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Q&A with Mike Taylor

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I like Mike Taylor a lot. We didn’t have a previous relationship before I started writing for BSM. He is just a guy that started liking my posts on Twitter and I thought “I like him because he likes me.”

Mike has been on 760 the Ticket in San Antonio for eleven years, and I was interested in talking to him about the weird season the Spurs had and how NFL loyalties are divided in San Antonio. Instead, our conversation was wide ranging, covering everything from marriage advice, to racial identity to Sea World.

What I hope stands out is just how much Mike loves San Antonio. His focus isn’t just parroting the A-block on SportsCenter. He has strong opinions on the local taco places and has been known to invite listeners to join him at his favorite barbecue spot for lunch.

The interview does start with a lot of Spurs talk though. You should know that this conversation took place on April 10th, just as the Spurs had clinched a playoff spot and were yet to be kicked around by the Warriors.

DR: The Spurs finally clinched a playoff spot, but it was in question this season, probably longer than ever before. So, was this a new experience in covering the team for you?

MT: Yes. The goals are lowered and nowhere near as lofty as they usually are. It’s been weird covering what has just become another good team in the league and not the same old Spurs.

DR: So what have you had to do differently and how have listeners responded differently? I would imagine there are so many people in your audience that have known the Spurs as one of the NBA’s best teams for their entire adult life.

MT: That’s right. My oldest daughter is 20. This is the 21st straight year the team has clinched a playoff spot. She has no idea what it is like to not see them in the postseason.

It’s weird man. I’ve been here eleven years and I’ve never had to worry about things like lack of energy or locker room drama and players only meetings. It’s been like a soap opera this season, and maybe that is normal for other places, but we’ve just never had to deal with that down here.

The biggest difference is I have had to be so harsh. You have to keep it real though. This season I’m talking about coddling players and mystery trips to New York. It has been really different.

DR: Has this experience made you wistful for how easy things were before or did it make you realize how boring covering the Spurs had been?

MT: (Laughing) It depends on the day, man. If we’re light on content it’s great, but on days when I have other things I want to get to, I don’t have time for all of this drama.

This is a town that obviously loves the Spurs, and it loves the Cowboys. All of that red carpet treatment bullshit, we get our fill of that with the Cowboys. The appeal of our basketball team is the almost collegiate atmosphere. Guys are low key. They mostly stay off the grid. It’s been fun at times for radio, but it is weird for a fan.

DR: San Antonio isn’t the only market that has dealt with this. I am sure this is something that stations in Detroit and San Francisco have talked about too. We’re coming off the BSM summit where we had this panel of programmers talking about how it is important to separate politics from sports talk, even sometimes when the two worlds collide.

In San Antonio though, you have Gregg Popovich. He has been one of the most vocal voices for the resistance in the sports world. How much does that bleed into the sports show?

MT: At first a lot, because it was so out of nowhere. Every morning I would say “Wow! Did you hear Pop? Let’s play the audio.” It caught me off guard. His first rant was right after the election. By now though, I think the fans are tired of hearing it. Even the ones that really agree with him.

The team has struggled this year and I hear from fans, even the ones that agree with him, “Dude, you’re 14-25 on the road. Why don’t you talk about how we fix that?”. If they were winning all year and Kawhi Leonard wasn’t AWOL I don’t think it would be as polarizing.

It’s not like he can’t focus on his job and rip the president. A lot of us do that every day. Right now though, a reporter asks about the game and gets a 15 second throw away answer, but if someone has a question about Trump he’s got eight great minutes.

Keep in mind too that this is one of the reddest states in the country. San Antonio is a military city full of blue collar, conservative-type people. Even people that didn’t vote for Trump, you know, this is Texas. There are certain things we don’t talk about at the dinner table, and politics is one of them.

When it first happened you had people saying “I can’t believe he did that” and people that were calling me to say they were right there with him. Now it’s kind of grown tiresome. Not with me, but that is most of what I hear on Twitter and emails.

DR: It’s gone from “I can’t believe he did that” to “I can’t believe he is still doing this.”

MT: Yes! This team is the KGB of the NBA.

DR: Ironic.

MT: (Laughing) Yeah. Trump loves the Russians, and Pop hates Trump, but I joke with the beat writers that being around the team everyday has to be like covering the Kremlin. You get so little information about the team, and when he does answer questions you either get some vanilla, throw-away answer, a half-truth or a bold-faced lie.

DR: So, you’ve been there for 11 years. Do you feel like you’ve gotten to know Gregg Popovich at all? Have you spent any quality time with him? I understand he keeps a very tight inner circle.

MT: (Laughing) Absolutely not! He doesn’t like me very much, and that’s okay, because I know it’s nothing personal. When I was doing afternoons, I used to do the post-game show from the arena every home game. I used to try to get to the locker room right after the game. It got to the point that I just quit going in there.

I asked him some silly question about point guards one night. He looked at me like I was a jerk that had just asked about his dead relatives. Then he goes “Does anybody have any questions that make sense?” I thought “well geez, I thought that was a decent question.” But the next two games I went in there with completely different questions and got the exact same answer from him. “Does anybody have any questions that make sense? I’d be happy to answer them.”

He was delivering a message that he had no time for me or for the team broadcast. So that’s my only personal interaction with him. It was him treating me badly, and that’s okay. I had lunch with (Spurs GM) RC Buford once and it went well. He was great, but as far as Pop, absolutely not.

DR: So outside of the Spurs, I know you said San Antonio is wild about the Cowboys. What else moves the needle in your town?

MT: It depends. You can never really go wrong with college football. We have a lot of what I call “t-shirt Texas fans.” They don’t have a degree from there. They probably can’t tell you where a science building is on campus, but damn it, they’re Longhorns man! I’m sure you see a lot of that with Duke fans where you are.

DR: I graduated from Alabama. I see it when I’m here and when I go back there.

MT: Yeah, it exists here because San Antonio is about 60 minutes from the campus. So it’s UT football, the Spurs, the Cowboys and after that it is a crap shoot, man.

I don’t like to do a whole lot of national stuff, because I’m bookended by national shows. I want to keep it as local as possible. So thank God I have worked for managers in the decade plus that I’ve been in San Antonio that don’t care what I talk about. They just want to know if the needle is moving and if they can sell it.

My program director, who I have worked with for five years, has never once dictated content to me. That’s a luxury. I get that I am lucky in that regard. This morning we talked about McDonald’s handing out free food to kids getting ready to go take the STAR test. I can talk about whatever I want. There are listeners that get bummed when I do talk sports.

This time of year is great. We’ve got the playoffs, so that will be half the show. The other half will be literally whatever I want.

DR: How much did the Astros winning the World Series register in San Antonio?

MT: Only a little. It’s a terrible baseball town. There are baseball fans here, but not enough to do segments everyday. During the regular season I might do an Astros segment, but only if something extraordinary happens. I did a segment or two during the World Series last year, but it’s not like it was half the program.

DR: You talked about moving from afternoons to mornings. I’ve mostly done mornings in my career too and have always struggled with how to balance staying informed with getting enough sleep. How do you do that?

MT: Dude, honestly you just don’t. They moved me to mornings in 2013, so it’s been a minute. I was thinking about this today knowing you were going to call me. I think, unless you tell me otherwise, that I am the only solo morning host in a major or mid-major market that has to do things the way I do everyday.

It’s all me. Everything you hear out of the speakers in the morning is my work. I am the James Brown and the Howie Long of this show. I have to gather all of the info and form the opinions about all of it. I’ve got a board op who does a great job for me, but he is a part-time employee. I am the only full-time guy working on this show and it is hard.

I’m 43 years old and I’m not trying to be dramatic, but you read all this stuff about there being a certain amount of sleep you need per night or you will either have health problems or you’re going to die early. Man, that is the truth. I have these six year old twins, which I get aren’t the company’s problem, but it is hard to have kids that young at home and have to get up at 4 am.

You don’t want to sacrifice being a decent father and a decent husband, but you can’t skip out on the attention you have to give to prepping your show each day. So I try to keep my day down to a routine so I get to bed on time and am up at 4 AM to have time to catch up on what I missed.

It is a never ending ass-whip. Don’t get me wrong. I love the show. I love doing the show. It’s just all the stuff that leads up to it.

DR: So which have you decided is better, chronic health problems or early death?

MT: (Laughing) Leaving radio! I’m not trying to get myself in trouble here, and I don’t think I will. I’ve got like a year and a few weeks left on this deal I’m under. After that, I am not trying to continue doing the show this way.

At some point I am going to need a co-host or a full-time producer or a different time slot. Otherwise, I may have to get out, honestly. Like I said, I am 43. I’m lucky as hell. I love the people I work for. It’s that shift. It’s going to run me out of the business if I don’t get help.

I’m not saying I want to sleep until 5:30 and mail in the prep everyday. When you have some help, it becomes a different kind of prep. If I can get some help everyday and change my prep routine, then I could probably do 10-15 more years in mornings.

DR: You talked a little bit about your future. I wonder how much you think about iHeartradio’s future, given everything the company has been going through. You also have this weird element that most iHeart employees don’t. You’re right there at corporate headquarters.

MT: Yeah, you know, to corporate’s credit, they’ve pretty much left us alone. I think they know it would be unfair to use us as guinea pigs. If I hear from corporate, it is someone in sales or management reaching out to say they are a fan of what I’m doing. When I first got here there was that eye in the sky that I was afraid of, but I learned that I was going to be left alone.

I don’t fear getting fired or losing my job. Hell, the company owns 800 radio stations. The next biggest company I want to say is Cumulus, right? And they might own 400 stations.

DR: It is Cumulus and I think they own less than that. For some reason I want to say 325.

MT: And they fired chapter 11 too, did they not? So the problem is industry-wide. As long as I continue to have good ratings and make the company money, I’ll be fine.

That is the benefit of being the step-child station in the building. All of the pressure is on these big FMs and the news talker down the hall. It’s cheap to operate our station.

Everyone everywhere is having to change the way they operate. It wouldn’t shock me if in 3-4 years the company is a lot smaller, but I am going to continue to do my deal and not worry about it.

DR: Your wife works in the media too, right? TV news?

MT: Yeah. She is the news director for Spectrum here. It’s their local 24 hour news channel. It’s on in both San Antonio and Austin. It’s why we actually live in Austin.

She’s a rockstar man. She handles me and the kids. She puts up with my crazy schedule and she runs two news rooms. She’s a badass.

DR: So do you have any secrets to making a media marriage work? Between the schedules and sometimes being pulled in different directions professionally, can there be a blueprint at all or is the goal always “let’s just get through today”?

MT: Sometimes it’s both because the kids have crazy schedules too. Let’s just say I don’t get to go home and catch up on Netflix. There are a lot of domestic chores I have to get done everyday, and if I fall short, I have not done my job. My wife works so much. It’s a daily grind, from the x’s and o’s standpoint, but we love each other very much. That is never in question.

You gotta be willing to lose an argument, I guess. But doesn’t that go for every husband? Lose an argument, but you can’t placate her. If you just want to tap out of an argument, as long as it seems genuine, she’ll go for it.

DR: Because of that pull in opposite directions, there was a time that you were living in Green Bay, Wisconsin and still doing the show for San Antonio.

MT: Oof! Yes.

DR: Forget for a second that you were doing a show for a community that is always 60 degrees from a place where it is always -60 degrees. How did the show feel different to you during that time, and how did it sound different to the audience?

MT: Well, fortunately I had built a relationship with my people, who I call “Thunderdome.” That was around the time that we were traveling a lot with my wife’s work. Now finally we’re just about settled.

I don’t think it would have worked, except that I had already been there for five years at that point. If that had happened when I was only in San Antonio for a year or eighteen months, I don’t know that they would let me do it. Listeners would be more apt to say “To hell with that guy. What does he know about us? He moved!”.

My wife wouldn’t have taken the job if I wasn’t established in my job. We talked about it. We went to our respective managers. I sat down and said “I’m thinking about moving to Green Bay,” knowing they could have fired me. But they didn’t. They went out and got me my own gear and said “As long as you can get on the air everyday, go do your thing from wherever you need to do it.”

Thank God for the NBA package. I was able to watch Spurs games. I’m glad it happened in the internet age. You can do radio from space now if you really need to, and I’ve gotten used to doing the show abroad, because since we have started traveling for my wife’s job, we have lived in Green Bay, on the Texas coast, Austin, back to San Antonio, to a little town called Tyler, Texas, and back to Austin.

The key is my heart is always home. I live in Austin, but I can tell you fifty times more about what is going on in San Antonio. I just sleep in Austin. My heart is in San Antonio.

DR: I know you had that base of knowledge before you started moving around, but what do you do day to day to make sure you’re plugged in to the community and that the show sounds like a show in San Antonio in 2018?

MT: Well, again, thank God for the Internet. I read so much. I subscribe to our paper there. I have all of the local news station apps and will look at their newscasts as much as I can. We only live about 60 minutes away, which is not far, but not exactly close. I will go down there as much as I can.

Whenever I do go to town, I try to make sure I do something funny. Maybe make a video at some landmark or go downtown. Any time I’m there I try to mention where I’ll be eating lunch.

I do all that because we don’t have a marketing budget. My show is a word of mouth show. We don’t do topics unless they are based in San Antonio, and if I do talk about something that’s happening outside of the city, it’s gotta have a local angle. You bring it back to San Antonio and talk about it in a way that people here are talking about it.

It’s a big city with all different types of people. There are a lot of transplants, so you can get away with not being 100% local all the time. I’ve been on air there for so long though that I have a really good feel for it.

DR: Neilsen says the market is 53% Hispanic. Does that have an influence on your show at all? I don’t mean “are you talking soccer?”. I mean does it change the way you deliver content?

MT: Of course. I’m half Mexican, thank God! I like to joke that I’m a Mexican when it’s convenient. I only turn white when there’s a cop around.

I’m kidding. But if you listen to my show, you’ll hear a lot of Hispanic discussion. I try not to alienate white guys or black guys or anyone that simply doesn’t care, but it’s there. You’ll here a lot of Spanglish. We have to do a cartel report every couple of weeks, because unfortunately I am able to kill a segment with who got their head chopped off near the border, which is only 90 miles to the south.

I have a lot of regular callers and characters that are Mexican. Sometimes I’ll slip into the stereotype for the joke, and it’s genuine. I can get away with it because my mom is Mexican and I know what I’m talking about. I grew up with and around Hispanic people.

Yes, I have absolutely made an effort to make that culture a part of my show, because it is such an important part of this community and of my audience. I go and do a remote, and I’ll tell you, when people come out, it’s way more than 53%, brother.

DR: Does that put a limit on just how successful the show can be? Not the way you do it, I mean, but the fact that the market is 53% Hispanic.

MT: I think so. The details of the are demographic studies and information that are way above my head, but if I got hired tomorrow to do a radio show in Chicago, I’d have to change things up.

When I got the interview for this job, I told the bosses that my show was going to be any and all things local. That’s what I want to be. First, I am any and all things Texas and after that it is any and all things San Antonio.

If I got fired tomorrow and then found a job doing radio in Oklahoma, the first thing I would do is learn Oklahoma history and get my hands on anything I could not just about Oklahoma sports, but the culture. You have to relate to the audience in local radio, man.

DR: When my partner and I first got to Raleigh, I was in rock radio at the time. The way we learned the market was we took the morning guy on the country station in the building out for lunch. He was a native and had been on air there for 20 years and we just said “okay, tell us everything.” How did you do that in San Antonio?

MT: I did the same thing. I just walked around the building and asked everyone “Tell me where to go” and then I went. I wasn’t trying to bullshit anybody like I knew the place before I knew the place.

Even on air I was honest. I’d say “I’m from Ft. Worth. All I know is Sea World and the Alamo. What else should I know?”

DR: (Laughing) Wait, is Sea World still there?

MT: Barely. There’s no killer whale shows.

DR: Then why the hell is it still there?

MT: Well, it’s mean to make them jump through hoops. So now you just go look at them in a tank.

DR: Oh. That makes more sense. I thought you were saying that all the animals were just gone. If you think about it it is kinda mean to make them jump through hoops.

MT: Yeah. You can still go walk around and see dolphin shows and sea lion shows, but it’s a dump. It’s still there. The Alamo is still there. I already knew about all that.

What I wanted was to go eat at a restaurant where I might get hepatitis. Tell me the local places, the pure blood Mexican places, the holes in the wall. I want to go there.

That’s what I sold them on in the interview. I am going to indoctrinate myself in this city. I’ll be able to run for city council in a year.

BSM Writers

Meet The Market Managers: Ryan Hatch, Bonneville International Phoenix

“Our pitch is that these brands have a connection to the market. That works for us, and that works because it’s emotional. It works because it’s local. It works because of the creative messaging behind it.”

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For as long as I have known Ryan Hatch, he has been a good friend, encouraging me to take advantage of each opportunity put in front of me. When someone treats you that way, you cannot be anything but thrilled when you see them do the same thing.

Late last year, Ryan was elevated from a programming executive role with Bonneville to become Market Manager of the company’s Phoenix cluster. He is now overseeing every aspect of a building that he has worked in for a long time.

I thought it would be fun to visit with him to see what has changed. The last time I profiled him, he was serving as PD of Arizona Sports 98.7. The last time we profiled Bonneville Phoenix for this series, it was Scott Sutherland in the Market Manager’s chair. So, what has changed?

In this conversation, presented by Point to Point Marketing, Ryan and I discuss the changing nature of our business, retaining great talent, and supporting the person who’s tasked with filling your former position and leading the programming team forward. When a company is ahead of the curve with its digital strategy and generating strong ratings and revenue, what’s next?


Demetri Ravanos: So how has the transition gone moving from programming into the market manager’s seat? We’re a little over six months into the change. How steep has the learning curve been?

Ryan Hatch: You know what? It’s been fantastic. And I have to give so much credit to Scott Sutherland, who was in the chair before me, and others within the company for really preparing me for this moment. But it’s not just a transition from programming. I would think even if I came up through the sales, marketing or finance side there would be a curve.              

I’m learning new things every single day and loving it. So whether it’s six months or six years in this chair or more, I hope that I can always say that.                    

I love the job. I love the market. Obviously, you know, I’ve been here for such a long time and it’s the best chair to be in. I’m thrilled. 

DR: You mentioned Scott and I started thinking about this after you and I set a time to talk. There’s this advantageous environment of education there, right? Because Scott is still in the area. He held your job before. You’re obviously in the building and that’s got to be advantageous for Sean Thompson. How much do those conversations take place day-to-day? There seems to be an opportunity for everybody to learn and build on the person that came before them because they can just walk down the hall and ask. 

RH: Absolutely it can be advantageous because you’ve got institutional knowledge. Every person that’s been in your chair before can certainly provide important information to help expedite the onboarding process.              

The other side of it is making sure that there are clear boundaries. I can speak with Sean Thompson coming in on the programming side. My goal is to empower him and embolden Sean to take this brand to a different level with new ideas and thoughts.           

I’d been in that chair for so long, we were certainly ready for somebody new to come in with a new perspective and new experiences, and Sean’s done a wonderful job doing that. I think if you talk to Scott, he would probably say something similar. So when you ask the question, “is it advantageous?”, the answer is unquestionable. Yes, it is. At the same time, you have to really be clear on where those boundaries are, how much you want to give and share, and how much you want to let that person learn and experience it on their own as they’re creating their new environment, if that makes sense. 

DR: So with those boundaries, are there things you see Sean putting into place that make you think, “Oh man, that’s really cool. I kind of miss programing at this moment”? 

RH: Well, the irony is in asking that question, I think today is actually his 90th day on the job. So we’re still in the basic stages of him taking that chair.                   

He’s full of ideas, full of energy. I can’t wait to see so much of it come to fruition. But again, when you’re only three months in, you’re doing a lot of listening and a lot of learning before you dig in to start making change. I expect that to come, but he walked into a position with a great on-air staff, fantastic talent, an unbelievable digital team, with a great marketing and promotional support team behind him as well.                       

I’ll tell you what I’m most excited about is what’s going to happen this fall. After the listening and the learning is done, we’ll be starting to really build some exciting plans into the NFL season around the Cardinals and the NFL. We’re also hosting the Super Bowl in February of ’23 as well. So we’ve got a great big build coming here in Arizona. 

DR: So let’s talk a little bit about the future and where things can go, not just for Phoenix, but for Bonneville overall. I told you this a million times. What has always impressed me about the company, even before you and I got to know each other, was that you guys were so ahead of the curve on recognizing the value of digital content. Arizona Sports is not a radio station, it is a brand.             

I wonder now that you are in the market manager’s chair, how you look at all of the money from these different companies being put into podcasts. I mean, the deals being made to turn podcasts into TV shows or movies, do you ever think about what is possible or maybe what the next evolution for the digital side of Bonneville could or should be? 

RH: Well, I think as a company, and not to speak for Tanya Vea, who’s in a new EVP position helping oversee a lot of our content initiatives, we’re opening up a mechanism for local ideas to be funneled up to a team led by our VP of Podcasting, Sheryl Worsley. The idea is to be able to support a local that might scale on a national level and help it achieve that potential. I think that we’re very aggressive. I think that we’re also very strategic in the podcasting world.              

There’s a blessing and a curse there. The blessing is that that audience is expanding rapidly and the revenue’s been following, you know, slowly, but still following in that direction. The downside is how much time and energy and creativity a lot of our best talent have.                 

Do we want to put our talk show hosts, who are spending 4 hours a day creating live broadcast content, at the forefront of that effort? How many more hours a day of creative juice do they have left for a podcast or a passion project? It could be something that might not be entirely complimentary to the brand.                          

I think you have to be smart and strategic and understand how big of a bed it is you want to make. I think we’re being strategic about it and making the best decision for each individual circumstance. 

DR: So what about from a broadcast angle? As podcasting continues to grow and becomes the kind of thing that sellers see as easier to get clients involved with, what are the things that terrestrial radio is going to have to do to secure its own future? 

RH: Well, speaking on behalf of our properties here, where we’re all local news and all local sports. Really, that’s our business. I don’t think that there’s anything that can replicate the power of live, in the moment, information-based content. And that is the value proposition that broadcast has.                

Now, will that traditional radio audience continue to decline and find other venues? Potentially. I mean, that’s just natural, and I think that we’ve seen that accelerate through the pandemic. That doesn’t take away from the importance though.                         

If you look at Bonneville Phoenix, whether it’s Arizona Sports or KTAR, our streaming numbers are way, way up. Our monthly app users are way, way up. Our smart speaker usage is way, way up. And I think too many times we categorize one as digital and one as radio. I look at it more through the lens of what is a live broadcast and what is driven by more destination-based, story-based, topic-based choices. That’s a different experience and you can serve both. 

DR: What is your view of having that live content accessed by both radios and streaming devices? When you’re a programmer, I think it is it is easier to say, “Look, people are coming to this content. This is good content. That is what matters.” But now that you’re the market manager, I know you are a real advocate for total line reporting, but now the ratings take on this whole different meaning to you than they did before. What is your view of the right path forward to paint that picture easily and accurately for advertisers about just how powerful these brands are, whether it’s Arizona Sports or KTAR? 

RH: Thank goodness we have fantastic sales management and account executives on the streets telling that story and big brands to back them up with that unique content that our stations are delivering. And as I’ve told you in different settings over the years Demetri, Nielsen is one of many tools that tell that story. When we’re on the streets talking to a potential advertiser, and understand that our game is not as national or our market is not as regional, we are hyper-locally focused. In Phoenix, Arizona, that’s a lot of small to medium-sized businesses. So when we can walk in and share a total audience report that gives a glimpse of Nielsen, which we know is antiquated and really, really needs to be reformed and updated. You’ve got to bring your Google Analytics and your Triton numbers. You have so many other tools to use to evaluate how our content is being delivered and consumed. You’ve got to paint that entire total audience story, and I will tell you that it’s a story that is very well received in Phoenix with our products. 

DR: Maybe this is more of a question for your sales staff, but is it a matter of walking potential advertisers and current advertisers through each individual number, or do you find a way to synthesize it down into a simple illustration of how many people are listening to your content every day? 

RH: It’s not a numbers game. It’s not getting into detail about how many tens of thousands of listeners we have on one platform and how many on another and how many views or clicks on websites. Our pitch is that these brands have a connection to the market. That works for us, and that works because it’s emotional. It works because it’s local. It works because of the creative messaging behind it. When you have something that works for your advertisers, they’re not going to be coming in and scrutinizing the numbers left and right.                      

Now, you have to deliver to the audience, and we have significant audiences. In fact, I’ll tell you right now, combining everything together. And it’s not apples to apples, because these are all different channels. But our audience is here in Phoenix between our websites, our apps, and our radio distribution. Our audiences have never been better. I mean, that’s a wonderful and easy story to tell. 

DR: Play-by-play is obviously a big part of what you do on Arizona Sports. You and I have talked before about the landscape of Phoenix sports, and I think you’ve described it as, because Phoenix is a transplant market, you find yourself talking about everyone’s second favorite team.            

So how does that play with advertisers? Do they buy into the idea that this is a unifying thing or is there some concern that it is too much of a transplant market for the value returned by play-by-play doesn’t match the cost to advertise in that space? 

RH: Our original franchise, the Phoenix Suns, while, they had a disappointing end of the season, it couldn’t have been more galvanizing. That is the one team that has been here for 50-plus years. That orange blood does run deep. The Cardinals have had their moments. The Diamondbacks have the only championship in the major sports here, but that was back in 2001.             

I’ll answer that question in a couple of ways. Number one, we are catering to the fans and to the super fans, but we try to create content that is going to be accessible and interesting for those that would claim that any of the franchises are their second favorite team in a given league. When you move into a market and you head to the office or nowadays maybe it’s a Zoom call, you still want to be able to have a conversation about something that’s relevant. You want a shared experience with your coworker or a neighbor, somebody at school when you’re hanging out waiting to up the kids. So often that conversation is sports.                        

We have a fantastic sports market. Now, where’s the passion level? Is it as high as a Boston or Philadelphia? Of course not and we’re not going to act like it is. But at the end of the day, what does an advertiser look for? They’re looking for an audience and they’re looking for something exclusive to put their message on. That’s what we’re able to offer with our play-by-play. On top of that, what’s become more and more important to us in our model, especially on the digital side over the years, is the access to those decision-makers, to the coaches, the exclusive access to the general managers with weekly calls, and things like player shows.                 

There’s so much more that you can offer beyond just the game itself that makes these partnerships great for our business and the advertising community. 

DR: So coming out of what is being called The Great Resignation, what are you experiencing as a market manager and what are your other hiring managers experiencing? What are the new challenges of recruiting, whether it is sales or programing, any kind of talent in an environment like this? 

RH: Well, let’s add to that and talk about inflationary pressures as well. I mean, there are so many factors at play right now, and I think it’s as tough as I can ever remember it.                 

What we’re doing here at Bonneville Phoenix is really leaning into our culture and making sure that we’re an employer of choice because we have a culture that people want to be a part of. It’s a good team environment full of hungry people that want to succeed not just for themselves. So the more hungry, humble, and smart people we find, the better off we’re going to be.

Now, that doesn’t mean that we haven’t lost. There’s been a dramatic shuffle. Right now, I can say that we’re close to a full boat, but that wasn’t the case a month ago. There are so many different forces at play right now. It is a difficult environment. Our news side alone faces unique challenges. News itself has been under attack for multiple years. Don’t you think that burns people out?           

Absolutely I have concerns, but what can we control? Well, we can focus on executing the vision that Bonneville has provided. It’s built on passionate people and innovation. It is about creating a culture people want to be a part of. 

DR: We’ve heard a lot about burnout when people talk about why they leave a job in any industry. We hear about work-life balance. You’re responsible for the entire building, so what are you telling your managers on the sales and programming side about creating an environment for employees that respects that those are real and valid concerns while still maintaining the level of expectation of quality for Arizona Sports and KTAR. 

RH:  We’re still committed to the highest standards, and we always will be. And we found that certain parts of the business can work pretty effectively from home, while other parts of the business really can’t. I will tell you, on the content side working from home, we did it when we had to. We did it, I would say fairly effectively for a few extended periods. But overall, in a local news and local sports environment that really is driven by the breaking news, the need to work together in a space is real. You just can’t do things as quickly or as effectively or as creatively if you’re separated. You just can’t.                  

Now, on the sales side, we want them on the streets. We want them out of the office, but there is a balance. So what are we asking our great sales managers to do? We’re asking them just to make sure that they are up to speed on where the activity is and that we’re doing all the jobs that need to be done. Do I ever see us going back to five days a week in the office? I don’t. I think that ship has sailed and I think that’s just fine. I think there’s some real benefit to that.  

The way to make this all work is to empower our department heads to come up with a plan that’s going to work best for them, for their people, and deliver on what our expectations are for the business. And then as leaders, we have to understand that the plan is going to be evolving. It really is. This is not going to be decided on a new policy set. I think that we’re in a new world, probably for the rest of our lives. 

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BSM Writers

Broadcasting Fills The Baseball Void For Keith Moreland

“When I got through… I wanted to do something with my life and I get that same feeling with broadcasting.”

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Austin American-Statesman

Sports color analysts are more often than not former players. This has been a consistent norm across sports broadcasting at all levels. The analyst is there to add “color” to the play-by-play broadcaster’s metaphorical and verbal “drawing” of the game. For former MLB slugger and catcher, Keith Moreland, this was the surprise post-playing retirement career that has boosted him to a key figure in Austin media and national media alike.

Moreland played football and baseball at the University of Texas before making his way to the MLB for 12 years with key contributions to the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs in the 1980s.

Moreland reminisced on his decision to play baseball full time: “I thought I was going to be in the NFL, but Earl Campbell changed that. I had just played summer ball. We had won a championship and I missed the first few days of two-a-days. I hadn’t even had a physical yet and I’m in a scrimmage. I stepped up to this freshman running back and as he ducked his shoulder, one of his feet hit my chest and the other hit my face mask and he kept on truckin’. I got up and I thought ‘I could be a pretty good baseball player.’

So I told Coach Royal after practice I was going to focus on baseball and he asked ‘what took you so long? We were surprised you came back because we think you have a really good shot at playing professional baseball.'”

It was a good choice for Moreland. He was part of the 1973 College World Series winning Texas Longhorns baseball team. While at Texas Moreland hit .388 and became the all-time leader in hits for the College World Series. After being drafted by the Phillies in the 7th round of the 1975 draft, Moreland would go-on to play in the majors from 1978 to 1989.

“You go your whole life trying to get to play professionally. When I got through my opportunity to play in the big leagues, I wanted to do something with my life and I get that same feeling with broadcasting.”

Broadcasting was not the original retirement plan for Moreland. He first tried his luck at coaching with his first stop being his alma mater as an assistant for the Longhorns. At the time, Bill Schoening (a Philadelphia native and Phillies fan), was the radio play-by-play broadcaster. Schoening made Moreland a go-to for a pre-game interview and convinced him to come on talk shows. Schoening even convinced Moreland to practice live broadcasting skills by taking a recorder to games and listening back to them to learn.

“Bill was the guy who brought me onboard and I still have those tapes and I really learned from them, but I don’t want anyone else to ever hear them!” Moreland adds with a chuckle on how far he has come in over 25 years of broadcasting.

Moreland has been a key part of University of Texas radio broadcasts for baseball since the 1990s and has catapulted that broadcast experience to Texas high school football, Longhorn football radio and television broadcasts, ESPN, the Little League World Series, the Chicago Cubs and more since hanging up his cleats and picking up a microphone.

While his playing days are well behind him, Moreland still takes the spirit of his professional athlete background to his broadcasting:

“If you don’t bring energy to your broadcast, somebody’s gonna turn the game on and wonder ‘what’s wrong? Are they losing the game?’”, Moreland remarks, “So you have to come prepared and with energy for the broadcasts.”

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BSM Writers

Radio Partnerships With Offshore Sportsbooks Are Tempting

The rush to get sports betting advertising revenue offers an interesting risk to stations in states where the activity is illegal.

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Maryland Matters

As the wave of sports gambling continues to wash over the United States, marketing budgets soar and advertisements flood radio and television airwaves. Offers of huge sign-on bonuses, “risk-free” wagers, and enhanced parlay odds seem to come from every direction as books like DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM fight over market share and battle one another for every new user they can possibly attract.

For those in states where sports betting is not yet legalized–or may never be–it is frustrating to see these advertisements and know that you cannot get in the action. However, as with any vice, anybody determined to partake will find ways to do so. Offshore sports books are one of the biggest ways. Companies such as Bovada and BetOnline continue to thrive even as more state-based online wagering options become available to Americans.

While five states–Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, and New York–have passed laws making it illegal for offshore books to take action from their residents, using an offshore book is perfectly legal for the rest of the country. While there are hurdles involved with funding for some institutions, there is no law that prevents someone in one of those other 45 states from opening an account with Bovada and wagering on whatever sporting events they offer. The United States government has tried multiple times to go after them, citing the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006, and have failed at every step, with the World Trade Organization citing that doing so would violate international trade agreements. 

While gambling is becoming more and more accepted every day, and more states look to reap the financial windfall that comes with it, the ethical decisions made take on even more importance. One of the tougher questions involved with the gambling arms race is how to handle offers from offshore books to advertise with radio stations in a state where sports betting is not legalized. 

Multiple stations in states without legalized gambling, such as Texas and Florida, have partnerships with BetOnline to advertise their services. Radio stations can take advantage of these relationships in three main ways: commercials, on-air reads, and the station’s websites. For example, Bovada’s affiliate program allows for revenue sharing based on people clicking advertisements on a partner’s website and signing up with a new deposit. This is also the case for podcasts, such as one in Kansas that advertises with Bovada despite sports gambling not being legal there until later in 2022.

People are going to gamble, and it’s legal to do so. In full disclosure, I myself have utilized Bovada’s services for a number of years, even after online sports wagering became legal in my state of Indiana. As such, advertising a service that is legal within the state seems perfectly fine in the business sense, and I totally understand why a media entity would choose to accept an offer from an offshore book. However, there are two major factors that make it an ethical dilemma, neither of which can be ignored.

First, Americans may find it easy to deposit money with a book such as Bovada or BetOnline, but much more difficult to get their money back. While the UIGEA hasn’t been successful in stopping these books from accepting money, it has made it difficult–near impossible, in fact–for American financial institutions to accept funds directly from these companies. Therefore, most payouts have to take place either via a courier service, with a check that can take weeks to arrive, or via a cryptocurrency payout. For those who are either unwilling or not tech-savvy enough to go this route, it means waiting sometimes up to a month to receive that money versus a couple days with a state-licensed service.

The other major concern is the lack of protections involved with gambling in a state where legislation has been passed. For example, the state of Indiana drew up laws and regulations for companies licensed to operate within its borders that included protections for how bets are graded, what changes can be made to lines and when they can take place, and how a “bad line” is handled. They also require a portion of the revenues be put towards resources for those dealing with gambling addiction or compulsion issues. 

None of those safeguards exist with an offshore book. While the books have to adhere to certain regulations, it’s much more loosely enforced. I’ve lost track of the number of times a book like Bovada has made somewhat shady decisions on what bets to honor as “wins”, and how they handle wagers on what they deem to be “bad lines” where they posted a mistake and users capitalized on it. Furthermore, not a single dime of the monies received go towards helping those dealing with addiction, and there are few steps taken by the offshore books to look for compulsive or addictive behaviors.  

As states look to move sports betting out of the shadows, the decision whether to take advertising dollars from offshore books seems to be an even larger gray area than ever before. Although it is perfectly legal to accept these funds when offered, it feels unethical to do so. There are moral obligations tied to accepting the money involved, especially given the lack of regulations and safeguards for players in addition to the limited resources for those who find themselves stuck in a situation they may struggle to escape. While it’s possible to take steps to educate listeners on these pitfalls, it simply feels irresponsible to encourage people to utilize these services given the risks involved, and the lack of protections in place.

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