“Mike & Mike” endured on ESPN Radio for almost 18 years, but the show was almost over before it even got out of the gate.
In an interview with the New York Post, Traug Keller—who is retiring from ESPN as the sports broadcaster’s Senior VP of Audio —said saving the show from being deep-sixed in the early 2000s was his proudest accomplishment.
“The show had been on for 18 months,” Keller recalled. “The TV [executives] in the room said, ‘We are not seeing any ratings results from this, we probably should switch it out.’ I remember holding my ground and saying, ‘No way. In radio, you have to let things bake. The medium works differently than television. It takes time. If you have people who can get along and can create a community, you have to give them at least a couple of years.’ They backed off and ‘Mike & Mike’ had a spectacular run.”
The show, which featured Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic, eventually made its way to television, landing on ESPNews in 2004. In 2006 it began a long run on ESPN2, where it remained until its demise in 2017.
Keller also lamented letting Colin Cowherd jump ship. “I do regret letting Colin Cowherd get away,” Keller said. “I think he is a great talent.”
Cowherd, who joined ESPN in 2004 as a replacement for Tony Kornheiser, left for Fox Sports in 2015.
Another characteristic of Keller’s time at ESPN, according to the Post’s interview: emphasizing the idea of “ESPN Audio” as opposed to “ESPN Radio.” The former, the newspaper said, broadened the network’s perspective.
Keller, who will be replaced by ESPN New York’s Tim McCarthy, won’t be retired in the classic sense. He’s joining America Magazine, a Jesuit-affiliated bi-weekly, where he hopes to expand its multimedia initiatives as its Chief Operating Officer.
McCarthy will take over ESPN’s local stations in New York and Los Angeles. Scott McCarthy—who is unrelated to Tim—will lead the national network.
A substantial component of Keller’s time at ESPN is his role in facilitating the proliferation of podcasting, a topic he addressed at length in a March 2018 interview with Inside Radio.
“I think the thing that looms the largest is that the industry needs to find unified and consistent measurement across the board,” he said. “We are working with a few vendors and other big podcast players, so it is something that I expect to happen soon. Podcasting has already grown so much, and that will take it to the next level. There is no denying that people are listening to podcasts by the millions, it really has been fascinating to watch the growth and fun to be a part of it—so now we need to get that measurement piece done.”