Sports and Entertainment

Worldwide Leader in Sports laid off more than 100 on-air Talent

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Its a scary time to be in sports television these days.


ESPN made headlines back in May, when the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader in Sports laid off more than 100 on-air talent.


Fox Sports, which had already lost more than 100 people due to buyouts and layoffs in 2016, just announced more jobs being eliminated this month, mostly in the digital platform.


So when a 51 year old broadcasting veteran host his morning talk show, then learns he’s being laid off, what’s his next move?

Matt Shepard fired from WDFN radio show

Matt Shepard Fired from WDFN Radio Show


Meet Matt Shepard, believed to be the only play-by-play announcer in Detroit history to call games for the city’s four major teams; the Lions, Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons. In his spare time, he calls games for the University of Michigan basketball and Eastern Michigan football teams.


On May 1, he had just finished hosting his popular morning show Shep in the Morning. Little did he know he had also finished his career at WDFN, where he’d worked for 16 years.


It was just one of those Mondays, I do the show, thought it was a good show, we talked about a lot of different things, and I get a call.  They just said, We’re going to make a change to the national program, and that was our last show.


Just minutes after hosting the top sports morning show in the market Shepard was a man without a platform.


While he was surprised, in some ways Matt saw it coming.


I can’t say I was necessarily shocked, because you get an idea what the spot sets are, and most of them are Dan Patrick and Colin cowherd, and national spots; you don’t see many local spots, then you get a pretty good idea of where the station is trending.


What It Means For Detroit Sports Fans

Perhaps the biggest connection that Shepard shares with Detroit sports fans is that he’s one of them. While always maintaining a professional demeanor, the father of three roots for the local teams through and through.

That’s huge in a market that is fiercely loyal to its teams.


Putting his personal situation aside, Matt worries about the future for local fans.


With WDFN carrying a more national-heavy schedule, Shepard says listeners won’t be pleased.


I think it means less open discussion.  you only have 1 station, 97.1, that touches the locals.  Going national doesn’t work in this market; it never has, and it never will, because we’re different — we just are.  I’ve said this forever — we treasure our sports teams more than any other market, and we want to talk about those teams.


On occasion, we”ll have some national discussion about Mike Trout, Lebron James and Steph Curry, or if something comes up in a national scope like Colin Kaepernick but for the most part, our conversation is steered toward our local teams and athletes, and that’s what works in this market.


Diversification Is Key


If nothing else, Shepard is known as a realist; he says what he thinks. That applies to everything, including his career.


The reality is that millennials get their information differently than people of my age did when I was younger.


That realization has always led to the reigning 2-time National Sports Media Association Michigan Sportscaster of the Year having a full slate of activities. Diversifying gives me the chance to do radio — I can do updates, I can host a talk show, I can do play-by-play, I can host, I can do every single sport there is.  I wanted that because of the way I thought things were trending years and years ago, and that’s why I’ve been able to survive.


With the supply of young people wanting to get into broadcasting, but the demand shrinking, good writing has become more critical than ever.


I think that’s really a lost art.  To be able to write well, a TV script, or feature story is important. That way, if you’re not in front of the camera, you have the opportunity to contribute to a website, or as a producer.  Those are the things you do if you want to get into the business, and who knows where your career can go from there.


The Family Business


One of the aspects of his jobs that Shepard has always loved is that he gets to share his passion with his family. All three of his sons are diehard Detroit sports fans.


This led to a surprise opportunity.


25 year-old Chad Shepard threw out a proposal to his father – what if they cohosted a podcast? This was one idea that didn’t take much convincing.


Some of the best sports conversations I’ve had in sports were at my home, in the family room, watching games with my sons. So we said let,s give it a shot.


In early May, Shep, Shower & Shave was born.

S,S&S is certainly a labor of love. The podcast is probably the most fun of anything I’ve ever had as a host in radio.


Being On A Team

Between his podcast and work for Fox Sports Detroit, Shepard will still have a busy summer. The preparation for whatever job he’s doing is what fuels his fire.


When we get together to do a pregame show, we have a call, to me, it’s like a huddle. When we do a show, it’s like one team going out there to prepare for a game. That’s what we do.  This game is the closest thing I can find to that competitive and teamwork environment in any business I can imagine.


Shep, Shower & Shave is available on Itunes, Soundcloud and New episodes come out on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.


(Mike Isenberg is the former Coordinating Producer at Fox Sports Detroit, where he won 11 Michigan Emmy awards. He has more than 28 years in broadcasting, including 10 at each FS Detroit and ESPN. Matt Shepard worked for Mike during his time at FS Detroit. For more of the Matt Shepard interview, go to:

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