YES Network and WFAN have reached a multiyear contract extension to continue to simulcast Mike Francesa's weekday sports radio talk show and add the host's Sunday morning pro football program.
But The NFL Now won't be the only new feature on the regional sports network's lineup to hear the sports talk radio maven tell.
Francesa, noting that sports media and news are being reshaped by video clips and podcasts, wants his program and its simulcast on YES to have more immediacy.
"We want to utilize more of the resources that YES has in terms of access and information. If Kim Jones [who works for both YES and WFAN] is up at the stadium with some information at 4 p.m., we want to be able to go there and put her on camera," said Francesa. "If there's access to some the players coming into the ballpark, we want that. You don't want to wait to put that information out there until the pre-game show."
Francesa, who has been a fixture on YES since its launch in March 2002, thanked YES executives, notably the RSN's president of production and programming John Filippelli, for on-air improvements over the years.
"In the beginning, it was really just a radio show on TV. It's a much different and more polished now. And that's become integral to the show," he said. "I feel naked now on the days when it isn't on YES."
Since former radio co-host Chris "Mad Dog" Russo left to join satellite service Sirius XM Radio last summer, Mike'D Up: Francesa on the FAN has seen its ratings grow 17% from Aug. 18, 2008 through Feb. 25. In January, the weekday show averaged a 0.24 rating in its 1 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. slot on YES, more than doubled the combined 0.11 mark for the other New York regional sports network, MSG, MSG Plus and SNY during that time, according to YES officials.
"WFAN is a brand. The show is a brand and destination for listeners. And YES is brand," said Francesa, when asked if the radio and simulcast fed each other's audiences.
Although he's going it solo now, Francesa remains a proponent of the two-man game.
"Twenty years ago, radio was a one-man show. Dog and I pioneered the two-man booth," he said. "Now, I've had to incorporate some of the one-man things again into the show, but I still believe in a two-man booth. I'm not opposed to working with someone else again. That's what will happen when we find the right person."
Francesa is enthused about YES picking up The NFL Now.
"I always thought the show could be on a regional cable network or syndicated. But cable networks make their properties work with multiple airings to defray costs," he said, noting he's been pushing for the show to emerge on YES, since MSNBC stopped its simulcast, when the news network punted on the sports business.
As for YES's bread and butter, the New York Yankees, Francesa expects big things this season with the free-agent acquisitions of starting pitchers CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett and slugging first baseman Mark Texeira -- unless the club is devastated by injuries.
"It's going to be hard for them to be bad, if they stay healthy," he said. "They went to Tiffany's, not Kmart this off-season."
In addition to the strength from the new starters, Francesa envisions a bounce back season from injured righty Chien-Ming Wang. "If they can get anything from [southpaw Andy] Pettitte, they could be really tough."
Francesa's projections also call for return to forms from second-sacker Robinson Cano and catcher Jorge Posada, who experienced some pain in his injured shoulder last weekend.
"I think they're going to have to carry three catchers. And if Posada can't go behind the plate, it's going to change the dynamics at designated hitter and in the outfield with [right field candidates Nick] Swisher and [Xavier] Nady," he said.
Francesa believes the Yankee manager Joe Girardi will opt for Swisher in the corner outfield spot and Brett Gardner over Melky Cabrera in center, because he "likes players who get their uniforms dirty."
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