Nick Wright explains the secret sauce of FS1’s ‘First Things First’

Nick Wright strives to thread the needle between silly and serious.

Wright, the co-host of “First Things First” on FS1 alongside Chris Broussard and Kevin Wildes, spoke to The Post about the mission, evolution and growth of the show.

“People spend valuable time with us, and we need to show them that we take that honor seriously while being totally ridiculous,” Wright said.

“There’s fake snow and trumpeters and break dancers, and we have to somehow kind of try to meld the utter nonsense that we do that makes the show unique with strong opinions and accurate information that you might not have heard elsewhere.”

“FTF” has had several different iterations and multiple time slots since its debut nearly seven years ago.

Nick Wright, Kevin Wildes and Chris Broussard work together on “First Things First.” Fox Sports

What began as a morning show with Wright partnered with former NFL great Cris Carter and Jenna Wolfe as the moderator has morphed into an afternoon program with Wright, Broussard and Wildes.

There was also a stretch of about two years during the pandemic where the show was filmed remotely as opposed to in-studio.

“Very quickly, this version felt like the best thing we have done,” Wright, 39, said.

“I’ve been doing the show for a long time. The show has not always been great. Thanks to Wildes and Brou, we’re able to do it. I’m incredibly proud of the show, and it’s gratifying that people are watching us.”

The viewership numbers confirm Wright’s feelings on the direction of the program.

Football season is the bread and butter of the sports talk calendar, and in the six months between September and February, “FTF” was up 57 percent year-over-year.

Nick Wright strives to thread the needle between silly and serious on FS1’s “First Things First.” Fox Sports

Through this past February, there have been 18 consecutive months of year-over-year growth, and this past January was the show’s most-watched month ever.

There are a number of factors that have led to this, including the show’s lead-in.

“The Herd” with Colin Cowherd and Jason McIntyre is firing on all cylinders with strong chemistry in the banter between the hosts, big-name guests and organized production structure.

The show has had 15 straight months of year-over-year growth and was up 20 percent during football season.

“The Herd” passes the baton to Wright, who has had years of exposure with Cowherd’s audience from being a guest on his show.

Wright grew up in the business idolizing Cowherd and remembers pitching an agent when he was in his 20s that they missed out on Cowherd, but if they signed him, they’d be getting in early on the next big sports talk radio host.

“It definitely helps us that we get to follow Colin,” Wright said.

The trio on “FTF” is pulling in the same direction, and it makes a difference.

Successful talk TV programs are like a volleyball team, where the players set each other up with bumps and sets.

To borrow a line from “Fight Club,” the talents have to listen to each other instead of just waiting for their turn to speak.

And on the other side of the coin, viewers can sense when camaraderie is insincere.

“When we showed the audience how much we enjoyed working together, that’s when the numbers responded,” Wright said.

“This version of the show simultaneously feels like the smartest and the silliest. I think that works. We have an amazing and super-talented production staff, and then on the air we have three people that really are not competing with each other.

“I know it sounds contradictory, but I’m not competing with Brou, even though there’s nothing that makes anyone happier than when I’m right and he’s wrong. I know he feels the same way about me.”

Kevin Wildes and Chris Broussard on the set of FS1’s “First Things First.” Fox Sports

Wright analogized it to being part of a group text, where friends bust each others’ chops over sports.

Wildes, who joined “FTF” in 2020, had a unique path to being an on-air talent, as he produced shows like “SportsNation” and “Grantland Basketball Hour” and later led the production for ESPN’s NBA studio programming and executive produced “GMA [Good Morning America] Day.”

He has brought the expertise of how to make programming work for audiences from behind the camera to the show on FS1.

“I almost want to go off the record before I pay Wildes any compliments because he already has made himself the self-appointed leader of the show,” Wright said, tongue-in-cheek.

“But the guy knows what he’s doing. He understands what works on TV in a way that, to be totally honest, I still don’t.

“I’ll give you an example — we always did a version of ‘NFL tiers’. But Wildes was adamant that that segment has to be every Wednesday. Initially I was hesitant. How much changes every week? He was like, ‘No, people need the consistency of it.’”

Broussard, who joined in 2021, has also gelled on the program.

Whereas Wright originally came up through radio, Broussard was a sportswriter at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Akron Beacon Journal and New York Times before landing at ESPN in 2004.

Wright and Broussard are about 20 years apart in age, and have a lot of different philosophies on how they approach life and view sports.

“I think we have just in common on the really important stuff — like deep investment to our families, loyalty to friends — and just enough difference to make it where we work interestingly together,” Wright said.

“Brou has never once, in the years I’ve worked with him, come to work in a bad mood. I’ve never seen anything like it. Best I can tell, he’s never had a bad day. That can be a difficult disposition in our field, where there’s a lot of ego.”


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