Editorial note: This is a freelance article from a contributor. If you’re interested in writing for us, please email awfulannouncing@gmail.com with your pitch. The author can be reached @joefridayjr.  Joe worked for ten years in sports media and now works with media companies to grow their business.

On last Thursday’s episode of The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz, it was announced that it was Executive Producer Michael Ryan ‘Mike Ryan’ Ruiz would be stepping down from his position at the end of the week.  The move could mark a seismic shift for the perennially Top 5-rated sports podcast, depending on the level of Ruiz’s involvement moving forward.

In 2013, Ruiz, not yet 30 years old, ascended to the top producer role after the departure of longtime EP Marc Hochman. During his tenure, he oversaw the show’s growth from a local Miami sports-talk radio show, to national ESPN Radio property, to the most valuable digital audio show at the Worldwide Leader, to the profit center product of a fledgling startup – a resume that could dub him the most prolific producer in sports audio history, if such a ridiculous title existed.

The Le Batard Show has received no shortage of fawning coverage, but if there’s one aspect of its success that goes unheralded, it’s the apparent ease with which the transition from local sports radio show to national sports comedy show occurred, all under the steady hand of Ruiz, including:

  • Integrating traditional sports radio tactics (soundbite drops, recurring gags, parody songs, timed segments) into the podcast format, and not have them seem out of place.
  • Putting out more content than any other competitor, with more than 10 hours of the central DLS dropped weekly across nearly 20 episodes.  Other top podcasters have called out the show for doing this to juice ratings, but by any metric, their total downloads and output are unmatched.
  • Upon the show leaving ESPN, it was Ryan who pushed for the show to keep their RSS feed so its subscriber base and back archives could remain intact, an unheard-of move for audio shows at the time.
  • Mimicking the success of The Ringer and Barstool to create a podcast network, both at ESPN and at Meadowlark Media. While the ‘Le Batard and Friends’ network has yet to spawn any top-rated shows like those competitors, it creates ‘added value’ and inventory to help increase revenue across the company.

It’s not hyperbole to say that outside of Le Batard, no member of the show’s 10-plus-deep crew is missed when they aren’t on the daily show more than Ruiz.  Over the last five years, the two eponymous hosts of the show have clearly seemed less interested in sports.  Le Batard, like a handful in media from 2015-2021, fell into a trap of dismissing sports coverage and fandom, a shift he has started to walk back over the last year.

However, in a sports podcast world where the other longtime top-rated shows (Pardon My Take, Bill Simmons Podcast, Ryen Russillo Show) feature hosts that proudly watch hours and hours of games, Ruiz helped DLS bridge that gap.  He often ran circles around the hosts and other talent on sports conversation, occasionally having to pull back to not upstage others on topics he was clearly more informed.  A diminished role for Ruiz would likely mean the show leans more into the variety and comedy antics by limited supporting characters – fine for their diehards, but not ideal for growing an audience in a competitive landscape.

There is precedent for Ruiz’s departure.  He last stepped down as EP in 2022, handing the reins to Chris Wittyngham, who held the title for a year before departing to do MLS play-by-play for AppleTV. During Wittyngham’s time as EP, Ryan still appeared on the show regularly, albeit in a more secondary role.  That’s likely to be the case again, especially since there’s no natural replacement this time around.  With years of experience, the team of producers the show employs is surely capable of handling the tactical elements of production.  But they lack Ryan’s deep knowledge of sports, how to engage the hosts in both informative and entertaining debate, or when to steer the show back from navel-gazing giggles.

The Le Batard Show continues to be a billing beast, thanks mainly to their unparalleled output.  It has developed the most treasured commodity in media – a loyal fanbase of diehards for whom listening is routine and ‘Getting the Show’ is a source of pride.  Ruiz has developed the supporting producers that will receive more on-air time if he pulls back, so he remains invested in the program’s success.  But the show that Ruiz grew into a behemoth will be vastly different if he is not as involved – a testament to his success as EP.