Philly Sports Talk, a mainstay on NBC Sports Philadelphia and Comcast SportsNet since the launch of the network in 1997 (when the program was known as Daily News Live), is being canceled.
The final live episode of Philly Sports Talk — featuring hosts Marc Farzetta and Amy Fadool Kane — will be shown at 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28. On Friday, NBC Sports Philadelphia will air a “best of” episode featuring highlights from the show’s 21-year run.
In its place, NBC Sports Philadelphia will air an additional hour of Mike Missanelli’s 97.5 the Fanatic radio show, which the network has been simulcasting since April 2018 without any visible impact on Missanelli’s radio ratings. Quick Slants will continue to air live at 6 p.m.
According to a source, no job losses are expected. Farzetta, who also hosts the morning show on the Fanatic, will continue to do person-on-the-street segments as a multi-platform reporter. Fadool will take over hosting duties for Sixers Pre- and Postgame Live, and will continue to be part of the hosting rotation for SportsNet Central.
“Not many shows can survive for 21-plus years, but as consumer habits have evolved, now is the right time to move in a new direction,” said NBC Sports Philadelphia president Brian Monihan.
Philly Sports Talk was known as Daily News Live when it debuted at 5 p.m. on Oct. 1, 1997, the first show on the then-upstart Comcast SportsNet. The debut episode was hosted by Michael Barkann, who anchored the 5 p.m. mainstay for most of its run (also appearing on that first episode was my colleague, Eagles beat writer Les Bowen).
The show was trimmed from 90 minutes to 60 minutes in September 2009 and rebranded as Philly Sports Talk in 2013. The number of appearances by Daily News writers was cut dramatically. Farzetta and Fadool took over hosting duties in March 2018, when Barkann was named the primary host of all the network’s pre- and postgame shows.
Despite the ragtag nature of the production (the set was still being built when the show began) and its dependence on newspaper writers with little to no television experience, the show was a hit, leading to the development of similar shows at other regional sports networks owned by Comcast. But those shows have also been canceled and replaced over the years as viewers’ habits have changed. Even ESPN canceled The Sports Reporters, the long-running weekly sports talk show that served as direct inspiration for Philly Sports Talk.
Not surprisingly, the show also had its fair share of missteps. Now-disgraced former Daily News columnist Bill Conlin — one of the show’s reoccurring stars — was suspended and removed in June 2008 over a racially tinged response to a question from a viewer.
There were lighter mistakes as well, such as when former Phillies pitcher Ricky Bottalico slipped up when speaking about Roy Oswalt’s bulging disc (the same mistake famously made by SportsCenter host Steve Levy).
Columnist Marcus Hayes, a mainstay on the show until Farzetta and Fadool took over last year, frequently sparred with Barkann, and told him to “shut up” after one heated exchange before the 2005 Super Bowl. Hayes said he had a lot of fun on the show over the years, and praised the patience of executives at the network.
“They were dealing with very raw and sometimes difficult partners among us writers at the Daily News," Hayes said. “It was very experimental, and they didn’t expect it to do well at all. … It was like the baby that’s born very unhealthy with not much of a chance. What kind of show has a 20-year run that wasn’t supposed to make it?”
NBC Sports Philadelphia’s remaining studio shows — Quick Slants, The Daily Line, Sixers Outsiders, and pre– and postgame coverage — will sport a new look at the end of March. The revamped studio will feature a new main anchor area featuring a dynamic LED video monitor wall background, and a demo area featuring a state-of-the-art LED video floor.