A typical day at the studio for veteran sports broadcaster Rich Eisen involves racing toy cars with a NASCAR champion and getting the scoop from the creators of his favorite TV show, “Breaking Bad.”
One of most respected voices currently covering the NFL, Eisen has expanded his reach into sports, pop culture and entertainment with his new show on DirecTV’s Audience Network, which launched in October.
It’s not what you might expect from a sports program, but “The Rich Eisen Show” is anything but normal, as TheWrap learned during a behind-the-scenes visit to its El Segundo, California set.
“I am definitely not the first person with a sports program to have a Hollywood star come on, but I don’t know of any that does it as a staple of the program, which is something we are trying to do,” Eisen told TheWrap.
“The NFL is part of the pop culture landscape, so sports fans don’t bat an eye when you stop in the middle of a piece to talk about a new movie.”
But recent guests — such as Mike Tyson, Adam Carolla, Seth Meyers, Ice Cube, Joel McHale, Super Bowl champion Julian Edelman and Sports Illustrated model Lily Aldridge — are as likely to change the conversation from promotion of their own projects to the latest scoops on their favorite teams.
“Vince Vaughn came on to promote ‘Unfinished Business’ and he turned the tables and asked me what I think about the NFL draft and the latest Chicago Bears trade,” said the NFL Network anchor. Similarly, Ryan Phillippe wanted to talk about the Philadelphia Eagles as much as his latest show “Secrets and Lies” on ABC.
“I have some guests who get angry when they don’t get to talk about sports and have to talk about the project they are promoting,” Eisen said.
“The Rich Eisen Show” also welcomes Hollywood stars and executives who don’t know the Dodgers from the Lakers, which is “something that a regular sports show can’t do,” said the host.
“Better Call Saul” creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould are prime examples of that, telling TheWrap that they know nothing about sports.
“I had the honor being on Rich’s first episode, and I am not a sports guy — I know nothing,” said Gilligan, revealing that when they first met at LAX he didn’t even know who Eisen was. “He recognized me and said he was a huge ‘Breaking Bad’ fan so we got to chatting. Meanwhile, everyone in the Southwest terminal was looking at Rich and whispering. I didn’t realize I was talking to a sports icon.
“If I am ever on a show and he calls me about football then I am in trouble,” G added.
Eisen’s expansive purpose-built set at DirecTV’s El Segundo campus was inspired by private club The Soho House, and is a jock’s dream, packed with classic sports memorabilia and historic items from Eisen’s personal collection, including photos with his former sidekick on ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” Stuart Scott. A spacious concourse between buildings is also the perfect spot to have some fun, such as a toy car race with Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano for TheWrap’s visit, when Eisen took a suspiciously easy victory as the NASCAR champ’s car mysteriously malfunctioned.
“The Rich Eisen Show is not only on DirecTV but also 150 radio stations and an NFL app that’s available internationally. “We are getting calls from the U.K. or Europe and they are just as knowledgeable as fans from the U.S. My parents watch on an iPad, and it’s also available on Apple TV and Amazon because of the NFL Now App,” he said, regarding the wide-reaching accessibility of the show. “It is really an incredible platform. It is the 21st century and this is a 21st century show.”
From a business standpoint, now is the ideal time for such a wide-reaching show, according to Chris Long, DirecTV’s SVP, Entertainment & Production. “We have a pending merger [with AT&T], and content is king. And the more original content we can create will give us a leg up.”
While it was inspired by Dan Patrick’s show at the Super Bowl four years ago, the media corporation’s latest venture has a very different tone. “It really develops a connection between entertainment and sports in L.A.,” Long told TheWrap.
“Good late-night humor can work at any time of the day,” said Eisen, who is inspired by late-night greats like David Letterman and Johnny Carson.
His show is still “in the embryonic stages,” Long said, but is a prime example of how important original content has become to DirecTV, especially over the past five years, with the addition of shows such as “Kingdom,” “Billy and Billie,” “Rogue” and “Full Circle,” with Calista Flockhart. “It gives DirecTV the feel that we’re in the entertainment business and not just the provider.”
“The Rich Eisen Show” airs at Noon ET/9 a.m. PT weekdays on DirecTV’s Audience Now.