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They’re Comin’ To Your City: ESPN Podcast Stars Hit The Road For Live Remotes

As Matthew Berry puts it: "We love our fans and are blessed to have an amazing connection with them. And these live shows are the best example of that.”

ESPN MMA analyst Ariel Helwani (L, with microphone) interacts with fans during his podcast in Chicago this spring. (Elizabeth Paige Fierman/ESPN)

ESPN TV and radio shows sometimes go on the road, often to a big game or championship series. It’s always a big hit for the local fans, to get up close with the commentators they see on TV.

So why not podcasts?

In fact, they do.

“We started taking some of our shows on the road in 2016 as a way to strengthen the connection between the shows and the fans,” said Vice President, Digital Strategy and Marketing in ESPN Audio, Tom Ricks. “We’ve done about 30 and it’s been very successful as the shows and our people have been very well-received.”

(A fringe benefit: The shows are ticketed, almost always sold out and the paying audience is typically 250-350 people strong.)

Sold-out theaters are the norm. (Elizabeth Paige Fierman/ESPN)

In recent weeks, Dan LeBatard’s Le Batard and Friends network did a live show in front of a large and enthusiastic audience at New York’s Gramercy Theatre. ESPN MMA analyst Ariel Helwani was live in Chicago, ESPN commentator Ryen Russillo was recorded in Manhattan Beach, Calif., and The Mina Kimes Show was in Seattle on July 22.

Other shows that have hit the road include Baseball Tonight, Fantasy Focus Football, Jalen and Jacoby, 30 for 30 Podcasts and FiveThirtyEight Politics. Locations have been major markets from coast to coast, such as Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C.

Elizabeth Paige Fierman, senior manager, event marketing in ESPN Audio, oversees all the live remotes, for both radio and podcasts.

“The podcast crowds are the most consistently avid fans we meet on the road,” she says. “There’s always a great energy that you can feel on-site that translates to the episodes. It’s also become clear the talent ‘meet and greets’ with the audience are the most valuable experience to the fans. Our talent has bought into this live show framework and they find it rewarding, too.

“I love checking social media after a show and seeing how fans have posted their memories.”

Coming up, Fantasy Focus Football with host Matthew Berry goes to Detroit on July 30 at St. Andrew’s Hall.

“It’s one thing to do the show from a studio in Bristol and certainly, you know you are connecting with people from the numbers and what you see on social media, emails we get, etc.,” Berry says.

“But there’s nothing like going out and meeting fans in public, seeing their faces, talking to them, feeling that incredible energy from them and just having a blast. It’s an experience unlike any other and it’s so great to see. We love our fans and are blessed to have an amazing connection with them. And these live shows are the best example of that.”

Visit ESPN Podcenter.

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