Mike Francesa is going to keep doing this as long as he wants
You thought Mike Francesa’s first retirement tour was long. Well, wait until you get a load of this next one.
Francesa begins his old job with a new shift at WFAN on Tuesday after his 3-1/2-month “retirement.” He took a pay cut and reduced his hours to return to radio.
Of course, making more than $1 million to talk sports is a pretty good deal. Now, at 64, he will probably do it on the FAN until people get sick of his voice.
“I think Mike can do this for as long as Mike wants to do it and as long as the audience wants him to do it,” said Chris Oliviero, the executive vice president of programming for Entercom, WFAN’s parent company. “That’s the two-way street in radio. You have to want to do it and the audience wants them to do it for them.”
Francesa’s audience is pumped for his return after it thought his FAN days were over following an 18-month “retirement” tour in which Francesa repeatedly said there was no turning back.
Francesa could have stayed at any point, but both publicly and privately turned down the chance to make everything much cleaner than the mess that became public a little more than a week ago.
Most notably, Francesa asked for a raise in the wake of Craig Carton’s arrest last September. Oliviero, along with WFAN and Entercom executives, said no, according to sources.
Oliviero would not go into what the difference in pay Francesa wanted then compared to what he received now. Whatever the exact number, it was too good to pass up for Entercom. That is certain; especially after Oliviero said the decision had nothing to do with Francesa’s replacements, Chris Carlin, Maggie Gray and Bart Scott’s ratings and Oliviero praised CMB as the show of the future.
Francesa went over everyone’s head at WFAN and Oliviero’s, according to sources, and straight to Entercom president David Field to get the deal done.
Oliviero said bringing back Francesa had nothing to do with the fact the “Michael Kay Show” on ESPN New York’s 98.7 FM squeaked past CMB in the winter ratings book. Francesa never lost to Kay.
“This was not a ratings decision,” Oliviero said.
Oliviero would never offend Francesa, and went out of his way to call Francesa a really good businessman — and he returned to where he wanted, even if he cost them a lot of money in the process.
Francesa has talked about taking on a “leadership” role, as if he is rejoining the Yankees instead of hosting a solo radio show, but if that is actually a thing then what Francesa really should do is apologize to CMB, who have been demoted to a two-hour show from 1-3 p.m. It was embarrassing for Carlin, who left a successful show in Philadelphia, and the up-and-coming Gray and Scott, the former Pro Bowl linebacker.
“As someone who is responsible for hiring talent across the country, not just in New York, I don’t look at anything that CMB has done or about to go through as a blemish on their résumés,” Oliviero said. “I don’t think anybody in the business sees it that way.”
We recommended to Oliviero that he talk to more people in the business.
In his eyes, the station is stronger with CMB — to whom he gave a big vote of confidence — leading into Francesa. There is no doubt, it is in the short-term.
“I think it’s successful already,” Oliviero said. “In the year 2018, a local radio station and a local talent got more attention in the last week. The back pages of every newspaper.
Oliviero’s outlook is to look at it like Francesa never left. It will probably feel like that soon. Now, he may never leave.
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