After more than six months off the air, the voice of the SEC Paul Finebaum will return to the airwaves at 2 p.m. ET on Aug. 12, ESPN announced yesterday. His callers, his rabble-rousing, his open disdain for every team – according to that team's fanbase – will all return very soon.
Finebaum declined to renew his contract with Cumulus Media Networks in January, leaving his flagship station 94.5 WJOX FM in Birmingham, Ala. After his non-compete clause in his contract had ended with Cumulus, Finebaum signed a multi-year contract with ESPN for an undisclosed amount. The radio host then moved from his Birmingham home to Charlotte, where the SEC Network is located, and from where his radio show will originate.
Finebaum is scheduled to make over 100 television appearances on the ESPN family of networks, and his radio show will be simulcast on the new ESPN-owned SEC Network when the channel launches in 2014. But as far as the new radio show was concerned, ESPN needed a distributor.
Ironically, ESPN has signed Cumulus Media to distribute Finebaum's new radio show. ESPN Radio stations will have the first opportunity to carry the show, but Cumulus will carry it as well. The only hangup with ESPN and Cumulus was the Birmingham market – an important one for both companies. WJOX in Birmingham is a CBS Sports Radio affiliate. The only way for ESPN to allow WJOX to regain their ratings king was to also make it an ESPN Radio station available, which they did.
According to the ESPN press release, Finebaum's "previous show attracted nearly a quarter of the adult male listeners in Birmingham," and it was "ESPN’s highest-rated college football television market the past several years." College football is kind of a big deal to these people, and Finebaum's show was their barbershop, their psychologist, and their ritual as much as the football itself.
The Paul Finebaum Show will officially return to a city near you (if you live in the South) on Aug. 12, and will be aired on two stations simultaneously in the market that he left dormant for all these months.