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A Conversation with Christopher Gabriel

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It’s 4:00 a.m. inside a smoky bar somewhere in Queens, New York. The year is 1986 and just like a scene straight out of a Martin Scorsese film, a crowd of rough and downright scary individuals with unorthodox ways of making money, have flooded into the after-hours establishment. The bartender, 28-year-old Christopher Gabriel, knew he didn’t need to be mixing it up or getting involved with the type of people he’s serving scotch to. However, the struggling actor needed money way more than he needed a lecture on who to be hanging around. 

The former Chicago sports nut never saw his life taking this drastic of a turn. Just a decade earlier, Gabriel was majoring in broadcast journalism at Temple University in Philadelphia, with the vision of being an anchor for the evening news. Far removed from the life of getting paid “under the table” to serve drinks in a shady bar. Trips to Wrigley Field, Soldier Field and Comiskey Park filled his childhood, but Gabriel’s desired career path didn’t begin with the intent on covering the athletes he grew up watching. In Gabriel’s eyes, the sports business just didn’t seem have the same draw as being a news anchor.

Fate seems to work in mysterious ways. Gabriel would learn that early on at Temple. While hosting his college radio show, a loud commotion came from the theatre office next door, totally throwing off what he had planned to deliver over the air waves that day. In a rage to see what had derailed his show, Gabriel stormed into the theatre office to confront whoever was responsible. What he found, was a woman behind the desk suggesting he would be perfect for the one of the roles in an upcoming show. After initially being caught by surprise, Gabriel agreed to an audition where he showed instant talent. The rest was history.

Gabriel’s change of fate would land him from Philadelphia all the way to Los Angeles to chase his newly found passion of being a theatre major at USC. By the summer of his last semester, he was back on the east coast in New York City where his acting career took flight. From there, Gabriel began to get casted in commercials as well as receiving Under-5 work, meaning he was given five lines or less on soap operas, including a recurring role on the hit show All My Children. A project known as the 1983 Commercial Olympics became Gabriel’s big break as he and the four other actors involved all signed with agents. Soon after, he would be performing in places such as the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland and working on stage with esteemed talent such as James Earl Jones and Julie Harris. 

Though he experienced the highs of working as both an actor and in theatre, he also suffered the lows. Trying constantly to make ends meet during his 20-year stint in New York City, Gabriel took jobs as a cook, caterer, bartender or anything else he could to make money. Every day was a grind and it was starting to take its toll.  

His escape wasn’t different than most males during the 90’s in New York City. While always keeping his passion for sports, Gabriel became enamored with Mike and The Mad Dog on WFAN. So much so, that the thought of doing sports radio crept into his mind for the first time in his life. A trip to Montreal for a Candiens playoff game would end with Gabriel stopping on the side of the road at 1:00 in the morning to call WFAN overnight host Steve Summers just to hear himself over the radio and to enjoy a few moments of sports talk. Sports on the radio had always been a big part of Gabriel’s life, but WFAN along with Mike and The Mad Dog would fuel a passion for the business that he never had before. 

In Gabriel’s words, trying to make a living off being in theatre is truly a grind. The process of getting an audition in New York City would start as early as 5:30 in the morning without the guarantee of even getting an opportunity. After over 100 plays across the country, complete with thousands of hours of auditioning and rehearsing, Gabriel found himself burnt out and needing a fresh, new creative challenge. After a role in Tuesdays with Morrie, he met Mitch Albom, who later invited him to work on a production called “Duck Hunter Shoots Angel” at Jeff Daniels’ Purple Rose Theatre Company in Detroit. Over a cup of coffee, Gabriel voiced his frustrations about the grind of the theatre business with Albom. It’s then, when Gabriel found fate again. Albom suggested talk radio to Gabriel as a potential avenue to explore and even became a mentor to his success in the business. At the age of 47, Gabriel’s career in radio was finally about to begin. 

January 6th, 2006 became Gabriel’s first day as an intern at the formerly 100.3 KTLK in Minneapolis. At the time, the running joke across the station was that he was the oldest intern in radio. That may have been true. However, Gabriel immediately fell into a good situation by serving as a producer for the Pat Kessler Show. Pat opened up the whole world to Gabriel by letting him do a number of things within the show. His big break would come almost two months later on March 5th, as Minnesota mourned the passing of Twins legend Kirby Puckett. As the news broke, nobody was available at KTLK or its sister station KFAN to do a live hit from the Metrodome. That’s when KFAN program director Doug Westerman gave Gabriel his big chance by giving him the assignment on arguably the biggest sports figure in Minneapolis’ history. Not sure if he was ready or even capable, Gabriel was sweating nervously all the way to the Metrodome as he delivered an 8-minute report that turned out to be excellent. From there, more opportunities came along such as being selected by Andrew Zimmern, host of the TV show Bizarre Foods, to produce and contribute on-air for his show. 

Zimmern quickly took a liking to Gabriel’s work ethic and on-air talent. When it came time to travel the world to shoot new episodes of Bizarre Foods, the station wanted hosts such as Bobby Flay, Alton Brown or even Rachel Ray to host the show in Zimmern’s absence. But Zimmern fought for Gabiel to host while he was overseas. Management soon agreed and Gabriel now had the opportunity he was waiting on. There was just one problem. 

The on-air light flashed in front of Gabriel in studio as he set to host for the first time. The intro came to an end and…nothing. All was dead quiet. It was his time to shine, but Gabriel didn’t know what to say. He completely froze. That’s when his producer came over his ear and reminded Gabriel he now had to talk. Though he was 47 years old, he quickly experienced his ‘welcome to the business moment.’

Gabriel would host every brokered show that was offered on KTLK. Gardening shows, shows for motivational speakers, he did it all. The drive and work ethic that landed him so many acting and theatre opportunities had carried over into radio. All Gabriel wanted to do was get in front of a mic, learn from his mistakes and get into the business. He was going to do whatever it took to make that happen. 

After hosting any and every kind of show imaginable, Gabriel finally had a reel he could send to other stations around the country. In his words, he sent his resume and reel to everyone he could think of, including stations in Guam. He didn’t care where he was sending it, as long as people were listening to it. 

One station that was willing to listen was 970 WDAY in Fargo, North Dakota. On the air since 1922, WDAY was one of the first 35 stations in the United States. After several days of auditioning in May of 2009, Gabriel was offered a job on his birthday as an on-air host. Though it was a jump to another news talk station, Gabriel spent 6 years in Fargo as he dabbled, amongst many other topics, with North Dakota State athletics and Minneapolis pro sports on his show, which gave him the entry into sports radio.   

Gabriel’s time in Fargo came to an end after he was offered a job at a political station in Fresno, Calif., at Power Talk 96.7. However, the fit never matched and the two separated after 53 weeks. Though it was his first set back in the radio business, Gabriel considers it one of the best things that ever happened to him, because it allowed him to fill-in at numerous stations across the country. 

If you take anything away from this story, take away what last August proved to be for Gabriel. It’s never too late to chase what you truly love and are passionate about. When 940 ESPN in Fresno came calling, it was a dream realized. From being the kid that listened to every Chicago sports team on the radio to the 30-year-old that escaped his daily problems by listening to WFAN in New York City, Gabriel was now fulfilling a dream. Though it took him 59 years to make his dream possible, the long journey he took to the host seat at 940 ESPN is unlike any other in the business. Not only is Gabriel a success story, he’s an incredible story of perseverance that should be celebrated across the sports radio community. 

Today, you can hear Gabriel living out his passion on weekdays from 3-6 p.m. on 940 ESPN in Fresno.

TM: Let’s say you were able to bump into the 28-year-old version of yourself that was bartending in Queens. What do you think he would say to you if you told him in just over 30 years he’d be doing a sports radio show? 

CG: He would say, you’re pretty cocky to think you’re ever going to be able to do that. But you better learn some skills on getting in front of a microphone, because it’s not going to be like it is on stage. That’s what he would say. However, I’ve found out there’s not a whole lot of difference. As a sports talk show host, my job is to engage people, to entertain and inform them. My job is to tell stories and that’s essentially what we do in theatre. The only difference, is that I always envision doing it to one person instead of standing in front 1,500 people. 

TM: Do you think hosting gardening shows, shows with motivational speakers and other unusual programming helped you out a lot as a show host, in the sense that, if I can do that, I can do anything? 

CG: I thought, sure, I can do this. If I can do these kind of shows, then piece of cake. But what I learned is it’s not easy or a piece of cake. I’ve always been big on prep and you have to be prepped for wherever a conversation might take you. When I was doing gardening shows and I was talking to motivational speakers, I thought I was going to get in there and make jokes and entertain…no. This was much more serious than I thought it was. We have a great time and have a lot of fun but it’s much more serious than I thought it was and much more difficult. My respect level for this industry and the people who do it well, it just went through the roof because it requires so much preparation and the ability to think on your feet. Just like on stage, when the other person screws up, you’re the one that has to pick things up and carry it on. 

TM: You speak to a lot of groups and classes about your journey. What’s the message you really want to get across? 

CG: I really feel strongly that you have to be a person of your own convictions. You have to follow your passions and you cannot let anyone else validate or invalidate what it is you’re doing and where it is you’re trying to go. Only you know the journey you’re on. Only you know the limits you have and how to burst through them. Early in my radio career, I had a person once tell me that I’d never get a daily hosting job, it’ll take at least 10 years. Well, it took 3 years, 5 months and 2 days. That number 352 is inside my head. What I tell young students is that you have to be focused and have a mentality that allows you to get to your desired destination. There’s off ramps but there’s also always on ramps.

Some people don’t, but I look at my age as a bonus. I’ve been able to live in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Fargo and now Fresno. With more age comes more experience and hopefully I’m able to apply that. 

TM: What’s the best advice you received during your journey in radio?

CG: It would be from a host that told me, “be selected in your savagery.” What he meant was, you better be careful if you’re the ranting host. If you do that too much, people aren’t going to pay attention. You need to find layers of depth and go further and further. Don’t take the easy way out, find the nuance of the story and really press something out. Ask the questions your guests aren’t expecting. When you feel like going off on every caller – don’t. Be selective on how you handle things. It’s been great advice for me. 

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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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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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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