Mike Francesa’s return to WFAN has been underwhelming, although if you’ll recall what he was doing before he retired for four months, it’s actually in line with the personality of a 60-something radio guy who hates to take direction. The most interesting thing about him right now is a feud he’s started with New York Post reporter Andrew Marchand.
In addition to his WFAN show, Francesa has an app. Everybody has apps these days. The future is apps! Mike’s app is free, but requires a subscription at the not-low, low price of $8.99 a month. Buying the app will entitle you to a couple of radio shows hosted by Francesa, separate from his WFAN shows though not scheduled on a regular basis. Would you give up a decent lunch for an extra serving of Mike Francesa’s grumbles and contentious conversations with callers?
Back in September, Marchand said on Jimmy Traina’s Sports Illustrated podcast that Francesa would have a tough time making money from the app because he wouldn’t be able to get guests on something that did, for example, 300 downloads. They were discussing how the app was doing and believed that since Francesa wasn’t incessantly bragging about the unknown numbers, they were probably bad.
In Francesa’s eyes, Marchand is a threat, because it’s part of his job as a media reporter to figure out just how well the app is really doing. He wants those numbers. Since that podcast discussion, Francesa has apparently stewed on the claim that his app only has 300 subscribers—a claim Marchand didn’t make.
That boiled over this week. On Monday, Marchand wrote a story that Francesa said he’d rather give up the WFAN show than the app. On Tuesday, Marchand published a take that Francesa would “basically take himself into irrelevance” if he quit WFAN and went to his paid-subscription model. Marchand really got under the host’s skin by mentioning a fear of bad ratings:
Who knows what Francesa wants? Apparently, not him. He has retired, unretired and now is threatening to do who knows what. His best content is about him, his flip-flopping and his ridiculousness. You don’t tune in for the handicapping.
It may well just be a negotiating ploy to extract more money from Entercom after agreeing to a pay cut for his May return, but apparently not signing a contract. He may be saying he won’t quit the app to try to give himself more leverage. Really, Francesa might not know what he is thinking, so it is hard for anyone else to fully figure it out.
But one factor that may be in play is that Francesa doesn’t want to lose in the ratings for the first time. The initial month of the ratings book won’t come out until Monday, marking the first three innings of the fall book, but sources told The Post the first three weeks between 98.7 ESPN New York’s “Michael Kay Show” and Francesa have been very tight.
The bear had been poked. Francesa devoted a chunk of his Wednesday show responding to Marchand, “a little wannabe who couldn’t get a job at FAN,” about how desperate and wrong he is. Francesa also did what a lot of rich blowhards do when they feel threatened: He offered a challenge involving money. “Every subscriber, under 800, I will give him $10,000 in cash,” he said. Below is a highlight reel of the rant, courtesy of Francesa archivist @BackAftaThis. “I’m giving a chance, according to him, to make $500,000 in cash, which is about 40 years’ salary for him.”
Marchand tried to get in touch with Francesa for an interview, but he understandably refused to pay the half-million-dollar fee to do so. WFAN’s vice president of programming Mark Chernoff just wanted to be left out of the whole ordeal:
Francesa replied by boasting about how Marchand didn’t get paid as much as him to drink Diet Coke and make bad gambling picks:
Francesa hasn’t been this energetic in years. He’ll need at least one month and three cases of soda to recharge from this beef.