ESPN Audio prepares to pass the baton

This week will mark the end of ESPN’s Mike & Mike in the Morning, as the long-time pillar (18 years!) at the company wraps up on Friday amid farewells from some of sport’s best and brightest as Greenberg takes on a new solo TV show. Golic will be joined by Trey Wingo for a new morning drive series titled Golic & Wingo that will kick off on Nov. 27, running 6-10a on ESPN Radio with an initial simulcast on ESPN2 before moving in early January to ESPNU.

Cynopsis caught up with Traug Keller, SVP of ESPN Audio and the ESPN Talent Office, to discuss the legacy of Mike & Mike and what we can expect moving forward.

Keller on the legacy of Mike and Mike: They’ve been great contributors to the audio business. Of course, the platform they’ve had has been pretty large, with over 400 radio stations as well as the ESPN2 simulcast. When they went to ESPN2, I think it raised the visibility of radio in general and you started to see a lot of other people start to simulcast after we did it. They’ve done a great job of cultivating an incredibly loyal audience. 18 years is an incredible run for any show. The thing is that when you make a change for a show that has run this long, it becomes personal to people. The medium is much more personal than television. There is a connection there because it is usually you on your drive in and the people you choose to entertainment you in the morning and you become part of that community. When you change it, it is a change and people don’t like it. But we are excited about the new show.

On affiliates: We knew well in advance that this change was coming and we asked our affiliates who felt good to them since they were where the rubber hits the road and knew their sports listeners better than anybody. We gave them a list of people to consider and it ended up being unanimous about Wingo. People were all in on him and the fact that we really had no affiliate defection at all speaks to how right that decision has been.

On breaking up: When news that Mike and Mike were going in different directions initially came out, it was earthshaking. But these guys are incredible professionals and they do genuinely like each other. They will each be talking about the other’s show. They have handled this as well as I have ever seen it. There are some classic examples of things like this this not going well, but this really isn’t like that.

On Wingo: Trey already has a built-in rapport with Mike dating back to NFL Live. Trey did radio way back before ESPN in St. Louis and we often used Trey throughout the years any to fill in for Mike & Mike when those guys weren’t around. He brings a warmth and sense of humor that fits morning drive. We told them that we are going to go back to more traditional morning drive radio and those two were made for fun, which is what morning drive radio is all about.

On biggest stories impacting audio: In the audio business, we’ve seen a lot of new elements. First it was streaming, then it was SiriusXM, Apple Radio, TuneIn and now podcasting has become a bigger and bigger thing. I think podcasting is actually a misnomer as it is really audio-on-demand and an opportunity to be in even more ears. We love it every time there is a new way to listen. The latest is the smart speakers hitting people’s homes. If you’ve got Alexa and ask it to play ESPN or give you an update, you can do that and the great thing about them is that it is actually putting radio back in the home.

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