1050 Goes Conservative With Stephen A. Replacement

Monday 1050 ESPN Radio in New York unveiled its revamped afternoon lineup to replace the Stephen A. Smith show. In a move lacking any boldness, the national Mike Tirico show was extended one hour, now airing the entire show from 1-3 PM, and the Michael Kay Show adds a fourth hour to cover the second vacated hour. No surprises, no impact.

Smith, the lone major African American figure on the NY sports talk circuit, flashed his signature bold personality over his three year run at 1050, at time making for entertaining radio. Never afraid to voice an opinion, Smith adeptly tackled race issues and sports, and excelled in his comfort zone of basketball. Quality guests, authoritative information, Smith showed off his flair for radio with NBA talk. Ten years ago, or maybe a few years from now, that would earn stripes – and ratings – in New York. With the Knicks a disaster, basketball sits a distant third to baseball and football.

Despite ESPN’s attempt to balance the show by teaming Steven A. with various cohorts during his stint, all of them white and less flamboyant, the show lacked appeal when baseball, football, or dare I say hockey came up. The cohosts job was to supplement Smith outside basketball and provide a sounding board on race topics, which they did, but it diminished the entertainment value.

The show also fell victim to inconsistency. Time slot change aside, ESPN gave Stephen A. five  jobs, creating overexposure and lack of commitment to any of the gigs. You tuned in each day not knowing who would be behind the mic, or if Smith would be in Denver talking about Allen Iverson when New York could care less. Fault ESPN for that. Without radio Smith goes back to his full-time basketball analyst role for the network.

Ratings talk, and if Smith’s original afternoon soiree that started at noon could not crack into WFAN’s ratings, moving head-to-head with Mike and the Mad Dog at 2 PM gave him no chance. 1050 is basically conceding afternoon’s to WFAN with this move, not rattling the cage, not rolling the dice. In fact, 1050 will probably lose more listeners by extending a national snoozefest rarely relevant to New York, driving more listeners to WFAN.

Smith definitely has a place on New York, born and raised in Queens, his dynamic personality and local flair demand it. When and where remains to be seen?

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