The energy is real. Jillian Mele, Sarah Baicker, Rob Ellis and Barrett Brooks, the hosts of the Comcast Network’s “Breakfast On Broad,” are talking Eagles, making fun of each other and joking about the weekend for the 15 minutes before their show starts. This isn’t a practice run for the first segment. It’s just just a conversation. But when the camera kicks into action at 6 a.m., the conversations they start having during the show sound familiar. And that’s the point.
Their format, essentially a sports variety show, is likely a first for local television. While current and former ESPN shows like “Cold Pizza” and “Sports Nation” have combined sports and entertainment and tailored their shows based on what viewers are saying on social media, Philadelphia has its own version before anyone else. “Breakfast on Broad” is Eagles, Sixers, Phillies, Flyers and Philly-centric entertainment all the time. It could be a concept that stays in Philadelphia, or it could set a trend other markets will follow.
“I love that we’re sort of the first to do it,” Ellis said.
“Breakfast on Broad” debuted in April and has recently been averaging about a .2 rating between its live early morning airing on the Comcast Network and the repeat of it at 11 a.m. on Comcast Sports Network. While CSN executives had worried the show might subtract viewers from its SportsNet Central highlights and analysis show, that has not been the case. Brian Monihan, president/general manager of Comcast SportsNet, said its viewership has increased 20 percent since the start of “Breakfast on Broad.”
Comcast has also been measuring results through social media. Baicker interacts with fans during the show on her personal Twitter account and said she gets around 200 mentions on slow days and up to 500 on busy ones, numbers that have both increased greatly in the last couple of months. “Breakfast on Broad’s” Twitter account has 6,500 followers and counting, a far lower number than Mele, Baicker and Ellis have on their individual accounts (not unusual for a brand new show with sports-centric personalities).
Comcast airs the show live online, and posts clips of it later to drop throughout the day on social media. The hope is to catch the eye of a younger audience that might not turn on the TV early in the morning.
“The expectation is that not everyone is going to watch it from 6 to 8 a.m.,” said Michelle Murray, VP of news programming at Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia.
The aim of the show is to reach younger sports fans by fortifying the show with memes, Tweets, Vines and whatever else Philadelphia is talking about on the Internet. One of the most successful stories featured by “Breakfast on Broad” combined breaking sports news and with entertainment. In July, they revealed that Eagles coach Chip Kelly rode a bike for his morning commute to training camp.
While especially Brooks and other guests provide analysis, most of the time the four hosts largely sound like fans. Within the first minute of last Monday’s show, which came the morning after the Eagles’ home loss to the Cowboys, the four hosts had called the game a “disgrace” and “the worst offensive performance ever,” while also adding “we never looked that bad.”
Brian Westbrook, a former Eagles running back and a recurring guest on the show, said he realized the show would be different when he first came on and Murray told him he could wear jeans, sneakers or anything he wanted it. And he likes it that way.
“Everything doesn’t have to be hardcore serious,” Westbrook said.
The hosts believe the light atmosphere on the show is a reflection of their personalities. They laugh plenty of times when they’re not on air, too. Once, Mele forgot to put on deodorant that morning and applied it during one of the breaks.
“You have two pretty girls here and they’re just as common as everybody else,” said Brooks, referring to Baicker and Mele. “You would think their pretty girls like, ‘oh I’ll eat a salad.’ They grub. They bring a lot to the table. They make it fun. They’re just as common as me and Rob.”
Baicker, a former Flyers reporter for CSN, is the social media maven. When she’s not on-screen during the show, she’s on an iPad asking questions and collecting responses that might be used on air. Brooks, a former offensive lineman for the Eagles, Steelers and others, had mainly been working in production before earning this role. Mele has been on TV the longest, having worked as a traffic reporter for NBC10 and as reporter for a station in Maine. Ellis was a producer on Comcast SportsNet and on-air talent for WIP.
Mele said their differing backgrounds have allowed each of them to learn aspects of sports and entertainment they hadn’t experienced on their own.
“None of us one-up each other, and we’re in it together,” Mele said. “That’s what we hope comes across because that’s when you know you’ve got something good.”
If viewers agree that “Breakfast on Broad” is good and start watching it in high numbers, this new twist on local television could be replicated in other markets. Monihan said Comcast SportsNet executives in other networks have contacted him to check on the show’s progress. And Monihan insists Comcast will let “Breakfast on Broad” progress.
“Anything new takes time,” he said, “and we are definitely going to give it the time to succeed and to grow and see how it changes.”