WFAN’s morning show left its Manhattan studio effective Wednesday morning, with co-hosts Boomer Esiason and Gregg Giannotti calling in from home, thus joining most of the rest of the local sports radio world in doing so amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is the situation right now, and as of right now we will continue to bring you the show as long as they allow us to do the show,” Giannotti said at the start of the program.
The show originated from the studio as recently as Tuesday. During that show, Giannotti said he felt safe there but that he had urged the station to prepare for a time when the show might have to decamp.
Esiason said on the air Wednesday that Giannotti had “screamed and yelled for these [Comrex remote] boxes. We got them and now we get to stay home.”
Esiason added, seemingly jokingly, “You are becoming the go-to grand poobah at WFAN.”
WFAN’s lineup now mostly is working from remote locations to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 virus, including the midday, afternoon and overnight programs, as well as some update people.
ESPN New York’s sports talk roster also is operating remotely, as are the network’s national radio shows.
Justin Craig, senior director of programming and operations, said in a story prepared by ESPN’s media relations staff, “As soon as the COVID-19 virus started impacting sports, we began working together with groups across ESPN, planning for multiple contingencies."
Craig said ESPN Radio’s management team created a plan to limit control room staffing to one producer and one board operator, and to provide “kits” for hosts to work from outside the studio.
"With all the uncertainty of what could happen, we sat down and determined how many remote ‘kits’ we had, lined them up and started allocating to each commentator,” Craig said.
Other than essential on-site staff, he said, “All other show personnel will continue to contribute from home setups, utilizing video conferencing and instant messaging so all participants remain a critical piece to each show unit, regardless of their physical location.”
Craig said the kits include microphones and headphones and can be set up through a home router or a cellular WiFi connection.
“The strong teamwork of everyone involved to handle all the possible scenarios and moving parts was what made this option possible when the time came,” he said. “All of our ‘just-in-case’ planning turned in to a communal preparedness to handle a difficult situation.”
Giannotti, too, praised WFAN’s technical staff for working long hours to ensure his show and others could remain on the air without the hosts being in the same location.
“For the time being, this is what it’s going to be,” he said on the air. “Today feels weird, for sure.”
Esiason said he loved his non-commute and had his coffee and oatmeal in front of him as the show began at 6 a.m. He also said he still was in bed.
“It’s unbelievable, man; it’s the greatest thing ever,” he said, seemingly jokingly. “This can get very comfortable this way.”
Giannotti did not disagree, but he emphasized that the show looks and sounds better when the hosts are together, and that they would return to the studio when it is safe to do so.