Regardless of the result, sports always leaves us with a decision to second guess. No better example exists today than the one we saw unfold last night in Game 5 of the World Series when Mets Manager Terry Collins stuck with his ace Matt Harvey, only to watch the Royals rally to tie the game in the 9th inning, and then win the championship in the 12th.
Well, the broadcasting business is no different. We all have opinions that differ on individual personalities, radio stations, and television networks, and I have a few I’d like to share on Fox’s presentation this year during the World Series.
It’s well documented that Game 1 was a technical nightmare for the network due to losing power and causing a delay in the action. Pete Rose not being part of the entire series, due to prior obligations was also a bad blemish on the network. It’s the freaking World Series! How do you hire an analyst, and not have them available for every single broadcast during the year’s biggest games?
Equally disappointing were the contributions of Frank Thomas. When asked for a prediction at the start of the series, Thomas said “ask me after Game 3“. While I don’t put much stock into analyst predictions, giving one shouldn’t be difficult.
Even more disappointing was his commentary on the post-game show. Last night after the Royals won the World Series, Thomas said “The Mets have nothing to hold their heads down for, except they didn’t play that well, and gave away the World Series“.
The broadcast team of Joe Buck, Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci also had their fare share of problems. In recent years, we became annoyed with Tim McCarver’s explanations, and opinions, but that same authoritative presence, and understanding of game situations, was what made him good. Unfortunately this crew lacks that strong personality with big stage experience, and it hurt the broadcast.
Joe Buck, despite the criticism that follows him wherever he goes, did a really good job during this Series. He presented the storylines, advanced the dialogue, knew when to interject, and when to sit out. Last night for example, before it even became an issue, Buck was the first to point out “Terry Collins is going to have an interesting decision to make about whether or not to stick with Harvey or turn it over to his closer Familia“. Fox’s cameras then caught video of Harvey in the dugout being told he was done, and then additional footage of the Mets ace making his pitch to Collins to stay in. That added to the drama, and was an excellent job by the Fox production team.
When the biggest moments in a game arise, Harold Reynolds is at his worst. During Game 5 last night, when Kelly Johnson of the Mets came up to bat, Reynolds added “Kelly Johnson can hit home runs with the best of them“. Any good baseball fan knows that remark is untrue. Johnson is not in the same category with Giancarlo Stanton, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, or even his own teammate Yoenis Cespedes. He’s also not even in his team’s starting lineup.
Reynolds also presents information at times without even thinking it through. On two occasions last night he said things that had me questioning whether or not an analyst was even necessary in the booth. The first one was during the start of the broadcast when he added “the pressure tonight is more on the Mets than the Royals“. Then later in the game he uttered “this is the most important pitch of the at-bat. The count’s 2-1. After this, it’ll be 3-1, or 2-2, or a base hit, or an out“.
When your lead analyst provides incorrect information, and delivers commentaries that do little to advance the situation, it takes away from the experience rather than add to it. He even said “Michael Conforto had ice in his veins and the stuff of greatness” when he produced a two out single in the 12th against Wade Davis while the Mets were down 5 runs. This is supposed to be the game’s best analyst, and I find myself tuning him out during big moments of a game, which is when we should be listening most to the commentary of a lead analyst.
Verducci, while astute, prepared, and well balanced, comes across with too many cliches for my tastes. I like reading Tom’s work and I thought he did a nice job previously as an in-game reporter, but in that booth, there has to be an understanding of what’s happening on the field, and an ability to explain situations, and how people think and react. Tom doesn’t stand out in those areas.
During this series, he became attached to stating the obvious. For example, last night when Christian Colon entered the game in the 12th inning to pinch-hit, Verducci added “what a time to take your first post-season at bat“. When Lucas Duda failed to make a good throw home to get Eric Hosmer, he said “a good throw gets him“. As Matt Harvey was in the dugout pleading his case to pitch the 9th to Terry Collins, Verducci stated “Terry Collins can’t just think about this moment, he also has to think about the future“.
Maybe I expect too much from the broadcast, but when the insights provided in the booth are equal to those being expressed by the viewing audience, that concerns me. The announcers are supposed to add to the experience, and enlighten the fans about things they’re not aware of. Unfortunately they did little to educate, and a lot to increase mute button activity.
If there was one part of the broadcast that truly surprised me, it was Alex Rodriguez’s ability to analyze. Throughout his career he’s been labeled “phony“, “scripted” and “robotic“. He’s often sounded like a guy reading a press release or his own comments off of a teleprompter, so imagine my surprise when Fox decided to include him beyond the Pre and Post-game, and utilize him as an extra voice in the booth during select innings.
If you were watching Game 3, he really stood out during the 6th inning. He pointed out the way Noah Syndergard retired the previous 4 batters and what Royals hitters would be looking for based on his pitch sequences. He also explained how Noah’s bench pressing power has helped him with improving his slider, and shared great insights on the way the Mets hitting coach Kevin Long had worked with Daniel Murphy to improve his power hitting. The only time he didn’t provide great analysis was when Reynolds asked the silly question of “Is there any player better suited for his nickname than Noah, with the name Thor”.
When I watch the biggest series of the year, I want to hear from people who know what the pressure is like, understand the glory of winning and the agony of defeat, and possess the ability to relate to the players, the moment, and the audience. I didn’t get that from this crew.
When an analyst like John Smoltz or Curt Schilling talks about these situations, I buy what they’re selling. They’ve done it before, and know what to look for, and have a great sense of how to communicate it to the viewer. Reynolds and Verducci may be smart, and fine on MLB Tonight, but this is the World Series. Fans, and even Joe Buck, deserve more out of the broadcast than they’ve received. Hopefully Fox works to fix it immediately, and doesn’t just wait for A-Rod to retire.
Crunching The Numbers:
- 97.1 The Fan in Columbus turned in an incredible October ratings book. For M-F 6a-7p and M-SU 6a-Mid, the station finished 3rd with Persons 25-54 and 1st with Men 25-54. The Fan also finished 1st with Men 25-34, 25-44, 25-49, 25-54, 35-44, and 35-54.
- The Beast 980 in Los Angeles is experiencing growth throughout the station. Having been on the scene for only a little over a year, October 2015 saw the station’s morning show numbers improve by 133%, 9a-12p was up 50%, afternoons increased by 75%, and the station’s weekday prime (M-F 6a-7p) climbed 66%. All percentage increases are based on year to year performance (October 2014 vs. October 2015) in the Men 25-54 category.
- ESPN 1000 in Chicago enjoyed a great month after strengthening their lineup with the addition of David Kaplan in September. The former WGN host finished #1 overall M-F 12p-2p with Men 25-54. “Waddle and Silvy” won afternoons in a number of key demos, including Men 25-54.
- 105.3 The Fan and Sports Radio 1310 The Ticket in Dallas each had a compelling case for bragging rights. The Fan was 1st overall with Men 25-54 M-SU 6a-Mid. The Ticket placed 4th. However, during weekday prime (M-F 6a-7p) with Men 25-54, The Ticket was 2nd with a 6.1 and The Fan was 3rd with a 5.3. The Ticket benefitted from a big performance in mornings from “The Musers“. The Fan won head to head during middays, afternoons, and evenings.
Under The Radar:
- Tim Montemayor left his position as Program Director and Morning Show Host of 1320 The Fan in Salt Lake City last month. His wife landed a great job in the Phoenix area which required the family to move. Will Smith is currently hosting the morning show, although the station has been looking for a Program Director with the ability to also perform on-air.
- Mike Ragozino left his post as Program Director and Afternoon Host of 750 The Game in Portland in September so he could move to Fort Wayne to be closer to his family. Fletcher Johnson and Noah “Chop” Homsley have taken over afternoons on The Game. It’s unclear if the station will be adding a new Program Director or utilizing internal support for day to day operations.
- Travis Demers took over as host of the “Rip City Drive” weekdays from 3p-5p on Rip City Radio 620 in Portland last Monday. Trail Blazers play-by-play voice Brian Wheeler had previously been hosting the show, and is now appearing as a contributor on the station’s morning and afternoon shows on game days.
- Jake Scott was promoted to Program Director of 1280 The Zone in Salt Lake City earlier this month. Scott Garrard who previously held the PD title was promoted to Vice President of Programming and Operations.
- Antonio Daniels left his position as a weekday sports talk show host on ESPN 1250 in San Antonio a few weeks ago. The former NBA player accepted a position as a television analyst for the Oklahoma City Thunder. As a result of his departure, ESPN 1250 is looking to find a new co-host to pair with Ari Temkin.
John Skipper To Speak At The 2022 BSM Summit
“In January 2021, Skipper’s plate became even more full when he reunited with Dan Le Batard to create Meadowlark Media. Since joining forces, the group has raised millions of dollars in funding, lured key talent to join the brand, and in April, Meadowlark closed a deal with DraftKings for a reported fifty million dollars over three years. Not too shabby for year #1.
Putting on a two-day industry conference comes with a fair share of challenges. Months are spent building sessions, selling sponsorships, and talking to so many people that by the time the event rolls around, all I can think about is reaching the finish line and avoiding major issues.
But then the event happens, and there are moments where I’m able to block out the noise for 30-40 minutes and just be present in conversation. It’s what I enjoy most. Being able to sit across from an industry leader who’s been successful in business, and pick their brain on the past, present and future of our industry is both personally and professionally fulfilling. Not only does it provide me with an education, but it helps everyone in attendance too. That’s my motivation for running this conference.
When we return to New York City on March 2-3, 2022, I’m thrilled to share that I’ll have a chance to do that once again with someone I’ve professionally respected and admired for a long time. It is an honor to announce that Meadowlark Media CEO John Skipper will join us for a special on stage conversation at the 2022 BSM Summit.
If you’ve worked in this industry or aspire to, then you’re likely aware of what John has accomplished. He’s seen the business from many different points of view and remains very much involved in helping shape its future. But before we discuss his present involvement, let’s revisit the past.
During his tenure with ESPN, John spent five years serving as company president where he secured a series of long-term, multiplatform agreements with key rightsholders such as the NBA, NFL, MLB, Major College Conferences, US Open Tennis, FIFA, the Masters Tournament and British Open, the College Football Playoff, and the Rose, Sugar and Orange Bowls. He also oversaw the evolution of several brands including The Undefeated, Grantland, five thirty eight, and espnW among others.
Prior to becoming company president, John held the position as EVP of Content, which he earned after helping create and introduce one of the most successful magazine launches of the 1990’s with ESPN The Magazine. His understanding and belief in digital helped ESPN move ESPN. com forward in 2000, adding a paid section, ESPN Insider, and delivering a revamped site approach to generate more advertising. His foresight also spurred the launch of ESPN3, a television network producing more than 4,000 live events on the web and through mobile devices. If that wasn’t enough, John also supported the creation of the Watch ESPN app, played a key role in elevating the careers of many of the industry’s top sports media stars today, and oversaw the growth of ESPN Films, ESPN Radio, and many of ESPN’s key television programs.
After exiting the worldwide leader, John signed on as the Executive Chairman of DAZN. In January 2021, Skipper’s plate became even more full when he reunited with Dan Le Batard to create Meadowlark Media. Since joining forces, the group has raised millions of dollars in funding, lured a number of key talent to become part of the brand, and established a strong presence in podcasting and on YouTube. In April, Meadowlark closed a deal with DraftKings for a reported fifty million dollars over three years. Not too shabby for year #1.
What I’ve appreciated about John is that he’s never been afraid to roll the dice and take risks. Some of his moves have worked out, others haven’t. The wins have been recognized across the industry, but so too have the losses. He’s had to lead a company thru high profile talent controversies, cord cutting challenges, understand the world of video, audio, print, digital, advertising, subscriptions, talent, and rights deals both domestic and internationally, all while keeping his finger on the pulse of the present state of the media business while turning an eye towards the future and knowing which areas the company should make significant investments in.
John has been thru all of it as a media executive, and he’s still doing it while building the Meadowlark brand. A recent story in Bloomberg captured some of his views on growing the Le Batard empire and navigating various parts of the industry. I highly recommend taking time to read it. You can do that by clicking here.
We have five and a half months until we’re inside the Anne Bernstein Theater in New York City, so who knows where the industry will shift during that time. One thing is for certain, John Skipper will be ready for whatever lands on his doorstep. I’m eager to spend time with him in New York treating industry professionals to his insights, opinions and leadership lessons. I’m confident those in attendance will gain value from hearing his perspectives on the industry.
I invite you to join us either in person or virtually for the 2022 BSM Summit. Tickets to the event can be purchased by clicking here. For information on sponsorship opportunities, email JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
2022 BSM Summit Adds Pablo Torre, Joe Fortenbaugh, Kazeem Famuyide & John Jastremski
“By the time March’s conference rolls around, we’ll have somewhere between 50-60 people announced to participate at the two day Summit.”
The announcements continue for the 2022 BSM Summit. After recently sharing the news that former ESPN Radio executive Traug Keller would join us in the big apple to accept the Jeff Smulyan Award, and previously revealing the first fourteen participants scheduled to appear, it’s time to inform you of a few key talent who will participate in sessions at March’s show.
I’m thrilled to welcome ESPN’s Pablo Torre to the 2022 BSM Summit. Pablo’s been with the worldwide leader since 2012. During that time he’s served as a senior writer for ESPN.com, the host of the ESPN Daily podcast, and has appeared on shows such as Around The Horn, Highly Questionable, and The Dan Le Batard Show. He also previously co-hosted High Noon with Bomani Jones. Prior to joining ESPN he spent five years writing for Sports Illustrated. Having worked with a mixture of talent from various backgrounds, I’m looking forward to having him share his insight and opinions on the value of it at the show.
Pablo isn’t the only ESPN personality joining us in New York for the conference. I’m excited to welcome back a great friend and one of the smartest sports betting analysts on television, Joe Fortenbaugh. Joe is regularly featured on ESPN’s sports betting program Daily Wager. He also appears on other ESPN programs and segments on television, radio and digital platforms. Prior to joining the network he hosted 95.7 The Game’s morning show in San Francisco, and hosted “The Sharp 600″ sports betting podcast. He’ll moderate a conversation with sports betting executives at the show.
Given that this two-day sports media conference is taking place in the heart of New York City, it’d be silly to not include someone who’s passion, energy, sound, and content embody what New York is all about. The Ringer’s John Jastremski will make his BSM Summit debut in 2022. The ‘New York, New York’ host is known to many for his years of contributions on WFAN. It’ll be fun picking JJ’s brain on the differences between performing on a traditional platform and the digital stage.
Jastremski isn’t the only one with a connection to The Ringer who will participate at our 2022 event. My next guest is someone who I’ve followed on YouTube and Twitter for years, has infectious energy and likeability, and has taken his life experiences and sports passions and turned them into opportunities with MSG Network, SNY, The Ringer, Bleacher Report, WWE, The Source and various other outlets. Kazeem Famuyide will join us to shed light on his journey and offer his perspective on the value of traditional vs. non-traditional paths.
By the time March’s conference rolls around, we’ll have somewhere between 50-60 people announced to participate at the two day event. I’ll be announcing the addition of a very special executive in mid-October, as well as a few high profile speakers and awards recipients in the weeks and months ahead. I’m appreciative of so many expressing interest in speaking at the conference, and as much as I’d like to include everyone on stage, I can’t. Keeping the Summit informative, fresh and focused on the right issues is important, and to do that, I’ve got to introduce different people, perspectives and subjects so our attendees gain value to further improve the industry.
A reminder, the 2022 BSM Summit is strictly for members of the sports media industry and college students aspiring to work in the business. It brings together people from more than thirty different media companies and focuses on issues of relevance and importance to media industry professionals. The show takes place March 2-3, 2022 in New York at the Anne Bernstein Theater on West 50th Street. Tickets and hotel rooms can be secured by visiting BSMSummit.com. For those unable to attend in person, the Summit will also be available to view online. Virtual tickets can be purchased by clicking here. Hope you’ll join us!
Traug Keller Named 2022 Recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award
“Former SVP of ESPN Audio and President of ABC Networks Traug Keller has been chosen as our 2022 recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award.”
Sometimes decisions are difficult. Other times they’re not. This was one of the easiest ones I’ve made since launching the BSM Summit in 2018.
If you haven’t attended the Summit before, one of the cool parts of the conference each year is that we take time to honor people who have left a permanent mark on the industry we love. Awards ceremonies are held both days to recognize difference makers who have made positive contributions to the sports radio business. At our 2022 BSM Summit, I am pleased to share that a great man will be celebrated for his life’s work.
It is my honor to announce that former SVP of ESPN Audio and President of ABC Networks Traug Keller has been chosen as our 2022 recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award. Keller becomes the third industry executive to earn the honor. Kraig Kitchin and Dan Mason were the first two to be recognized at the 2019 and 2020 BSM Summit’s.
Upon learning that Traug had been selected as the next Jeff Smulyan Award winner, Emmis Communications CEO Jeff Smulyan said, “Traug Keller has left an indelible imprint on not only sports radio, but on all of broadcasting through his remarkable career. I’m proud to call him my friend, but I’m just one of the legions of people who have loved every minute of their time with him. He’s a broadcaster’s broadcaster, but more than that he’s one of the best people I’ve ever known.”
“I am humbled for sure but thrilled to be receiving an award with the name of my good friend on it, Jeff Smulyan,” added Traug Keller, now the EVP and COO of American Media. “Jeff did what all too few leaders in business do, he took risk and action against all kinds of headwinds and the rest of us in the great business of Sports Audio were the beneficiaries of it. Thanks to BSM for this great honor and I look forward to seeing a bunch of old friends in March!”
Anyone who has crossed paths with Traug over the past three decades knows how important he was to the success of ESPN Radio. He’s been a friend to many, a great partner to hundreds of radio affiliates, and a champion for talent. His support for BSM has also meant a lot.
Perhaps even more impressive was Traug’s ability to connect with his affiliates, clients and colleagues, offering steady leadership and on-air stability for ESPN Radio. No executive leaves with a perfect record, but Keller had a knack for landing on the right side of many decisions. None as impressive though as retiring from sports radio in February 2020, one month before the sports world came to a screeching halt and a global pandemic rocked the entire advertising industry. Talk about timing Traug, haha.
In all seriousness, having Traug and Jeff together on the same stage in front of the industry to give folks an opportunity to show their appreciation for their accomplishments is a real treat. So many enjoy professional success today due to bold and smart decisions made by each of these men, and I couldn’t be happier to spend time with both in New York City this March.
For tickets, hotel and additional details regarding the 2022 BSM Summit visit BSMSummit.com.
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