Talk-show host Mark Madden will be released from his contract with ESPN at the end of this month and begin a new show in early October on WXDX (105.9 FM), part of the Clear Channel radio empire.
Following controversial comments about U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Madden was removed from the air at ESPN in late May but remained under contract and was being paid about $12,000 a month by Disney, the parent company of ESPN.
According to an industry source, ESPN could have kept Madden off the air until October 2009 by the terms of his contract. It is believed the station gave Madden his release to get out from under his salary and use that money in other areas.
Madden's return to the air, with Oct. 6 a likely starting date tentatively in the 3-7 p.m. slot, will reshuffle the deck in sports-talk radio in Pittsburgh.
He will be competing against the show that replaced him on 1250 ESPN, "Paulsen, Logan and Crow," and "The Joe Bendel Show" on Fox Sports Radio 970. Both are AM stations. Some listeners have expressed disappointment with "Paulsen, Logan and Crow." With Madden out of the picture, Bendel, who runs a more conventional show, has picked up listeners and callers.
Madden will have a major impact on the ratings of both shows. His former listeners likely will flock back, and he might find some new ones on the FM band, where WXDX caters to a younger audience.
Clear Channel will have three sports talk shows on the air between 6 and 7 p.m., with Bendel, Madden and Ellis Cannon, whose show airs from 6 to 8 p.m. on NewsTalk 104.7.
Madden has a big hockey following, and his show will serve as a lead-in to weekday-night Penguins games. The Penguins' contract with WXDX expires after this season. The team has had so much success and become so popular that there could be spirited bidding for its radio rights. Having Madden as a lead-in to the broadcast could help WXDX keep the Penguins' rights.
Neither Mike Thompson, general manager of 1250 ESPN, nor John Moschitta, operations manager at WXDX, returned calls seeking comment.
NOTES -- Verizon and FSN Pittsburgh have reached agreement on an HD channel for Pittsburgh-area subscribers. FSN HD will launch the first week in October on Verizon and be carried on Channel 576.