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Q&A with Chris Plank

Tyler McComas



When it comes to sports radio, Chris Plank can do it all. Whether it’s hosting local shows, national shows or even doing play-by-play, few people in the business can match the workload that Plank has on a weekly basis.

It’s probably normal to greet someone you know with a simple ‘hi’ or ‘hello.’ However, whenever I see Plank, my normal greeting to him is a ‘hey, what are your thoughts on phone calls during the top of an hour?’ or ‘what do you think about this idea as a promo?’ Needless, to say, Plank has become someone I highly respect and really enjoy bouncing ideas off of, but maybe I should ask how his family is doing more often instead of spouting off radio questions. He believes in quality and the craft of the business and I highly respect that.

Plank started off where just about every successful host ever began – at the bottom. During his first year of radio in 1997, he produced St. Louis Cardinals games in Tulsa, OK. Soon after, he would get the opportunity to host 30-minute shows early on Saturday mornings with the same company. Fast forward to today and you can now hear him on several different platforms. Each weekday he hosts The Plank Show from 9a-11a CT on the Sports Talk Network in Norman, Okla. On Sunday nights, he’s heard on Fox Sports Radio hosting a national show with co-host Arnie Spanier. What I love about Plank, is that he was excited about this article and could talk sports radio for hours. Here’s a look into his career and the direction he thinks the business is headed.

TM: You began your career in Tulsa and developed a strong foothold, but why didn’t you ever leave for another market?

CP: I fell in love with the area and I realized Oklahoma was the home for me. Also, I got married and I started doing national shows from Tulsa. It became a place where I lived, had my home, had my kids, had my wife and I was able to do all the things I had ever wanted to do in my career from Tulsa. I didn’t have to move somewhere to make that happen.

TM: You mentioned Tulsa was the place you started doing FOX Sports national radio, how did you get into it?

CP: Back in 2007, I reached out for advice to Andrew Ashwood. Basically, I just was looking for clarity and to see if I was any good. When I did, we hit it off. He gave me a couple of opportunities to fill in and eventually I was given the opportunity to do an overnight show on the weekends, which I loved. It’s an underrated shift that gives you the opportunity to cut your chops and learn. I did that for a while and then Andrew passed away. Radio kind of went in a different direction for a while and then after a couple of years, I was given the opportunity to jump back on in a fill-in role for Fox Sports. After doing that, they teamed me up with Arnie Spanier back in 2011 and it took off from there.

TM: Being frustrated early in your career is something most sports talk show hosts go thru. What were your experiences and how did you handle them?

CP: That’s kind of hard, because I’m not happy now with how I handled adversity when I was younger. It wasn’t anything with my co-workers it was just the way I would handle things personally. You’re in a job where you’re always seeking approval. Even if you have ratings, you want your boss to tell you you’re doing a good job. If you don’t have ratings, you always think the end is coming near. For me, I didn’t really handle it well at a young age. As you get older, you start to find more things in your life that you can embrace and are more important to you.

TM: This is something I think a lot about: How do you handle phone calls and where do you think the future of radio with the using phone lines is headed?

CP: I really like them, I do, because interaction is key. But I do a two-hour show and if I came in and just took phone calls for two hours, am I really serving my listener base and my employer? If I came in every day and begged for phone calls for two hours, what good am I doing? I’ve had great bosses in my career and some think it’s the only way to go and others that think you have to be cautious and lead every call down the right direction. If I’m doing a show and we’re in the midst of a Heisman Trophy conversation and there’s a guy on hold that wants to talk about the NFL, what good is that? It comes down to good call screening and it comes down to getting the listeners to answer the questions you’re throwing out there. If you’re just coming on and saying ‘call me’ I think you’re doing a disservice to the craft. I think radio is turning into the host bringing up a really good topic, setting the points for that topic and then taking a phone call if there’s something to be added. 

TM: I like to get reactions on social media because it’s quicker and more efficient, but where’s the line on giving a bunch of your thoughts on Twitter and saving them for the show?

CP: I’m very addicted to Twitter. I like to tweet my thoughts out because I love getting instant analysis. Do I think you need to hold some things back? Sure, but your followers and your fans come to expect instant reaction. I dig the idea of giving your thoughts during games. Now, should you hold some back for the postgame show? Yes, but there’s still a need and want for instant reaction.

TM: You’ve been around a lot of successful sports talk hosts, what’s one thing you could say they all have in common?

CP: A true passion for sports. I know that sounds goofy, but I’ll give you an example: My daughter had a dance recital two weeks ago on a Sunday when the Raiders had just put forth the worst performance that mankind has ever seen, when their season depended on it. It was awful and I wanted to fire everyone. And here we are, the game is at noon and the recital is at 5:00. You would think, oh, that’s great you can watch and have balance, but no, I’m mad! I love football and I’m angry and I can’t wait to get on the air and destroy that awful coaching job on my Sunday night Fox Sports show. So, even if you have that balance in your life, to still have that passion about sports and good radio is key.

TM: What’s the difference in having a program director that knows what he’s doing and in your corner, compared to one that isn’t?

CP: I’ve had them all. I was a program director for 16 years and I would consider myself as an offensive coordinator that didn’t call his own plays. I was an OC, but I had someone in our operations department that I really respected. You know when you have somebody that’s out for your best interest. I think the guys I work with now at Fox Sports Radio such as Scott Shapiro and Don Martin, these guys provide you a platform that allow you to be as opinionated as you want and as creative as you want. They’ll give you that room.

For those that are involved, it’s really easy to take shortcuts in radio. It’s the easiest business there is to take shortcuts, because you have so much that’s done for you by the national networks. Even if you have a program director that you don’t think is in your corner, it’s amazing what communication can do. The program director’s door, that general manager’s door, should never be locked and you should never be afraid to balance an idea or a thought. That’s the idea of being the best you can be. 

TM: Who’s a host out there that’s under the radar and should be getting more attention?

CP: I have three. First, is Jonas Knox of Fox Sports Radio. He does the overnight show and it’s such a fun listen. He does such a good job of creativity. I would love to say any of the guys on The Ticket in Dallas, but all those guys are so well known I can’t pick just one. But those guys have created a certain mindset to where they’re so good at being irreverent, that you want to be that and you’re envious of it. Lastly, I would say what Jeremie Poplin in Tulsa and Toby Rowland in Norman do, it’s good to see guys that take their preparation and approach seriously, but when they get after it, aren’t so arrogant and all-consuming that they have to be right all the time and they have to be the only person talking.

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




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.






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