Mike Francesa is parting ways with the Fox Sports Network as of Friday, in what he called an “amicable” split with no hard feelings.
Francesa (pictured above with former broadcast partner Christopher Russo) announced this afternoon that he has reached an agreement to terminate the Fox Sports television simulcast of his long-running and ratings-leading afternoon sports talk radio show on New York City’s WFAN, which is heard on both AM and FM from 1 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays.
He acknowledged that negotiations are underway with another unnamed cable outlet, but added that his show could be radio-only for several months in the meantime before a new simulcast deal is struck.
Viewers and/or WFAN fans are well aware that the Francesa TV simulcast on Fox Sports 1 was often bumped in favor of auto racing, soccer, and other content, which didn’t go over well with the opinionated broadcaster who New York Daily News columnist Bob Raissman has nicknamed the “sports Pope” for his self-important, know-it-all persona.
The radio show has been on Fox Sports for almost two years, after simulcasting on the YES Network (the New York Yankees cable outlet) for 12 years. YES currently simulcasts the Michael Kay Show from ESPN radio in Francesa’s former time slot.
The New York Post summarized Francesa’s rocky tenure on the Fox Sports channel.
“Francesa’s move from YES Network to Fox’s national cable channel in 2014 had been a disaster since the outset with middling ratings and the New York legend bickering with management and his colleagues. Francesa was incensed his show was consistently preempted for soccer and other live programming, either demoted to FS2 or not shown on television at all.”
Francesa signed a multi-year extension with CBS-owned WFAN in 2013 at an estimated annual salary of $5 million. In addition to Francesa himself, CBS has simultaneously reached a separation agreement with Fox Sports.
Joining up with WFAN in 1987 when it was the only 24-hour sports radio station in the country, Francesa has been dominating afternoon drive in the New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut listening area since 1989, most of the time partnered with Chris “Mad Dog” Russo.
Russo left the “Mike and the Mad Dog” show and terrestrial radio completely in August, 2008, to run a sports channel on SiriusXM. Russo also appears Monday through Friday on the MLB Network’s High Heat.
Francesa has been flying solo since Russo exited WFAN.
In announcing his departure from Fox Sports this afternoon, Francesa seemed uncharacteristically subdued/contrite and even somewhat uncomfortable about addressing the business divorce.
“First, let me say that the blame is mine. I tried to do something that was a little different. I knew I was trying to put a square peg in a round hole when I did this…The Fox guys were eager and I’m not going to say money wasn’t an issue, because their offer was the biggest. The were very eager to try it, they really wanted to. I had some trepidation, but I also saw the promise in it and it just didn’t work…Fox had good intentions; they paid us very well. It wasn’t a good fit for them, it wasn’t a good fit for us…”
Mike did not explain what he meant about trying to do something different beyond his standard drive-time sports talk show that relies primarily on audience participation, especially of the “long-time listener, first-time caller” variety.
Assuming a new contract emerges, the Francesa WFAN simulcast is likely to wind up either on the MSG Network (the cable home of the New York Knicks) or SNY (which airs New York Mets games and otherwise a lot of filler), although a wild card destination could also be a possibility.
Reacting to a full-page ad by Fox Sports saluting Mike Francesa, New York Post media columnist Phil Mushnick didn’t mince words. “And beyond a receding pool of dull-witted sycophants, it’s Francesa’s enormous, unabashed, shameless, downright incredible projection of self-delusional, fully convinced superiority that sustains his appeal and radio staying power. He’s his own freak show.”
Mike Francesa made national headlines two years ago this month when he denied falling asleep on the air (although the YES footage suggested otherwise) during a segment with Yankees beat reporter Sweeny Murti.
[Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images Entertainment]