Over the last decade or so, Dan Le Batard has gradually emerged across multiple platforms as one of ESPN’s highest profile personalities. His radio show enjoys a wide audience and a rabid cult-like following, while his television show Highly Questionable draws solid ratings each afternoon on ESPN’s flagship network.
With that in mind, we imagine ESPN executives are alarmed by the fact that, according to The Big Lead’s Ryan Glasspiegel, Le Batard is in talks with SiriusXM about jumping to satellite radio.
Dan Le Batard has had discussions about the possibility of moving his ESPN radio show exclusively to SiriusXM, The Big Lead has learned from two people with knowledge of the news. Unauthorized to speak publicly on the matter, they requested anonymity.
Le Batard’s contract with ESPN expires early this summer, and there are a number of possibilities about what will happen. He could be given the resources to build out his own SiriusXM station. Le Batard could also start out on Mad Dog Radio, and he and the company could gauge momentum for a little while before deciding whether to expand to a full station. This was the template successfully followed recently by Barstool Radio on the Rush channel before they got their own station. Finally, it’s also possible — likely, even — that his radio show remains at ESPN.
Given that ESPN just recently revamped its radio lineup, the network would presumably prefer not to lose one of its biggest stars. Le Batard can occasionally cause headaches for his bosses, but he produces compelling radio and has always drawn listeners. Plus, he takes up a lot of real estate on both TV and the radio.
If Le Batard is serious about leaving ESPN Radio or ESPN altogether (and not merely leveraging another outlet’s interest into a more favorable contract extension), his departure would leave some huge holes. Currently, The Dan Le Batard Show airs on ESPN Radio from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET and is simulcast on ESPNU. Highly Questionable, meanwhile, airs weekdays at 4:30 p.m. ET, leading into Around the Horn and PTI. Developing new brands and building new audiences in those slots would not be easy.
As Glasspiegel points out, Le Batard greatly values editorial independence and would likely have more leeway on SiriusXM to discuss what he wants, how he wants. But as Glasspiegel also points out, Le Batard has warned colleagues in the past about the dangers of leaving ESPN.
With Le Batard’s contract at ESPN expiring “early this summer,” per The Big Lead, we shouldn’t have to wait too long to see what he decides.