The Comcast Network is preparing to launch something new for local television starting April 6: a sports-talk morning show, called Breakfast on Broad. The show is set to have a conversational tone and will include morning news staples such as traffic and weather.
Breakfast on Broad is a new foray into original programming for the Comcast Network, rebranded from CN8 in 2009. Currently, the network is best known for hosting games of local sports teams - in place of its sister station, Comcast SportsNet - when the Phillies, Flyers, or Sixers play at the same time.
The new show, which will air from 6 to 8 a.m. weekdays and repeat on Comcast SportsNet from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., is to be hosted by Rob Ellis, who on Tuesday night announced that he was leaving his job as a host on Sportsradio 94WIP. He will be joined by Sarah Baicker, currently a Flyers reporter and digital producer at Comcast SportsNet; Jillian Mele, who has been a traffic reporter at NBC10; and Barrett Brooks, a former Eagles offensive lineman and Comcast SportsNet contributor.
Breakfast on Broad aims to avoid the straight-news feel of SportsNet Central, the current Comcast SportsNet local morning news show, which will continue to air. The intent of the new program is to favor opinion and discussion, sometimes centering on the softer side of local sports, including what athletes are doing off the field, and what they are saying on Twitter.
Brian Monihan, general manager of Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia, sees the two shows as complementing each other. As he describes it, SportsNet Central is about what happened in last night's game, while Breakfast on Broad is about "why and what others think about it."
Ellis sees the show as an extension of his previous work at WIP. "It's like radio on television because of the opinion-driven content," the host said. He noted that he wanted to return to Comcast SportsNet after years of producing Daily News Live. Factors including his changing schedule at WIP contributed to his decision to make the change, he said, which he made clear on his final broadcast, saying, "I'm not thrilled about some of the things that have gone down [at the station]."
Brian Haddad will replace Ellis on WIP until the Phillies return, according to Marc Rayfield, senior vice president/market manager for CBS Radio/Philadelphia.
The focus on the off-the-field interests of athletes - Baicker threw out references to an Eagle who hangs out at music venue Union Transfer (such as linebacker Connor Barwin) or a Flyer who likes to go to Old City bars - reflects a change in sports media as a whole.
"People can see players off the field more so than ever [through their social media feeds]," said Brooks, a 12-year NFL veteran tackle who played for the Eagles from 1995 to 1998 and retired from the NFL in 2006. "You now can't go to a restaurant and not have someone tweet that you were there or take a selfie with you. That's not something I needed to go through, and I'm kind of glad I didn't."
It seems the media have followed suit on the way they cover athletes.
"TMZ Sports has broken a number of stories that have really been, I wouldn't say earth-shattering, but have made the traditional sports media sit up and take notice," said Karen Weaver, associate clinical professor and interim program director of sports management at Drexel University. "The celebritization of our culture is merging sports and entertainment."
While there are a few original shows on the Comcast Network currently, including one about the Union, the local Major League Soccer franchise, Breakfast on Broad is the first big step toward returning original programming.
"At first you have to succeed," Monihan said about whether this will be followed by more original programming on the station. "We feel like we have everything pointed in the right direction. We have a lot more assets than we had before. With Comcast SportsNet, we have access to NBC10, we have more resources and opportunities to do programming that would make sense."