SBD/Issue 228/Sports Media

WFAN Cancels "Mike and the Mad Dog" As Russo Leaves Station

Chris Russo Leaves WFAN
WFAN-AM Thursday ended its "Mike and the Mad Dog" show after 19 years after co-host Chris Russo "left the station, leaving Mike Francesa to carry on without him," according to Neil Best of NEWSDAY. Russo had "hoped to do a farewell show, but WFAN opted to part ways immediately after releasing him from a contract that would have run through next spring." WFAN Operations Manager Mark Chernoff said that "all parties agreed 'the show has kind of run its course.'" But Russo indicated that that "was true only to a point." Russo: "I'm looking for a different challenge in my life. I'm 48 years of age. This might be the last chance I'm going to get for a challenge if I want to take it." Industry sources said that Russo is "likely to land at Sirius Satellite Radio for a lucrative deal worth up to $15[M] over five years." Meanwhile, WFAN Thursday announced a new contract for Francesa, whose deal "was believed to be expiring around the end of the year." Francesa said that he "will have control over the new-look show," and while he will not have a co-host, he "will not sit alone for 5 1/2 hours a day" (NEWSDAY, 8/15).

MOVING ON: In N.Y., Richard Sandomir reports the new show will be called "Francesa on the FAN." Russo and his agent, Sandy Montag, had been "negotiating a possible extension beyond the March expiration of his contract," but Russo was "unwilling to commit to five more years" with the station (N.Y. TIMES, 8/15). Russo, as the result of WFAN releasing him from his contract, will not be allowed to work for rival station ESPN Radio 1050 N.Y., though he will be "permitted to take a satellite radio gig" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/15). In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes if Russo was "tempted to leave by the possibility of a challenge -- if that's his motivation -- he will sign that deal offered by Sirius," but it would be the "biggest, and riskiest, move of his career." Raissman writes Russo has made a "tough decision, one that might become a lot tougher to live with as time moves on." For Russo, leaving Francesa and WFAN "will be extremely difficult," while "afternoons in New York will never be the same" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/15). On Long Island, Jim Baumbach writes, "It's clear there really is only one loser here. Us." Without the show, the "sports radio landscape in New York never will be the same" (NEWSDAY, 8/15). In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes Francesa and Russo had a "great run," and "for better and worse, they made radio history. ... They made a whole lot of something out of what previously existed as nothing" (N.Y. POST, 8/15).

POINTS OFF TURNOVER: ESPN 1050 Program Dir Aaron Spielberg said the breakup of the "Mike and the Mad Dog" team presents "tremendous opportunities" for 1050. Spielberg: "Any move like this changes the landscape, and I've got a great afternoon guy with Michael Kay. If you look on this as a race, I really really like my horse." Spielberg added, "We're not looking to run down FAN. But I think there's room in New York for two sports-talk stations, and there will definitely be opportunities in this situation" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/15).

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