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What Is Stage 4?

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About twelve years ago, I was introduced to one of the most influential people in my radio career. If you don’t know who Steve Reynolds is, you should fire up Google. Steve is one of the most respected morning show coaches in our industry and for about two and a half years I got to work with him. My old partner, Salt MacMillan, is still working with Steve at WBMX in Boston.

In our first meeting, Steve told us about the four stages of a morning show. We obviously were at stage 1 – unfamiliar personalities in a familiar situation. The listeners were used to coming to our station in the mornings, but they had no idea who we were. The next three stages are as follows.

2. Unfamiliar personalities in an unfamiliar situation – The listeners still don’t know much about you and probably haven’t made a meaningful connection with you yet, but they are starting to accept that something different is happening in your time slot.

3. Familiar personalities in a familiar situation – This is when a show has hit it’s stride. The listeners are loyal. They know what to expect each morning. Everyone is comfortable with each other.

4. Familiar personalities in an unfamiliar situation – This, according to Steve, is the place he wants every show to get to. The listeners know you. They care about you. They will always choose your show given the opportunity. But the most important aspect of their relationship is they never know what to expect from your show day in and day out.

I couldn’t help but think of these steps Saturday morning as I watched College Gameday on ESPN on Saturday morning. It is undeniably the best pregame show for any sport on any network. Yes, the show can, at times, fall into the trap of poorly written comedy followed by over-eager fake laughter that plagues all pregame shows, but Gameday has consistently mixed expert analysis with good interviews and truly compelling human interest stories.

I’m a college football fanatic, so I never miss an episode. I may not stick with all 3 hours, because that’s too much for any show, but Gameday will always be on TV in our house every Saturday morning.

This past Saturday ESPN took the show to Times Square in New York City. As soon as the event was announced, the Twitter trolls were out in full force. Their criticism is based on the outdated idea that New Yorkers don’t care about college football. Look, that may be largely true of native New Yorkers, but you know what? This isn’t the 19th century. People move out of their hometowns with regularity now. There are 16 million people in the New York metro area and it is a good bet a lot of them went to college and a lot of those people went to schools that play division 1 college football.

For sports television, Gameday in NYC would be the ultimate test of familiar personalities in an unfamiliar situation. The show was structured in a way that everyone in radio – regardless of format should have been paying attention to.

There were plenty of segments focused on New York’s college football culture. Tom Rinaldi toured college football fan clubs in the Manhattan bars they called home. Gene Wojciechowski brought us the story of a man that left a career on Wall Street to play one season of football at Michigan.

The brilliance of the way the show was presented was in the balance. Yes, there was a lot about this particular episode of Gameday that was different and unexpected, but so much of it was familiar. We still got plenty of fans with great Gameday signs, including my favorite – “SUNY Maritime wants Bama.” We got a headgear segment that would only make sense in New York.

I want to give some props to my friends Adam Gold and Joe Ovies at 99.9 the Fan in Raleigh, because I think they do a great job of mixing the familiar with “I really don’t know what they’re going to do next. Also, because every week Joe texts me and asks why I didn’t mention him in my latest piece on BSM.

When I turn on Adam and Joe in the afternoons, I know I am going to get opinions and interviews. I know I am going to get their signature benchmarks like Top 4 at 4 and High 5. But where they shine is the way they execute big, interesting ideas, like taking an electronic football game to the Super Bowl and making everyone that joined them on radio row break down the action or breaking the entire FBS into two super-conferences using the rules of the board games risk. Those are the kinds of things that take planning and creativity and no one was anticipating them doing something like that until it was revealed on air.

The Dan LeBatard Show is another one that is hard to pin down. It almost feels like there is no playbook at times, and that works for them. Sure I know they are going to talk to Ron McGill from Zoo Miami every Tuesday and I know that they are going to draw from the Bucket of Death every Thursday, but as Dan has made clear on air many times, he is comfortable with the chaos.

What ESPN Radio has in Dan cannot accurately be described simply as “sports radio.” That is a show that can go from talking about Colin Kaepernick in a measured, intelligent way in one segment, to interviewing a man that drank his own urine while stranded in the desert in the next segment and then wrapping up the hour by giving a listener the chance to get advice from Tim Kurkjian on how to propose to his girlfriend. It may be the closest to actually living in stage 4 of a radio show as you will ever see.

It is not easy to get to stage 4 of a radio show. It requires a PD to have tremendous faith in his talent. It requires a host to have a lot of faith in the audience. There are plenty of well-respected hosts and shows that never get to stage 4 but challenging yourself is the only true way to grow.

I encourage you to, at least once a month, take stock of everything you do on the show. Figure out what isn’t working. Figure out what benchmarks you know so well that you can do them in your sleep. Maybe it’s time for a segment like that to go. Instead of prioritizing what is easiest, prioritize what excites you. Trust me, if you are bored with a regular segment or guest, then your audience is too.

BSM Writers

Keeping Premier League Games Shouldn’t Be A Hard Call For NBC

“Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans.”

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NBC Sports is facing some tough, costly decisions that will define its sports brand for the rest of this decade.  A chance to connect with viewers in a changing climate and grow Peacock’s audience as well.  However, making the right choice is paramount to not losing to apps like Paramount+ (pun intended).

NBC is currently in the business of negotiating to continue airing the Premier League as their current deal ends after this 2021-2022 season.  NASCAR is contracted to NBC (and FOX) through the 2024 season.

NBC’s tentpole sports are the NFL and the Olympics.  

Negotiations for the EPL are expected to go down to the wire. Rather than re-up with NBC, the league is meeting with other networks to drive up the price. NBC has to then make a decision if the rights go north of $2 billion.

Should NBC spend that much on a sport that is not played in the United States? It’s not my money, but that sport continues to grow in the US.

If NBC re-ups with the Premier League, will that leave any coins in the cupboard to re-up with NASCAR? Comcast CEO Brian Roberts hinted that there might be some penny pinching as the prices continue to soar. This may have been one of the reasons that NBC did not fight to keep the National Hockey League, whose rights will be with Disney and WarnerMedia through ESPN and TNT, respectively.

“These are really hard calls,” Roberts said. “You don’t always want to prevail, and sometimes you’re right and sometimes you’re wrong, but I think the sustainability of sports is a critical part of what our company does well.”

Roberts was speaking virtually at the recent Goldman Sachs 30th Annual Communacopia Conference. He told the audience that between NBC and European network Sky, that Comcast has allocated approximately $20 billion towards these sports properties.

Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh spoke virtually at the Bank of America Securities 2021 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference and echoed that the company is in a good position to make some strong choices in the sports realm. 

“The bar is really high for us to pursue outright acquisitions of any material size,” Cavanagh added. “We got a great hand to play with what we have.”

While the European investments involve a partnership with American rival Viacom, the US market seems to have apparent limits.

Last Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series at Bristol Motor Speedway was seen by around 2.19 million people. It was the most-watched motorsports event of the weekend. That same week eight different Premier League matches saw over 1 million viewers. More than half of those matches were on subscription-based Peacock. 

Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans. A game of typical soccer fan is used to a sport that is less than two hours long. The investment in a team is one or two games a week. 

My connection to the Premier League began before the pandemic.  When I cut the cord in late 2017, I purchase Apple TV.  Setting it up, it asks you to name your favorite teams.  After clicking on the Syracuse Orange and the New Jersey Devils, I recalled that my wife has family based in London, England.  They are season ticket holders for Arsenal, and that family redefined the word “die-hard” fans.

I’ve long been a believer that sports allegiances are best when handed down by family. I love hearing stories of people loving the New York Giants because their parents liked them, and they pass it down to their children.

I’ve successfully given my allegiance to the Devils to my young daughters. 

By telling Apple TV that I liked Arsenal, I get alerts from three different apps when the “Gunners” are playing. The $4.99 is totally worth it to see Arsenal.

Whenever I told this story, I was amazed to see how many other American sports fans had a Premier League team. Students of mine at Seton Hall University rooted for Tottenham Hotspurs, while an old colleague cheers on Chelsea.

Global Is Cool': The Growing Appeal of Premier League Soccer in America
Courtesy: Morning Consult

This is not meant to say that NBC should sign the EPL on my account. The key for any US-based soccer fan is that between Bundesliga, Serie A, and other leagues, there will be no shortage of soccer available on both linear television and streaming services.

Besides, Dani Rojas did say that “Football is life.”  NBC, originator of the Ted Lasso character, should make keeping its Premier League US connection a priority.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 45

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Today, Demetri is joined by Tyler McComas and Russ Heltman. Tyler pops on to talk about the big start to the college football season on TV. Russ talks about Barstool’s upfront presentation and how the business community may not see any problems in working with the brand. Plus, Demetri is optimistic about FOX Sports Radio’s new morning show.

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BSM Writers

6 Ad Categories Hotter Than Gambling For Sports Radio

“Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life.”

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For years sports radio stations pushed sports gambling advertisers to early Saturday and Sunday morning. The 1-800 ads, shouting, and false claims were seedy, and some stations wouldn’t even accept the business at 5 am on Sunday.

Now, with all but ten states ready to go all in on sports gambling, sports radio stations can’t get enough of that green. Demetri Ravanos wrote about the money cannon that sports gambling has become for stations. Well, what if you are in one of those ten states where it isn’t likely to ever be legal like California or Texas? Where is your pot of gold?

A Pot of Gold Articles - Analyzing Metals
Courtesy: iStockphoto

Or, let’s face it, the more gambling ads you run, the more risk you take on that the ads will not all work as you cannibalize the audience and chase other listeners away who ARE NOT online gambling service users and never will be. So, what about you? Where is your pot of gold?

Well, let’s go Digging for Gold. 

The RAB produces the MRI-Simmons Gold Digger PROSPECTING REPORT for several radio formats. In it, they index sports radio listeners’ habits against an average of 18+ Adult. The Gold Digger report looks at areas where the index is higher than the norm – meaning the sports radio audience is more likely to use the product or service than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. The report, generated in 2020, indicates that sports radio listeners are 106% more likely to have used an online gambling site in the last thirty days. That’s impressive because the report only lists 32 activities or purchases a sports radio listener indexes higher than an average adult. I looked at those 32 higher indexes, and I think we can start looking for some gold.

Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life. The gambling companies who commit significant money to get results will continue advertising and chase the others away. So, the future of sports radio needs to include other cash cows.

If it is evident to online sports gambling services that sports radio stations are a must-buy, who else should feel that way?  I looked at the Top 32 and eliminated the media companies. ESPN, MLB/NHL/NFL networks, and others aren’t spending cash on sports radio stations they don’t own in general. But Joseph A Bank clothing, Fidelity, and Hotwire should! Here’s your PICK-6 list I pulled together that’s hotter than sports gambling:

  • Sportscard collectors, Dapper Labs, Open Sea- read about Sports NFT $.
  • Online brokerage firms-Fidelity, Charles Schwab, Robinhood, Webull, TD Ameritrade
  • Golf courses, resorts, equipment, etc.- we play golf at home and vacation
  • Hotwire.com, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Airbnb, Carnival Corporation, and Priceline.com- we’ve used Hotwire in the last year.
  • FedEx, UPS, U.S. Postal Service, Venmo, PayPal, Zelle-we wired or overnighted $ 
  • Jos. A. Bank, shein.com, macys.com, nordstroms.com- we went to Jos. A. Bank in last three months

The sports card/NFT market is 32% hotter than the sports betting market for sports radio listeners. Everything on the PICK-6 is at least 100% more likely to purchase than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. All listed are at or above indexing strength compared to sports betting. The individual companies I added are industry leaders. Bet on it! Email me for details. 

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