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Q&A with Scott Anez

Demetri Ravanos

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Scott Anez is a really lucky guy. He has managed to stay on the air in the same town with the same company for nearly three decades. He was one of the most well known voices in the Orlando sports scene long before his show Anez Says helped launch the new ESPN 580 on WDBO-AM back in 2012.

I first met Scott around that time through a mutual friend, who introduced him to me as “one of the good ones.” That’s saying a lot, because that friend of mine doesn’t like anyone. It’s easy to see why Orlando sports fans and co-workers like Scott. No one knows more about the Magic, than the man that has served as the team’s pre and postgame host for the last 17 years. He has a passion for the University of Central Florida, and fans trust him because they see themselves in him. He wants the local teams to succeed, but isn’t afraid to say when things aren’t going well.

I conducted this interview with Scott during the week when Donald Trump called out NFL players for protesting at a rally in Huntsville, Alabama. It also happened to be recorded just after Florida snatched victory from the jaws of defeat at Kentucky. Those two things will come up multiple times during our conversation.

DR: I know you grew up in Orlando, but let’s start from the time that you started covering sports professionally. How have you seen Orlando change as a sports market in that time?

SA: Orlando has changed as a market period. I moved here 37 years ago as a kid and at that time, Orlando was an apathetic, quiet, one-horse, Southern outpost. I think the biggest Orlando sporting event at that time was the UCF/Rollins basketball game twice a year. That’s all we got.

I think the biggest sport back then was certainly college football. We’re a Florida/FSU kind of town. Then along comes Pat Williams in the mid-to-late 80s and said this was a major league sports town. I don’t think there is anyone in history at that time that could have made Orlando believe that it could be a major league town, and nothing has been the same since.

DR: I want to talk more about the Magic in a second, because I see some similarities between them and the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh (where I live). The difference being the Canes have had like two really good years, where the Magic tend to go on these runs and when they are good they sustain it for three or four years in a row. So the guy that has retired to Orlando from the Northeast or moved there to start a business is still loyal to his teams, but they have something exciting to latch on to, so how do you prioritize that guy’s loyalty to his teams when you’re putting together a local show in Orlando?

SA: You must be sitting in on our afternoon meetings, because this is a question that we struggle with everyday. I mentioned this was a Gators and Seminoles town, and back in the day, you’d come in on Monday, open up the phones and you could talk Gators and Seminoles for three hours.

Orlando is a tough sports radio town now, because of what you just said: everyone is from somewhere else and they bring their own allegiances here. We have a lot of Northeasterners here. There are a lot of transplanted Midwesterners here. So you combine that with the fans that have been here for years and it can be hard to figure out the combined allegiances.

So what we try to do is focus on the hot button issues of the day. Like yesterday, everyone is talking about the National Anthem controversy. Even though it can be a controversial topic and a difficult thing to do on sports radio, we have to sometimes try to do a national show on a local level, so we have to dip our toes into those waters. That can be frustrating at times because the market is always like a moving target, but I can assure you there is never a dull day trying to do sports radio in Orlando. That is for sure.

DR: Interesting, but it also has to be a little frustrating, because in the old Orlando, yesterday (September 25th) should have been the kind of day you could crack the mic and say “what the hell is Jim McElwain doing?” and you’ve got yourself a three hour show.

SA: [laughing] Exactly. Those kind of days are really frustrating because yesterday was a great sports day. You had some great NFL games. You have the Gators pulling out that win at Kentucky but they still have so many problems with their offense. You’ve got FSU at 0-2 for the first time since 1989. Heck, you’ve even got UCF pulling off a dominant victory at Maryland, and yet our PD comes into our afternoon meeting and tells us that our TV partner is coming over to grab sound from callers on the National Anthem protests and that is what we’re going to have to do for three hours.

So can that be frustrating? I guess so. Sometimes it feels like I am back in college everyday and I am taking a final exam and I have no idea what is going to be on the exam every single day.

DR: I’m glad you brought up your PD, because it leads into my next question. This isn’t me claiming to know what happens at ESPN 580 in Orlando. I have just talked to a lot of guys in your situation. They are the only local show in a prime daypart on their station, and they all talk about it as one extreme or the other. They either feel like the station as a whole is forgotten about or they feel like they have all the support they could ask for because they are their PD’s only concern. Are you one of those or do you fall somewhere in the middle?

SA: Oh, I get what I need. Cox Media Group is a great company to work for, and even though they’re dipping their toe into these waters for the first time with a sports station, I have worked for Cox for 28 or 29 years and I have always been supported. Sports radio is never going to be high on the company’s totem pole, but I have terrific support and quite frankly, they’ve kinda let us have free reign.

I went up to Bristol a few weeks ago for a sports talk bootcamp and they taught us two things. First, always be who you are because listeners can spot a phony, and also if you’re not talking NFL, you’re losing. Cox Media’s thing is that you better be talking on air about what people are talking about, so you see, they are on the same track. Yesterday that was the protests and talking about it is a bridge for fringe sports fans to find the show.

DR: Do you like talking about stuff like that? The National Anthem protests and topics like the North Carolina bathroom bill that had the NCAA and the NBA pulling events out of the state, those things mix it up and make sports radio fun and interesting in my opinion. Do you feel the same or do you have #StickToSports guy in the back of your head?

SA: I come from a news background. I wouldn’t say topics like that, for me, are easy by any means, but they’re kinda right in my wheelhouse. Even though one slip of the tongue can have protesters showing up at your radio station, that kind of adrenaline drives me. Now, I certainly take copious notes before that show starts, so I’m not talking off the cuff the whole time. Shows like that are difficult to do and that’s what really drives me.

We just had Hurricane Irma come through Central Florida, and on ESPN 580 we shunned our local programming for a week and did nothing but talk Irma day after day after day. I love sports, but I think I love broadcasting even more, and if you can have an impact on someone day to day, that is success to me. So talking about those big issues that invite everyone to listen but don’t drive off the P1s is fun for me and that is how you get the biggest piece of the pie, at least in Orlando.

DR: I’m going to use LeBatard as an example because he is national, but I’m sure it happens a lot at the local level too. He’s a guy that has never been afraid to delve into sports’ big social issues but he also isn’t afraid to acknowledge the internet theory that it was Florida football coach Jim McElwain in that photo with a shark. It’s absurd to think that may have been the case, but it is even more absurd that there are people that actually thought it might be possible. It seems like sports radio as a format is more willing to have fun and go to interesting and maybe even uncomfortable places more often than it used to.

SA: Sure. If you want sports, LeBatard’s show may be the worst place to go to for that, but look, I think he is a great journalist. He’s a great writer. Above all, what you hear on the radio is that he is a great entertainer. So do you risk running off those P1s when you do that and risk that guy calling to tell you to stick to sports or stay in your lane? Yeah, but we know our format and that includes the listeners. If you can get those casual fans to stick with you with a topic like protesting or something more frivolous, you’ll bring those P1s along.

DR: You talked about the week leading up to Hurricane Irma abandoning sports talk to focus on hurricane preparedness. Certainly weather like that is nothing new for you guys. Tell me about your philosophy as a broadcaster the day after that hurricane comes through.

SA: We actually slept at the radio station. I stayed there a couple of nights. With Cox, when an event happens like this in your community, you’re expected to be there. I grew up here. I raised a family here. I am here for the community. So, when that community is in need, that drives your adrenaline.

The afternoon before the hurricane I was on the air for about six hours, then as the hurricane was moving through, I was on all of our six stations from about 9 o’clock until 3 the next morning just talking to listeners. It was amazing. People called in and what we wanted to do was stay connected with the Central Florida community. A lot of people had power out so for some we were the only game in town, but what we learned is no matter how much we warned and begged beforehand, so many people still don’t have battery powered radios in their house.

It was an amazing night talking to people who had just seen trees fall on their houses. I talked to a woman that was talking to me from her couch, because it was the only way to stay dry in her flooded house. Another man called when a tool shed had blown through his front window.

I love sports, but first I am a Central Floridian. I am a part of this community. I love this community and for me what it is all about is supporting and preparing people and afterwards you have to be positive and let people know we are going to get through it – especially the people that are alone. It was a really unforgettable night.

DR: Okay, so now it’s time to make you uncomfortable a little bit and mess with your money. What is your motto when it comes to covering the Orlando Magic? You kinda have to walk that tightrope of cheerleader vs. truth-teller.

SA: Absolutely. It can definitely be a balancing act, but I would hope that I have built up enough in the bank that Magic fans will tell you that I tell it like it is. I will say that in all the years of covering the organization or now working for the organization, they have never once told me to lighten up on them or come to me and said ‘you need to spin this this way.’ I respect the heck out of them for that. I have been covering them for 29 years and have been working for the organization since 2000, and I think the Magic know that if they ever came to me and told me what to say it would come through on the air. And it helps them to keep my credibility intact. It can definitely be a balancing act, but the Magic make it very very easy to do my job.

DR: Right after the NBA season ended, Dan Patrick said he talked to a number of different people around the league and there is a consensus that the Magic are the team furthest away from being competitive. Tell me why he is wrong.

SA: (Laughing) I don’t know if I can argue with that. There may be a couple of teams that might be behind us, but that is a really good point. I think a lot of that goes back to the last five year under a general manager that came in with what looked like a sound plan. Let’s go ahead and dump Dwight Howard if he doesn’t want to be here and let’s try to get a lot of pieces for him and then we’ll rebuild through the draft.

Well, that’s easier said than done when you’re always a pick or two after the best players in the draft are gone. You have to make your own luck as well and Rob Hannigan never made his own luck here in Orlando. So now we restart rebuild 2.0 with a couple of guys that have great experience in the league with our new GM and president of basketball operations. It’s gonna take time though to dig out of where this team is.

Dan Patrick is probably right. Even Philadelphia looks like they are moving forward. Hmmm…maybe Brooklyn. There are some people excited about Brooklyn’s future I’m not sure why, but it is a close argument.

BSM Writers

The Future Is Now, Embrace Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+

As annoying as streaming sports is and as much as I haven’t fully adapted to the habit yet, Amazon and Apple have done a magnificent job of trying to make the process as easy and simplified as possible.

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This week has been a reckoning for sports and its streaming future on Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+, ESPN+, and more.

Amazon announced that Thursday Night Football, which averaged 13 million viewers, generated the highest number of U.S. sign ups over a three hour period in the app’s history. More people in the United States subscribed to Prime during the September 15th broadcast than they did during Black Friday, Prime Day, and Cyber Monday. It was also “the most watched night of primetime in Prime Video’s history,” according to Amazon executive Jay Marine. The NFL and sports in general have the power to move mountains even for some of the nation’s biggest and most successful brands.

This leads us to the conversation happening surrounding Aaron Judge’s chase for history. Judge has been in pursuit of former major leaguer Roger Maris’ record for the most home runs hit during one season in American League history.

The sports world has turned its attention to the Yankees causing national rights holders such as ESPN, Fox, and TBS to pick up extra games in hopes that they capture the moment history is made. Apple TV+ also happened to have a Yankees game scheduled for Friday night against the Red Sox right in the middle of this chase for glory.

Baseball fans have been wildin’ out at the prospects of missing the grand moment when Judge passes Maris or even the moments afterwards as Judge chases home run number 70 and tries to truly create monumental history of his own. The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand has even reported there were talks between YES, MLB, and Apple to bring Michael Kay into Apple’s broadcast to call the game, allow YES Network to air its own production of the game, or allow YES Network to simulcast Apple TV+’s broadcast. In my opinion, all of this hysteria is extremely bogus.

As annoying as streaming sports is and as much as I haven’t fully adapted to the habit yet, Amazon and Apple have done a magnificent job of trying to make the process as easy and simplified as possible. Amazon brought in NBC to help with production of TNF and if you watch the flow of the broadcast, the graphics of the broadcast, NBC personalities like Michael Smith, Al Michaels, and Terry McAuliffe make appearances on the telecast – it is very clear that the network’s imprint is all over the show.

NBC’s experience in conducting the broadcast has made the viewing experience much more seamless. Apple has also used MLB Network and its personalities for assistance in ensuring there’s no major difference between what you see on air vs. what you’re streaming.

Amazon and Apple have also decided to not hide their games behind a paywall. Since the beginning of the season, all of Apple’s games have been available free of charge. No subscription has ever been required. As long as you have an Apple device and can download Apple TV+, you can watch their MLB package this season.

Guess what? Friday’s game against the Red Sox is also available for free on your iPhone, your laptop, or your TV simply by downloading the AppleTV app. Amazon will also simulcast all Thursday Night Football games on Twitch for free. It may be a little harder or confusing to find the free options, but they are out there and they are legal and, once again, they are free.

Apple has invested $85 million into baseball, money that will go towards your team becoming better hypothetically. They’ve invested money towards creating a new kind of streaming experience. Why in the hell would they offer YES Network this game for free? There’s no better way for them to drive subscriptions to their product than by offering fans a chance at watching history on their platform.

A moment like this are the main reason Apple paid for rights in the first place. When Apple sees what the NFL has done for Amazon in just one week and coincidentally has the ability to broadcast one of the biggest moments in baseball history – it would be a terrible business decision to let viewers watch it outside of the Apple ecosystem and lose the ability to gain new fans.

It’s time for sports fans to grow up and face reality. Streaming is here to stay. 

MLB Network is another option

If you don’t feel like going through the hassle of watching the Yankees take on the Red Sox for free on Apple TV+, MLB Network will also air all of Judge’s at bats live as they are happening. In case the moment doesn’t happen on Apple TV+ on Friday night, Judge’s next games will air in full on MLB Network (Saturday), ESPN (Sunday), MLB Network again (Monday), TBS (Tuesday) and MLB Network for a third time on Wednesday. All of MLB Network’s games will be simulcast of YES Network’s local New York broadcast. It wouldn’t shock me to see Fox pick up another game next Thursday if the pursuit still maintains national interest.

Quick bites

  • One of the weirdest things about the experience of streaming sports is that you lose the desire to channel surf. Is that a good thing or bad thing? Brandon Ross of LightShed Ventures wonders if the difficulty that comes with going from app to app will help Amazon keep viewers on TNF the entire time no matter what the score of the game is. If it does, Amazon needs to work on developing programming to surround the games or start replaying the games, pre and post shows so that when you fall asleep and wake up you’re still on the same stream on Prime Video or so that coming to Prime Video for sports becomes just as much of a habit for fans as tuning in to ESPN is.
  • CNN has announced the launch of a new morning show with Don Lemon, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlin Collins. Variety reports, “Two people familiar with plans for the show say it is likely to use big Warner Bros. properties — a visit from the cast of HBO’s Succession or sports analysis from TNT’s NBA crew — to lure eyeballs.” It’ll be interesting to see if Turner Sports becomes a cornerstone of this broadcast. Will the NBA start doing schedule releases during the show? Will a big Taylor Rooks interview debut on this show before it appears on B/R? Will the Stanley Cup or Final Four MVP do an interview on CNN’s show the morning after winning the title? Does the show do remote broadcasts from Turner’s biggest sports events throughout the year?
  • The Clippers are back on over the air television. They announced a deal with Nexstar to broadcast games on KTLA and other Nexstar owned affiliates in California. The team hasn’t reached a deal to air games on Bally Sports SoCal or Bally Sports Plus for the upcoming season. Could the Clippers pursue a solo route and start their own OTT service in time for the season? Are they talking to Apple, Amazon, or ESPN about a local streaming deal? Is Spectrum a possible destination? I think these are all possibilities but its likely that the Clippers end up back on Bally Sports since its the status quo. I just find it interesting that it has taken so long to solidify an agreement and that it wasn’t announced in conjunction with the KTLA deal. The Clippers are finally healthy this season, moving into a new arena soon, have the technology via Second Spectrum to produce immersive game casts. Maybe something is brewing?
  • ESPN’s Monday Night Football double box was a great concept. The execution sucked. Kudos to ESPN for adjusting on the fly once complaints began to lodge across social media. I think the double box works as a separate feed. ESPN2 should’ve been the home to the double box. SVP and Stanford Steve could’ve held a watch party from ESPN’s DC studio with special guests. The double box watch party on ESPN2 could’ve been interrupted whenever SVP was giving an update on games for ESPN and ABC. It would give ESPN2 a bit of a behind the scenes look at how the magic happens similarly to what MLB Tonight did last week. Credit to ESPN and the NFL for experimenting and continuing to try and give fans unique experiences.

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BSM Writers

ESPN Shows Foresight With Monday Night Football Doubleheader Timing

ESPN is obviously testing something, and it’s worth poking around at why the network wouldn’t follow the schedule it has used for the last 16 years, scheduling kickoffs at 7 and then 10 on their primary channel.

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The Monday Night Football doubleheader was a little bit different this time around for ESPN.

First, it came in Week 2 instead of Week 1. And then, the games were staggered 75 minutes apart on two different channels, the Titans and Bills beginning on ESPN at 7:15 PM ET and the Vikings at the Eagles starting at 8:30 PM on ABC and ESPN+. This was a departure from the usual schedule in which the games kicked off at 7:00 PM ET and then 10:00 PM ET with the latter game on the West Coast.

ESPN is obviously testing something, and it’s worth poking around at why the network wouldn’t follow the schedule it has used for the last 16 years, scheduling kickoffs at 7:00 PM and then 10:00 PM ET on their primary channel. That’s the typical approach, right? The NFL is the most valuable offering in all of sports and ESPN would have at least six consecutive hours of live programming without any other game to switch to.

Instead, they staggered the starts so the second game kicked off just before the first game reached halftime. They placed the games on two different channels, which risked cannibalizing their audience. Why? Well, it’s the same reason that ESPN was so excited about the last year’s Manningcast that it’s bringing it back for 10 weeks this season. ESPN is not just recognizing the reality of how their customers behave, but they’re embracing it.

Instead of hoping with everything they have that the customer stays in one place for the duration of the game, they’re recognizing the reality that they will leave and providing another product within their portfolio to be a destination when they do.

It’s the kind of experiment everyone in broadcasting should be investigating because, for all the talk about meeting the customer where they are, we still tend to be a little bit stubborn about adapting to what they do. 

Customers have more choices than ever when it comes to media consumption. First, cable networks softened the distribution advantages of broadcast networks, and now digital offerings have eroded the distribution advantages of cable networks. It’s not quite a free-for-all, but the battle for viewership is more intense, more wide open than ever because that viewer has so many options of not just when and where but how they will consume media.

Programmers have a choice in how to react to this. On the one hand, they can hold on tighter to the existing model and try to squeeze as much out of it as they can. If ESPN was thinking this way it would stack those two Monday night games one after the other just like it always has and hope like hell for a couple of close games to juice the ratings. Why would you make it impossible for your customer to watch both of these products you’ve paid so much to televise?

I’ve heard radio programmers and hosts recite take this same approach for more than 10 years now when it comes to making shows available on-demand. Why would you give your customers the option of consuming the product in a way that’s not as remunerative or in a way that is not measured?

That thinking is outdated and it is dangerous from an economic perspective because it means you’re trying to make the customer behave in your best interest by restricting their choices. And maybe that will work. Maybe they like that program enough that they’ll consume it in the way you’d prefer or maybe they decide that’s inconvenient or annoying or they decide to try something else and now this customer who would have listened to your product in an on-demand format is choosing to listen to someone else’s product entirely.

After all, you’re the only one that is restricting that customer’s choices because you’re the only one with a desire to keep your customer where he is. Everyone else is more than happy to give your customer something else. 

There’s a danger in holding on too tightly to the existing model because the tighter you squeeze, the more customers will slip through your fingers, and if you need a physical demonstration to complete this metaphor go grab a handful of sand and squeeze it hard.

Your business model is only as good as its ability to predict the behavior of your customers, and as soon as it stops doing that, you need to adjust that business model. Don’t just recognize the reality that customers today will exercise the freedom that all these media choices provide, embrace it.

Offer more products. Experiment with more ways to deliver those products. The more you attempt to dictate the terms of your customer’s engagement with your product, the more customers you’ll lose, and by accepting this you’ll open yourself to the reality that if your customer is going to leave your main offering, it’s better to have them hopping to another one of your products as opposed to leaving your network entirely.

Think in terms of depth of engagement, and breadth of experience. That’s clearly what ESPN is doing because conventional thinking would see the Manningcast as a program that competes with the main Monday Night Football broadcast, that cannibalizes it. ESPN sees it as a complimentary experience. An addition to the main broadcast, but it also has the benefit that if the customer feels compelled to jump away from the main broadcast – for whatever reason – it has another ESPN offering that they may land on.

I’ll be watching to see what ESPN decides going forward. The network will have three Monday Night Football doubleheaders beginning next year, and the game times have not been set. Will they line them up back-to-back as they had up until this year? If they do it will be a vote of confidence that its traditional programming approach that evening is still viable. But if they overlap those games going forward, it’s another sign that less is not more when it comes to giving your customers a choice in products.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: Sunday Ticket Has Problems, Marcellus Wiley Does Not

Demetri Ravanos

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On this episode of Media Noise, Demetri is joined by Brian Noe to talk about the wild year FS1’s Marcellus Wiley has had and by Garrett Searight to discuss the tumultuous present and bright future of NFL Sunday Ticket.

ITunes: https://buff.ly/3PjJWpO

Spotify: https://buff.ly/3AVwa90

iHeart: https://buff.ly/3cbINCp

Google: https://buff.ly/3PbgHWx

Amazon: https://buff.ly/3cbIOpX

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