Let the sports wars begin! AM1500 — which will become ESPN Twin Cities April 12 — has swiped its first KFAN-er for its on-air line-up, and added another ex-KFAN contributor to run its website.
On Friday, the station announced Phil Mackey would become Pat Reusse’s noon-2 p.m. sidekick and contribute content to AM1500.com. Monday, it added Tom Pelissero as a “senior web editor.” According to station exec Dan Seeman, Pelissero, currently the Green Bay Press-Gazette’s assistant sports editor, “will be our primary source for team news and developments” while Mackey “will supplement Tom’s contributions and provide his own multi-media coverage of the Twins, Vikings, Gophers, Wild, Wolves and Twin Cities sports events.”
Neither guy is a huge name on the Twin Cities scene; Mackey jokes that he was the “Nick Punto of KFAN.” But Mackey was valued enough that KFAN host Paul Allen was lamenting his departure Friday, and at 24, is almost four decades younger than AM1500’s primary personalities, Reusse and Joe Soucheray. He might have just become the youngest host or sidekick on a local talk station, at least between morning and evening drive, and that could help the upstart sports station grab younger listeners.
Mackey is not just a young dude, he’s entrepreneurial as well, the founder of Minnesota Poker Magazine and the Minnesota State Poker Tour. While he says the magazine site only has about 5,000 unique visitors a month, it shows he’s a digital native, and that’s where the sports audience and the media are moving.
I was skeptical Hubbard Broadcasting would spend any more money after dumping the news-talk format last month and gassing approximately a dozen staffers. But two-person shows in the non-drive hours are increasingly rare, so hiring a full-timer for noon to 2, plus two website reporters, shows this wasn’t a total salary dump. (AM1500, aka KSTP-AM, will rely on free ESPN national program in morning drive and 9 a.m.-noon slots. The station is in the final year of an expensive rights deal to carry Minnesota Twins games.)
As you can guess from the poker fixation, Mackey is a sabremetrics kind of guy, which should make for a fun pairing with noted stat skeptic Reusse. Mackey, who didn’t have a KFAN contract, starts March 23; Pelissero begins March 29.
Update: I’m told Pelissero likes to have some fun in his web videos. Here’s one: