Scott Van Pelt and Ryen Russillo were paired in afternoons on ESPN Radio from 2009 until 2015 when Van Pelt jumped to “Sports Center” duties on the network’s cable channel. Now the two men are reuniting in front of the ESPN microphones for a new podcast. SVP & Russillo will debut June 3 and, after three monthly editions, in September the show will become bi-weekly.
“We’ve been looking to reignite the chemistry and fun Scott and Ryen had when on radio together,” said Tom Ricks, ESPN vice president of digital strategy and marketing within ESPN Audio. “They are smart and entertaining and resonated with a loyal fan base, who will enjoy them in the format of a podcast.”
Russillo’s radio show came to an end in December 2017 when he wasn’t able to reach an agreement on a new contract with ESPN. He has continued to host The Ryen Russillo Show podcast for the company, however, and he appears on several ESPN shows to discuss the NBA.
“It’s been a few years since we stopped doing the [radio] show and I’ve always been amazed how many times people come up to me and say how much they still miss it,” Russillo said. It was a daily part of people’s lives. Even people at ESPN who have different roles and positions today say how much they loved the show. We both knew we would do something again. I’m just happy it’s still with ESPN.”
Van Pelt remains in the midnight (Eastern) slot of “Sports Center” but the podcast will mark his return to the audio medium. Van Pelt says he and Russillo have been talking plenty – even when they were no longer hosting a radio show. “We just figured, if we are going to talk on the phone for 45 minutes, we might as well record it and make it a podcast,” he said. “We enjoyed our time together on radio, and it’s amazing the loyalty and appetite our listeners still have for us.”
It is the second podcast announcement from ESPN this week. It also announced that The Woj Pod, the sports podcast hosted by ESPN’s senior NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski, is bouncing from Cadence13 to ESPN Podcasts starting July 1. ESPN says The Woj Pod will remain a weekly podcast but it plans to publish more frequently around big events on the NBA calendar.
ESPN launched its first podcast in 2005 and last year it says total downloads of its portfolio of 62 shows grew 43%. In April ESPN posted a 21% month-to-month increase in its unique U.S. monthly audience, according to Podtrac. But it’s also seen rival Barstool Sports overtake it in the Podtrac ranker, despite having less than half the number of shows in its portfolio. In April, Barstool Sports’ 28 shows had 6.3 million unique listeners in the U.S. compared to 5.4 million for ESPN.