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Under The Radar – March 14, 2018

Jason Barrett

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This week’s UTR includes a number of items related to the NCAA Tournament. As I state in each week’s piece, to be considered for exposure in an upcoming article, pass along any pertinent information via email to JBarrett@spoortsradiopd.com. Now on to the latest developments.

Entercom New York has named a new Market Manager to oversee some of the company’s most important and prestigious brands. New York native Susan Larkin will head back to the east coast, leaving San Francisco where she had been overseeing Entercom’s five Bay Area stations. Larkin also had regional oversight of Sacramento and a number of Southern California markets. To fill her absence in the Bay Area, Gregory Nemitz will be elevated to SVP/Market Manager. Los Angeles SVP/Market Manager Jeff Federman will also take on more responsibility adding regional oversight of Southern California markets, including San Diego, Palm Springs and Riverside. Although Larkin will be physically located in the big apple, she will continue as Nemitz’s direct report. Interim New York market manager John Fullam will now move to Denver where he was originally expected to be when he signed on with the company this past November.

If there’s one time of the year where you can learn a lot about a radio station’s creativity surrounding big events, it’s March. The NCAA Tournament becomes a key focus for many outlets but too often stations do the same thing. Sales requests a March Madness promotion to generate income, which is followed up by a station placing a bracket on its website, attaching a sponsor to it, supporting it with liners and promos and encouraging the audience to fill it out. The listener who produces the best bracket gets rewarded with a prize. Considering that sports fans receive the same exact options on TV and print media websites, it doesn’t stand out. To make noise, you’ve got to either offer an experience/prize that’s unheard of or do something outside the box. Fortunately, there are a few brands out there looking to capitalize on the buzz in unique ways rather than executing the same bland concepts.

For starters, the red carpet needs to be rolled out for Carrington Harrison of 610 Sports. The man deserves a moment in the spotlight for his creation of the Kanye Madness bracket. Harrison tapped into the passion of Kanye West fans by creating a bracket which highlighted 64 of the popular artist’s songs. It generated a massive amount of social buzz including feedback and participation from Chris Long, Cris Carter, Jordan Matthews, Bomani Jones, and coverage on Complex, Cincinnati.com, and the Kansas City Star among others. It even became a topic of conversation on MSNBC during an appearance by Havoc of Mobb Deep, who placed Harrington at the top of his ‘Real List’ and pushed for the song “Famous” to win the tournament since it was one of 2 songs he produced for Kanye. Whether you love Kanye’s music or not, the originality, social polls and video content created around the promotion was spectacular. As of last check, the original tweet had received 30,000 retweets and 81,000 likes. It also produced tons of shares and comments on Facebook. It was everything radio should be trying to create.

Although Harrison’s creation was impressive, it wasn’t the only bracket to strike a chord. The Spun did a fantastic job too by creating the 64 Most Annoying People in Sports Media bracket. If there’s a guaranteed way of generating buzz for a bracket, just include 64 people in the sports media business, and sit back, relax, and enjoy your popcorn as they flock to social media to mention their involvement in it. To see the bracket click here.

A few others which passed the creativity test include Barstool SportsPardon My Take which produced the 64 People Most Likely to Retweet This Bracket and Get Us More Followers bracket. CBS Sports Radio‘s Tiki and Tierney are giving one lucky fan the chance to host a segment with them on TV and Radio. Seth Harp in Jacksonville at Sports Radio 930 in conjunction with iHeart Radio Jacksonville rolled out Meat Madness, and Paige Dimakos and Zach Harper of FanRag Sports used the tournament as a connector to LeBron James‘ pending free agency.

Speaking of the tournament, SiriusXM is offering listeners nationwide comprehensive coverage of the 2018 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, airing every minute of every game on both satellite radios and the SiriusXM app on its exclusive 24/7 college sports talk channels. All Men’s NCAA Tournament game broadcasts are provided to SiriusXM by Westwood One, the official network radio partner of the NCAA and the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship.

Thursday is a big day for Jason Fitz. The network radio and television host will take over ESPN‘s Twitter account as part of Fitz’s Big Basketball Binge-A-Thon Bonanaza. Fitz will have a few special guests stopping by to watch games, converse, eat and spin the wheel of destiny including Jalen Rose, Jay Williams, Michael Smith, Molly Qerim and more. Plans are for Fitz to begin his tour of duty at Noon ET. He’ll remain at the controls until the buzzer sounds for the final game of the evening.

Sometimes technical malfunctions can turn into entertaining radio. There was no better example than in New York where Don LaGreca expressed his fondness for the radio station’s microphone collapsing into his hands during Tuesday’s program. After the ESPN New York afternoon host snapped and screamed “FIX THAT” while walking out of the studio during a segment, Michael Kay and Peter Rosenberg were left to try and regain their composure and explain what just occurred. YES Network did an excellent job of turning around the clip quickly, generating strong social sharing. To watch LaGreca’s meltdown click here.

It may have taken five years, but Chris Townsend is finally getting an opportunity to make a bigger impact on Oakland Athletics radio broadcasts. The 95.7 The Game talk show host has been named the network host for A’s pre and postgame shows. “Towny” as he’s affectionately known to local listeners will also be dropping in during game broadcasts with A’s announcers Ken Korach, Vince Cotroneo and Ray Fosse.

Tim Murray will be hosting a new show on SB Nation Radio starting this Sunday, “Destination NFL Draft.” The show airs 11a-1p ET for the next six weeks leading up to the NFL Draft. Each show will include appearances from draft experts, draft prospects, and local beat reporters from the teams atop the draft.

Meanwhile, one of Murray’s radio partners Steve Solomon, is making some news of his own. The SB Nation Radio host and producer of Steve Czaban‘s afternoon show on The Team 980 is running for Montgomery County Council. In the first unofficial poll, Solomon led the way, garnering 15 percent of the vote from more than 5,000 votes recorded in a Bethesda Magazine reader survey. That percentage was more than double the next closest candidate. Solomon says he’s gratified to see his campaign resonating with Montgomery County residents. The election takes place June 26, 2018.

WWL in New Orleans has cut ties with longtime host Deke Bellavia. Bobby Hebert‘s co-pilot on “SportsTalk” and the New Orleans Saints “Point After” postgame show last appeared on-air on Friday March 9th. Saints sideline reporter Kristian Garic has been filling in on an interim basis. Hebert is expected to continue in his normal role. A replacement has not yet been named for Bellavia.

Time has run out for Eric Williams at ESPN 850 WKNR in Cleveland. The producer and on-air contributor to The Really Big Show with Tony Rizzo and Aaron Goldhammer is looking for his next opportunity. To get in touch with him via Twitter click here.

In the podcasting space, congrats is in order for Howie Schwab. The ex-ESPner has created the Schwab Cast for Univision. The first two episodes featured appearances from Dick Vitale and Fran Fraschilla. To listen and/or subscribe click here.

In Kansas City, 610 Sports morning host Bob Fescoe has also taken the plunge into the digital space. Fescoe has launched “The KC Bobcast,” a show focused on conversations with people who make Kansas City special. The first two episodes include interviews with Kansas Head Basketball Coach Bill Self and Marlin Man. To subscribe or listen click here.

When time allows, check out the ‘No Limits’ podcast hosted by ABC‘s Rebecca Jarvis. Barstool Sports CEO Erika Nardini was a recent guest on the program, and during the conversation, it was learned that since joining the company, Barstool has increased its revenue by eight times the amount. The company has also enjoyed a seven hundred percent gain in brand advertising, and a three hundred percent lift in e-commerce. Whether you love or hate the Barstool brand, those statistics are pretty remarkable.

Sports Radio News

Danny Balis Joins 97.1 The Freak

“I feel kind of nervous because I haven’t done this in a long time. I thought this may not ever happen to me again, to do radio with people I’ve known for a very, very long time.”

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Longtime Sportsradio 96.7/1310 The Ticket producer Danny Balis is joining 97.1 The Freak in Dallas.

Balis was introduced Monday as the newest member of The Downbeat cast, which already features Mike Rhyner, Mike Sirois, and Michael Gruber.

“He was the one I want, and I get what I want here,” Rhyner said during Monday’s announcement.

“I’m excited,” said Balis. “I feel kind of nervous because I haven’t done this in a long time. I thought this may not ever happen to me again, to do radio with people I’ve known for a very, very long time.”

Balis left The Ticket in May, citing an interest in focusing on other areas of his life outside of radio. He served as a producer at the station for 22 years before stepping aside. At the time, he said “The room for growth for me up here is not going to open up until all you knuckleheads retire,” the 54-year-old joked.

In addition to his work with The Freak, Balis continues to co-own the Twilite Lounge in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.

97.1 The Freak launched in October, and features a “broad-based, personality driven format” that features several former Dallas sports radio personalities including Rhyner, and Ben and Skin among others.

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Sports Radio News

Shan & RJ: We Have Questions About Jerry Jones But Washington Post Report Isn’t One of Them

“We all have some skeletons in our closet, but to throw the weight of the word racist on anyone, you’re gonna have to come with more than that.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones found himself in the headlines last week ahead of the team’s Thanksgiving Day game, but it was largely seen as something that didn’t need to be dragged out into the spotlight, and 105.3 The Fan hosts Shan and RJ agreed.

The Washington Post last week published a photo from 1957 showing a 14-year-old Jones among a crowd of onlookers as white students tried to block the path of some Black students attempting to enter his North Little Rock, Arkansas high school.

The piece focused on Jones, who is the Cowboys general manager, never hiring a Black head coach in the entire time he’s owned the franchise.

On Monday, Shan Shariff said it seemed a bit much to use that photo and article to paint Jones as some sort of racist.

“There’s certainly a bunch of stories out there that we know on and off the record about Jerry Jones that makes me question his morals,” he said. “We all have some skeletons in our closet, but to throw the weight of the word racist on anyone, you’re gonna have to come with more than that.”

Cowboys insider Bobby Belt, who was filling in for co-host RJ Choppy on Shan & RJ, said Jones has likely evolved like a lot of people do over time. He didn’t think it was fair to necessarily say Jones was racist.

“I’m not gonna speak for anyone else but I don’t believe he’s racist,” Belt said. “I think there are enough people who have dealt with him who are African American who would tell you they don’t think he’s racist. But it’s still not a thing that you can just write off to ‘Oh I was just standing there.'”

Jones admitted to the Post that his football coach at the time told him and other players not to get involved or be among the crowd for that moment, but he went anyway.

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Sports Radio News

DiPietro & Rothenberg: NFL TV Partners Should Schedule Jets and Giants at Opposite Times

Jordan Bondurant

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For the first time in a long time, both the New York Giants and the New York Jets are factors in the NFL playoff picture. After years of both franchises occupying the bottom portions of the league standings, fans in New York and the surrounding area have a reason to believe. On DiPietro & Rothenberg on ESPN New York, Dave Rothenberg said he thinks the league should put both teams in more marquee windows.

“When you start to think about flexing games, you start to think about you know what, the Giants and Jets should be flexed into better time slots,” he said.

Co-host Rick DiPietro said it sucks now that both teams are playing well, fans are essentially forced to flip back and forth between games.

“It’s awful. It really is,” he said. “I wouldn’t say that it ruins the Sunday because that would be hard. But it’s not my favorite.”

Still, it’s not lost on Rothenberg that football fans in the city now have something to cheer for NFL wise as the last chunk of the regular season approaches.

“When was the last time the Jets and Giants in December had meaningful football games?” Rothenberg asked. “Years and years and years.”

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