Sports hosts like the sound of TV

Dan Patrick, radio hosts head to smallscreen

Television has found its next breakout programming: radio.

Howard Stern and Don Imus were some of the first and most influential jocks to have their morning shows televised when they aired on cablers E! and MSNBC, respectively. Both programs gave listeners an inside peek on the shenanigans in the studio that commuters could only imagine.

Also, the Indianapolis-based “The Bob and Tom Show” brings its off-the-wall take of current events at midnight on WGN America.

Now some of the most compelling sports radio hosts are becoming TV personalities — again.

Dan Patrick, a 15-year veteran of ESPN who left the venerable sports net and now co-hosts NBC’s “Football Night in America,” writes for Sports Illustrated and hosts his own national radio show, will be seen weekdays when DirecTV launches “The Dan Patrick Show” on Aug. 3 for a three-hour airing beginning at 9 a.m.

“I have a really eclectic group of guys who will play well on TV,” Patrick says of his team, which will get plenty of on-air face time. “We won’t just be sitting behind mics. What we’ll allow you to see will be different from everyone else.”

His staff will enter “confessionals” during commercial breaks to discuss their thoughts on sports news of the day and different aspects of the show while Patrick, who won a Sports Emmy for being top studio host in 1998, will occasionally flaunt his gold statue whenever he feels he lands a solid interview. It will arise from beneath his desk on a motorized lift.

Also, there will be five robotic cameras — rather than the traditional wall-mounted camera used to telecast the proceedings at most radio shows — and a handheld to give the show a feeling akin to “The Office.”

DirecTV entertainment topper Eric Shanks says the satellite provider’s 101 Network, which airs firstrun episodes of “Friday Night Lights” along with repeats of HBO faves “Deadwood” and “Oz,” wasn’t looking to get in the radio business, but Patrick’s pedigree made him a good fit.

And Patrick will be pushing DirecTV on his radio show, making for harmonious brand promotion.

“Dan has to help us sign up 200,000 new customers or he gets fired,” Shanks quips.

Patrick’s old employer, ESPN, has been airing its “Mike and Mike in the Morning” radio show on TV for a few years now. Exec VP of production Norby Williamson says the joint TV and radio play helps keep sports fans addicted to all-things ESPN and logically extends known programming.

“It’s about promotional awareness and content evolution,” Williamson says. “We’re constantly asking ourselves how we can get our stuff to as many people as possible. We want to create a visual for the radio show. Those ideas open a huge amount of creativity.”

Of course, televising radio programs is certainly an inexpensive way to fill programming hours at a relatively low cost. Networks such as ESPN don’t have to acquire outside programming and besides a possible salary bump, the hosts are already on payroll.

ESPN, which also broadcasts Colin Cowherd’s morning radio show on ESPN U, also has Cowherd co-hosting new series “SportsNation” on ESPN2. Scott Van Pelt, who doubles as a “SportsCenter” anchor and radio host, has the last hour of his just-launched radio show simulcast on ESPN2.

In ESPN’s case, after launching a live edition of “SportsCenter” in the morning instead of airing repeats from the previous night, as it used to do, it’s not only about brand awareness but helping the bottom line. That’s vital for the Connecticut-based all-sports cabler as it recently laid off nearly 100 folks in late May due to the economic downturn.

ESPN hopes that a live mic and a host with strong opinions on the hot topics of the day are a big draw not only on radio but also on TV.

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