Finebaum Talks About Decision To Sign With ESPN, Hopes Show Doesn't Change Much
Radio host Paul Finebaum discussed his new five-year deal with ESPN and the SEC Network with AL.com's Bob Carlton, and he said the decision to relocate to Charlotte after nearly 30 years in Birmingham was "difficult." Finebaum's wife, Linda, is the Chief of Medicine at Birmingham's St. Vincent Hospital, and he said, "She arguably has had a much more successful career in Birmingham than I have, building a tremendous medical practice and climbing the ranks at her hospital. So that was my first concern. ... As the offers were coming in, she said go for it. Without that, I wouldn't have done it." However, he said, from a "purely professional standpoint, it was not a difficult decision." Finebaum: "It was obvious that this was what I wanted to do and this was what I felt like I had to do." He noted SiriusXM Radio approached him "about a year ago," and ESPN "came later." While Finebaum says it is "likely" his show will air on one of ESPN's SiriusXM stations, he hopes it will land on a local station in Birmingham shortly after it debuts on August 1. He said of the market, "It's important to me. And, on Day 1, it's our biggest market, and I hope we can navigate those waters as quickly as possible" (AL.com, 5/28). Finebaum said that he is "not sure as of now which markets will air his radio show at the start of his ESPN tenure." SI.com's Richard Deitsch noted some are "wondering whether the Alabama-ness of the show can be duplicated from Charlotte." Finebaum: "It is a fair question and I heard that from friends and executives in Bristol. I think our show has become unique because we are not like everyone else and it is my hope we can continue going down that path." He added, "I want it to be a better show than it was but still have the flavor and character of what has made it what I think was the most unique caller-driven show in the country. ... No one has ever been able to top us for the craziness and for the callers. We don't want to change that" (SI.com, 5/27).
WANTING FINEBAUM TO BE HIMSELF: In Birmingham, Jon Solomon wonders what will happen if Finebaum "calls for an SEC coach to be canned on an SEC-branded network." Finebaum said, "It's a good question. I would love to tell you that day will never happen, but it will probably happen the first day and I think we'll all find out. That's what I find so interesting about this. We are swimming in unchartered waters." ESPN Senior VP/Programming Justin Connolly said, "We're going to have a dialogue with Paul about content. I think the idea is we're going to have to feel our way through in terms of the editorial voice of the show and the network, and at the same time we have to balance it with Paul being Paul. We're not looking to water down or change Paul. We want Paul to be Paul. We want to be different." Finebaum added that he "thinks he will be walking down 'a little narrower path' with his content and that he embraces that change." Meanwhile, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive yesterday said of Finebaum, "He will provide the network the kind of programming when we don't have games that will attract people to the network" (BIRMINGHAM NEWS, 5/30).