doesn’t offer those type of deals to talent with a primary focus on radio.
With Greenberg moving on, many feel a brand new morning show with fresh blood would energize the brand. But according to Deitsch’s report, Trey Wingo has emerged as the leading candidate to replace Greenberg, and Mike Golic Jr. is expected to be part of the final mix. Sources I spoke with also said that Mike Golic Sr. was likely to remain as the network generates a lot of revenue from the Mike and Mike brand and Golic’s stability could help retain some of the show’s key advertisers.
There has always been mixed feelings towards Mike and Mike. Those who love the show often point to the duo’s chemistry, commitment to sports, fast pace, and content selection. Those who reject it often cite a lack of bold opinions and a too-safe approach. I conducted a study in October on the possibility of breaking up the show, and the 7 radio executives I polled were split down the middle on whether to stay the course or move on.
So now the elephant in the room has been addressed and the only remaining questions are, when will Mike and Mike permanently sign off? Who takes over mornings on ESPN Radio and ESPN2? And will the new show meet the approval of the radio industry or cause companies across the country to start pursuing other options?