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Chris Kroeger – 610 The Fan

Jason Barrett

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When you listen to Chris Kroeger, you’re instantly drawn in by his passion, enthusiasm, and the high energy of James Brown’s “Living in America” which kicks off each hour of the show. The use of audio highlights gives you a sense of what’s topical each day, and once Kroeger’s voice penetrates the airwaves following the production open, it’s easy to detect how much he enjoys his job.

What makes “Primetime with Chris Kroeger” unique, is that Chris plays point guard every afternoon on the Charlotte airwaves of 610 The Fan while sharing the backcourt with a different shooting guard.

djThe program’s design comes from the brain of Program Director DJ Stout. It includes featuring rotating co-hosts to give the show an opportunity to feature different voices/specialists during different time periods that play to each individual’s strengths. On any given day a Charlotte sports radio listener who tunes in may be treated to the insights and opinions of former Panthers Wide Receiver Muhsin Muhammad, former NFL Linebacker and Charlotte native Omar Gaither, former Panthers and Hornets beat reporter Stan Olson, John Kilgo, and others.

I originally wrote about Chris this past October, where I identified him as one of 15 talents who people may not know but should. What I was impressed by then and now, is how much fun he has on the air, and how open he is about his fandom for his local market teams. He’s wise beyond his years and in a business where there’s debate constantly over whether you need to introduce lifestyle and entertainment subjects into a sports show to have success, Chris proves that a passion, love, and knowledge of sports, can be enough to win with.

cryingmjThe other aspect of his work that stands out is his activity and interaction with fans on social media. He takes the audience inside the show by letting them see the playlist of songs that will be used for bumper music each day. He takes a negative local story such as the Tar Heels losing the national championship game to Villanova, and has fun with it by switching his Twitter profile to the “Crying Jordan” photo.

That type of self-deprecation, and a willingness to provide an invitation to the audience into his program and life, is a big reason why he’s hitting all the rights notes with Charlotte sports radio fans.

I recently caught up with Chris to pick his brain on a number of subjects pertaining to the broadcasting business. I also wanted to get a better sense of his upbringing, and a deeper understanding of what fuels him as a sports talk radio performer. I think you’ll enjoy this conversation and I encourage you to check out 610 The Fan’s Audio On-Demand section and give his show a listen.

Q: Which broadcasters did you listen to growing up that influenced your decision to pursue a career in the sports radio business?

dpkoA: I was always a big fan of Dan Patrick, Keith Olbermann, Kenny Mayne, Stu Scott and Steve Levy on ESPN growing up. Back then, it was appointment viewing to watch SportsCenter and either catch up on the highlights of the day or see how those guys would put a spin on something, even though you knew the result.

Q: Where did you get your start and how did you end up at 610 The Fan?

A: I actually started at another sports talk station in town (they shall remain nameless) and actually flipped formats from music to sports. I was 23, fresh out of college and willing to do anything and everything. I booked guests, produced the show, handled all production for the station, cut spots, handled co-hosting duties occasionally and worked a lot of 12-14 hour days for about 10 months while making next-to-nothing (thanks to mom and dad letting me crash at their place rent-free).

KroegerI also did some part-time work with IMG College which led to becoming a full-time producer, host and utility PxP guy. I did that for about 3 years in Winston-Salem, working with all the Pac-12 properties (Arizona, ASU, Cal, Oregon, UCLA, UW, WSU and Texas) on their radio broadcasts.

Being from Charlotte, once I saw the afternoon slot open up a few years ago, I sent in my resume and aircheck and got a phone call back, an opportunity to try out and as they say, the rest is history.

Q: What do you consider the toughest part of hosting a 4-hour afternoon show?

A: Since we rotate different co-hosts, the hardest part is bringing the energy every single day. While I know the personalities we have coming in, I have to be the consistent one. That also means bending my desires and interests in show topics to what fits their strengths and desires. I always have to be trying to pull the best out of them while handling myself too.

Q: How do prepare, and who else is involved in your program’s creative process?

kroeger6A: It’s usually myself and Producer Tony. Tony has produced this format for years, so he’s got a great feel for what a co-host can offer every day and how to take advantage of it. We’ll bat ideas back and forth and often gauge other talent around the station on what they think will play that given day.

Q: What importance do you place on the show’s ratings, and how often do you and your Program Director (DJ Stout) work on the show together?

A: Honestly, and this might sound bad, I don’t put a ton of weight into that stuff. That’s not to say that I don’t care or am not interested in the ratings and what they say, but I’m more of a macro guy. Especially since I’m still young and learning in the industry.

I try to take care of a lot of the day-to-day things on and off the air that I think are important to putting on a great show, and I trust that everything else will fall in line because of it. My Program Director (DJ Stout) and I meet every few weeks to make tweaks and discuss what’s working and what’s not.

kroeger4Q: What’s the best piece of advice DJ’s given to you?

A: Have fun. I’m a high-energy guy in the first place so it comes naturally, but if we’re having fun, the listener most likely is too.

Q: On a daily basis, how many topics do you try to introduce to the audience?

A: It depends on the season. During the slower times of the year (post-NFL and summer months), I try to throw a lot the listener’s way to keep them engaged, and keep the show moving. Being caller-driven, once football season rolls around, we can roll with less topics, and allow the show to take off.

Q: Which subjects do you focus on most? Are there areas you try to stay away from, and if so, why?

kroeger3A: I’ve grown up in an era where Charlotte has shifted from being a college sports town to a pro sports town, specifically a Panthers town. Panthers, Hornets, college football and college basketball drive the ship and approximately in that order.

I enjoy the larger issues in sports: contracts, feuds, coaching/player dynamics, team building, etc. Anyone can break down a box score, but I enjoy the deeper discussions that exist in the sports world. I don’t mind some controversial topics when they pop up, whether it’s race, cultural, crime, etc. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I think the larger social topics that exist in sports are fascinating.

Q: How much value do you place on callers being a part of the show? Why do/don’t they matter to you?

A: We are a caller-driven show and station. Callers are a big part what we do for two reasons: 1) good, consistent callers build a community around the show 2) awful callers generate more show content and fodder, which can generate more calls.

Q: When it comes to guests, how many do you try to secure for each day’s program? How do you decide who gets booked? And what is it you’re looking to gain out of each conversation?

kroeger5A: When it comes to guests, there’s no magic number. Mondays/Fridays during the NFL season are often pretty wide open, most times just one per show maximum. During the middle of the week, 2-3 is a normal number.

I think interviewing is my greatest strength, so I love having great guests, but they need to be just that, great. I want perspective from guests. They need to offer something to our audience that either I or my co-hosts can’t provide. Otherwise, what’s the point?

A sound bite isn’t what we’re after from a guest. We want stories, expertise, and a way to put into context the things we’re discussing on the show. For booking, my producer often comes to me with what he’s thinking and I’ll often shoot back with who I think would be great on a given topic. We work together.

Q: Looking at the world of sports radio today, what’s one area that you feel is getting worse and how can it be improved?

A: I think things are stale. I firmly believe Dan Le Batard has the best show going and it’s a perfect example of not being afraid to try things and fail miserably live on the air. And it’s that failure and embracing it that I think makes the show. If they screw up, don’t sweep it under the rug. Throw it into the massive stew that is the show.

They’ve found a way to take the intrinsic hate that exists around sports talk and media in general to become part of the show itself. They talk about music, TV, life, movies, things real people care about. At the end of the day, our demo is men. We all care about things outside of sports, so why not bring that stuff into the conversation every day?

I think this format is saturated with complacency and impatience. Try some things out, see if it takes root. I don’t think there are enough PD’s and talent out there willing to do that.

Q: For someone who’s considering this career path, what advice can you pass along to help them avoid mistakes and be successful?

kroeger2A: The best advice I could give someone is be willing to say “yes” and then know when the time comes to say “no.” I did anything and everything I could to get my foot in the door, gain experience and build a resume. With today’s media landscape, being diversified is as important as ever. I think that was a huge part of getting to where I am and hopefully where I’m still going.

On the other side, you do have to know and trust when you’ve earned your shot. I reached that point a few years ago and was determined to not settle with my career. I think it’s vital for people in the industry to know when they are ready and to not listen to the doubters or the things holding them back. Taking a job or gig isn’t as important as taking the right one.

Chris Kroeger can be heard weekdays from 3p-7p on 610 The Fan in Charlotte. To follow him on Twitter click here.

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‘The Dan Patrick Show’ Criticizes Sound on ‘Thursday Night Football’

“You pay all this money for that game [and] you can’t hear that it sounds like crap.”

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The Dan Patrick Show Logo
Courtesy: The Dan Patrick Show

Thursday night’s matchup between the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers ended up being a compelling game to watch throughout the first several quarters and was enhanced by the stellar images and presentation from Amazon Prime Video. The Thursday Night Football property recently garnered record-setting streaming numbers from its season premiere, according to a custom integrated streaming report by Nielsen Media Research.

Even so, there was critical feedback from many fans watching regarding the sonic experience of watching the game. Viewers complained that there was an inherent lack of crowd noise and field-level sound, making it more difficult to fully immerse themselves in the atmosphere.

“You pay all this money for that game [and] you can’t hear that it sounds like crap,” Patrick “Seton” O’Connor, an executive producer of The Dan Patrick Show, said on Friday. “There’s no atmosphere – you’ve got no crowd sound; the mics are all over the place. It’s terrible.”

Show host Dan Patrick concurred with this point, relaying that his wife walked by the television and thought something was amiss with the sound. When she asked Patrick what was happening, he replied that it was due to the presentation from Prime Video. Although most viewers ended up watching the game anyway, the inadequate soundscape detracted from the aura of the contest and dampened the viewing experience.

“I love [Kirk] Herbstreit [and] I love Al Michaels, but when I have the game on, do you ever have your stereo in your car and you have the bass and the treble set and somehow it gets reset – and everything’s reset to medium?,” Paul Pabst, an executive producer of The Dan Patrick Show, said. “You’re like, ‘Where’s the highs? Where’s the lows? It has that feeling.’”

The lack of dynamic contrast and aggregate timbre caused some viewers to connote that the broadcast sounds flat despite the stellar, highly-experienced commentary team. Improving on the sound and other customer feedback will be critical in incentivizing non-ardent fans to return to the property or try it altogether.

“We’ve created the atmosphere that is so good that you don’t even have to go to a game,” Patrick said. “With the sound of it, the TVs, [and] the quality… it’s almost a better experience sometimes when you’re sitting at home.”

In addition to watching the National Football League, Pabst frequently consumes college football on Saturdays, including the prime-time presentations. When he is viewing those games, he can feel the noise of the crowd permeating through the speakers and be part of the crowd.

“It’s thunderous,” Pabst said. “The crowd noise almost overwhelms [Chris] Fowler, sometimes in a good way, and it’s hard to tell what’s going on there.”

Finding games on Amazon Prime Video has been a difficult proposition for some users, evidenced by O’Connor describing how it took him 10 minutes to begin watching the Giants-49ers game last night. The game was broadcast regionally on FOX for those in the New York metropolitan area, but for O’Connor, he noticed that the network had the baseball contest between the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies on instead.

“I look and I’m like, ‘I swear there was a game tonight,’ and I see it’s in the first quarter.’ What the hell is going on?,” thought O’Connor. “Oh, that’s right. I forgot Amazon was a thing; it’s just not a TV destination all the time for me.”

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Gregg Giannotti on Taylor Rooks: ‘Send in a 10’ to Get Players Talking

“I also thought, ‘Why don’t we use more attractive women in interrogation scenarios?'”

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Taylor Rooks; Gregg Giannotti
Taylor Rooks - Courtesy: Jason Hanna, Amazon Sports | Gregg Giannotti - Courtesy: Peter Ackerman, Asbury Park Press

This week’s Thursday Night Football matchup between the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers came off a record-setting week for Prime Video, according to an integrated streaming report by Nielsen Media Research. There were questions surrounding the impending contest off the field pertaining to injuries, and the TNF Tonight pregame show did its best to address pertinent information.

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley headlined the team’s injury report after suffering an ankle injury last week, something the team publicly called a sprain. New information was divulged on Thursday night from Barkley himself after features reporter Taylor Rooks asked him about his injury. He then proceeded to reveal that he was dealing with a mild high ankle sprain, an impediment more serious than originally thought.

WFAN host Gregg Giannotti watched the entire pregame show and watched the desk discuss the state of New York football, including New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson. The report from Rooks, a reputable source of information who formerly worked for SportsNet New York (SNY) occurred shortly thereafter. While she has a network of contacts and insider information about the league, Giannotti believes there was another reason she got the exclusive story.

“It’s funny because all we heard was, ‘It’s a regular ankle sprain; not a high ankle sprain,’” Giannotti explained Friday morning on WFAN. “Then Taylor Rooks gets over there and finds out it’s a high ankle sprain. I was thinking, ‘You know what? I’d tell her anything too. Whatever you need to know, Taylor, about me, I will tell you.’”

Giannotti watched the Giants lose the contest 30-12 and fall to a 1-2 overall record, but he also began to ponder over the manner in which Rooks was able to effectively do her job. It led him to make a proposition on the air that challenges the effectiveness of the team’s beat writers because of their collective age and appearance.

“I also thought, ‘Why don’t we use more attractive women in interrogation scenarios?,’” Giannotti said. “This is what I was thinking about after I saw this last night. Art Stapleton couldn’t get that out of Saquon Barkley – I love Art Stapleton, but there’s no way. Taylor Rooks got it out of him right away, so why don’t we send in some of these interrogation scenarios where people are just totally zipped up – send in a ‘10’ in there, [and the] next thing you know, ‘Yeah, it was him. He did it, and I did it. We did it together!’”

Giannotti’s co-host Boomer Esiason was surprised to hear Rooks get that information from Barkley, and has not seen anyone in the media react to the occurrence. The injury update changes the way in which people consider his timeline for a return and was a part of the Prime Video broadcast that Giannotti valued.

“Yeah, of course, great reporting,” Giannotti said. “I’m just thinking about all the Giants beat writers sitting around – old guys who look like me just stewing and trying to hide farts in the locker room.”

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Arizona Sports Extends Deal With Coyotes

“We look forward to an exciting season delivering Coyotes coverage on-air, online and on the Arizona Sports app.”

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Arizona Sports Coyotes

Arizona Coyotes fans can keep their presets the same. The team has extended its relationship with Bonneville in Phoenix.

The new deal is a one-year extension to keep the Coyotes on the company’s two Phoenix-area radio stations, 98.7 Arizona Sports and ESPN 620 AM and on the statiations’ website and app.

“We are excited to continue our partnership with the Arizona Coyotes and the Meruelo Group,” Bonneville Phoenix senior vice president and market manager Ryan Hatch said in a statement. “We look forward to an exciting season delivering Coyotes coverage on-air, online and on the Arizona Sports app.”

As part of the extension, Burns & Gambo will welcome Coyotes president and CEO Xavier A. Gutierrez and general manager Bill Armstrong for weekly segments. Wolfe & Luke will be joined weekly by head coach André Tourigny.

“We are very pleased to extend our partnership with Bonneville Phoenix and are thrilled to have Arizona Sports 98.7 and ESPN 620 broadcast all Coyotes games this season,” Gutierrez added. “There is a tremendous amount of excitement about our team, and we look forward to Arizona Sports 98.7, the Valley’s sports leader, providing our fans with outstanding Coyotes coverage all season long.”

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