A week before Christmas, Andy Bloom was laid off from his job as operations manager for Sportsradio 94.1 WIP and 1210 WPHT — two of CBS Radio’s six Philadelphia stations. The company said it was part of plans to streamline operations.
Bloom is best known as the young program director at rock station 94.1 WYSP – WIP’s predecessor – who played a key role in the decision to simulcast Howard Stern’s New York morning program in Philadelphia and then Los Angeles in the 1980s. He returned to radio in 2007 at WIP and WPHT after four years as communications director for U.S. Rep. Michael R. Turner (R-Ohio).
He recently talked about threats to the future of radio, dealing with the outsized egos and erratic behavior of hosts, and whether podcasting can produce a successful business model.
How has the business and format of sports talk radio changed over the years?
I think it was [former WIP program director] Tom Bigby who came up with the idea to mix sports talk with guy talk. It’s essentially moving in and out of sports and pop culture. But it all depends on how successful the teams are here. And I think that’s when things started to change for us.
When I started in 2007, the Phillies were making their big run, the Flyers were building toward a Stanley Cup Finals run in 2010 and the Eagles were a playoff team almost every year. There was only one parade out of that era but there was a lot of success and so everyone liked talking sports.
But by 2012 or 2013, the teams had all become so bad that it got depressing and rating started to dip. But the two guys who did not see a dip were Angelo [Cataldi] and Mike Missanelli. And that’s because they didn’t just talk sports; they also entertained. When the teams are not performing, you have to do more entertaining on the air.
I’m sure you’ve seen the Oliver Stone movie Talk Radio. Are you ever concerned about hosts going too far in the name of entertainment?
The difference between now and when Talk Radio came out, or when Howard Stern came to Philadelphia and Los Angeles, is that social media and email didn’t exist and political correctness was not what it is today. Anyone behind a keyboard can express anger and say things they would never say in person. It’s essentially the bathroom wall.
You have to shut that noise out and take your cues from the ratings. Listeners will tell you if you went too far. And with WIP, we continued to grow our ratings in the morning and afternoons so I don’t think we went too far.
I’m sure you had to have talks with certain hosts after they said things on air, right?
I had talks with people. But I also realized that when you do 20 to 25 hours of radio a week, you are going to say stupid things from time to time. What I tried to do was not blow things out of proportion. It would be different if a host disregarded something we had previously discussed or did something malicious in nature. But if it was not malicious and just something that was a stupid comment, I tried not to overreact.
Are podcasting and satellite radio existential threats to terrestrial talk radio, like the stations you ran at WPHT and WIP?
There are all sorts of alternatives now. It doesn’t mean that radio is dead. If radio dies, it will be because of suicide. It has to respond by being platform agnostic and trying to deliver the product in the way people are using it. On-demand is a way of life for TV. The measurement of how much programming is being DVR’d is a big issue for TV right now. They want total viewership to include DVR and there will be the same issue with radio and streaming. I think eventually they will be counted together.
To read the full interview visit the Philadelphia Business Journal where it was originally published
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
Fescoe in the Morning: ESPN Has a History of Ignoring Non-Partner Leagues
“They are risking being ignored by ESPN now,” replied Klingler.
ESPN is out of the running for the Big Ten football and basketball media rights. Those will be awarded to a combination of other networks and likely a streaming service. ESPN appears to be focusing on NCAA Championships next.
Josh Klingler, co-host of Fescoe in the Morning on 610 Sports Radio in Kansas City, took time on their show on Tuesday to break down what that might mean for the Big Ten in terms of coverage.
“You’re (Big Ten) going to network television, which is better; more eyeballs and what have you,” noted Klingler. “But also, let’s not forget ESPN has a history of ignoring you when you’re not on their air. That’s the risk they are going to run.”
Klingler would add, “They are going to take the money. They are going to get network viewers, which is good. I guess the highlight and the hype and all those things that we are accustomed to doing that ESPN provides. We’ve already seen they ignore you if you’re not on their network.”
Bob Fescoe chimed in a reminder about another prominent league that chose not to partner with ESPN.
“Ask the National Hockey League what happened when they took the money from NBC and ran,” said Fescoe.
“They are risking being ignored by ESPN now,” replied Klingler.
“Right, but I think they are willing to do that for a billion dollars per year,” Fescoe responded.
Fescoe then said that the Big Ten might make up for the perceived shortcomings of not being on ESPN by being on network television.
“If you’re going to be on network TV in all three windows, Josh, quite honestly all your marquee games are going to be free,” said Fescoe.
“That’s exposure,” said Klingler.
NESN’s Dave O’Brien Says National Networks “Blew It” By Not Hiring Dennis Eckersley
“I don’t know how they blew it as badly as they did but Dennis Eckersley should have been a national icon… they made a mistake on that. I hope somebody regrets it.”
On Monday, Dennis Eckersley decided to make it known that this season would be his last with NESN in the booth. He mentioned that after 50 years in baseball, it was time to go be with the grandchildren in San Diego.
His broadcast partner for a lot of those years in the NESN booth was Dave O’Brien. On the latest Sports Media Mayhem podcast, O’Brien joined show host Alex Reimer to talk about the retirement of Eckersley. Reimer pointed out that it took awhile before Eckersley became the main color analyst for the team. O’Brien remembered the time well.
“When he started, he was pre- and post- and he did that most of his career at NESN,” said O’Brien. “It was really, only the last six or seven years that he really started to get on as a game analyst.”
O’Brien was named the lead play-by-play announcer for NESN’s Red Sox coverage in 2016 which is about the same time Eckersley slid into the role of game analyst. In the time since, O’Brien has seen the work of Eckersley up close and is floored that he was working for a regional sports network and not somewhere more nationally prominent.
“I think the national people totally blew it on Dennis Eckersley,” blurted O’Brien. “And that includes Turner. They had an opportunity, I can say that because a lot of those people there now didn’t make the decision. He should have been the lead analyst doing national games. He should have been on ESPN on Sunday Night Baseball or FOX. I don’t know how they blew it as badly as they did but Dennis Eckersley should have been a national icon… they made a mistake on that. I hope somebody regrets it.”
Sal Paolantonio Not Interested In Trying Ayahuasca To Better Understand Aaron Rodgers
“Halucinagenics have been at the center of a lot of conversations about Aaron Rodgers lately.”
Dan Patrick is a very good interviewer. He asks the questions he knows his audience wants answered. He also makes a habit out of throwing out questions to his guests that they never see coming. That was the case on Tuesday for ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio.
Paolantonio joined the Dan Patrick Show to discuss Pro Football Hall of Fame voting and the new NFL season. That is not what the host hit him with out of the gate.
The first question from Patrick to Paolantonio was “Just to relate to Aaron Rodgers, would you be willing to try ayahuasca?”.
Paolantonio was left speechless. All he could do was laugh and say “you got me on that one, Dan.”
Halucinagenics have been at the center of a lot of conversations about Aaron Rodgers lately. The Green Bay quarterback recently said on a podcast that experimenting with ayahuasca opened him up to be ready to succeed both on the field and as a leader. He credits the experience with laying the foundation for his 2021 MVP season.
Patrick pushed the issue challenging Paolantonio to beat Andrea Kremer to the experience.
“My money is on the fearless Andrea Kremer,” Paolantonio shot back.
For the record, Kremer responded to the challenge on Twitter.