When the YES Network began programming in 2002 there may have been some question as to whether the channel would find its niche in the already saturated New York sports market, never mind whether it would make some sort of national “stamp”.
ESPN was already a dominant and expanding force, after all, while FOX was rolling out regional sports networks and MSG seemed to cover whatever was left over in the New York area.
The Yankees and their late, great owner George Steinbrenner have never been ones to find reasons NOT to do something, however. The greatness of the franchise comes from its willingness to make bold moves, most of which have worked out.
Ten years later, you can put YES Network into the win column for the organization. Along with pulling in healthy viewership for the team, the channel also boasts fine programs like Yankeeography, Centerstage, SportsMoney and many others.
It also had to be more than coincidence the New Jersey Nets, which YES began a partnership with, advanced to consecutive NBA Finals appearances after many years of struggling.
And one of the genius moves of the YES Network was simulcasting the already popular “Mike and the Mad Dog” radio program from WFAN. Although now split up, the pair was the best in the sports-talk business and became a national brand too. How ironic, it must have been, for Chris Russo, aka “Mad Dog” to get paid in part from a team he loathed. (Mike Francesa continued the program in solo fashion on WFAN/Yes Network and the show hasn’t missed a beat).
Russo’s not alone in hating the Yankees though, and that’s fine. One has no choice but to respect their remarkable 27 World Series titles and the success of the YES Network, however.