Friday will usher in a new era for both Meadowlark Media and Le Batard and Friends as Freedumb, a 24-hour marathon of programming featuring the familiar and not-yet-familiar faces of the growing creative community, serves as a reintroduction. The Big Lead first reported the event, which coincides with the beginning of a three-year, $50-million partnership with DraftKings.
Details of the program have been trickling out on shows in recent days; putting them all together provides a blueprint for what's been tabbed internally as the most thoroughly planned endeavor in Le Batard history.
A release promoting the event, shared Tuesday night, revealed a lengthy manifest with several recent hires and appearances from an eclectic buffet featuring the likes of Jim Rome, Bob Costas, and Michelle Beadle. More surprises are expected along the way, if 11th Hour negotiations from luminaries such as Pat Sajak can be ironed out.
With the crucial caveat that things could turn into dissonant jazz at any moment, here's what we know so far:
Freedumb will air live, a departure from the Pirate Ship phase of podcasting, on the Le Batard and Friends YouTube channel with highlights available in podcast form. There are plans to distribute on other platforms, though one should expect to hear those details at a later date.
Kicking off from The Clevelander in Miami, the first three hours will look and sound like the typical Monday, Tuesday and Friday shows with the suddenly-crowded Shipping Container. On the heels of that, wildlife expert Ron Magill will be in-studio with live animals.
Jemele Hill, who joined Meadowlark in March as a creative adviser, will reunite with NBC Sports' Michael Smith for El Seís at 6 p.m. ET, the duo's former time slot at ESPN. An overnight watch-along showcasing Amin Elhassan's Cinephobe movie podcast will take place from 1 a.m.-3 a.m., followed by Greg Cote of the Miami Herald anchoring the 4 a.m. time slot.
Viewers can expect a handful of prop bets involving the staff highlighting the DraftKings relationship and poll questions to be paid off over the final 120 minutes of the broadcast, which will bring the normal daytime group back into the studio.
A person familiar with the planning tells TBL there's a unique energy balancing excitement and genuine curiosity to see what the end product looks like.
On his show Wednesday, Le Batard gave voice to the new phase.
"Today what I felt, because this show has been medicine for us over the last year, but today what I felt for the first time in about a year is just deeply happy," he said. "It's not even normal. It's happy because the reinforcements have arrived. Our friends have arrived. There is life in here."
New things require new metrics for judging success. This being its first foray into something like this, Meadowlark will have to ascertain in the postgame what worked or didn't and by how much. But that will come in the next phase. Because it's been a significant build to this since Le Batard and Skipper announced its birth in January. Friday reveals the first up-close work on that framework.