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A Cold Dose of Radio Reality: Sales Remix

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This week, I’m going to attempt to be the first person, I think, to ever write a column-in-a-column (this has probably been done thousands of times).  Earlier in the day, Jason Barrett penned a column on the site called “The Cold Dose of Radio Reality” which is a good piece on the business side of radio, especially for younger people in the business to read.  To make it a little more related to sales, I thought I would go through and make some notes on Jason’s column:

It’s hard sometimes not to become jaded if you work in the radio business. The more time you spend time in it, the more you discover that it’s not just about watching and talking about sports. The newspapers and industry trades at times paint a gloomy picture of what’s happening, leaving you to wonder about the stability of your career. Then as you improve at your craft and command more respect and warrant higher compensation, you learn why the word ‘business’ is included in your industry’s profile description.

Radio is, most definitely, a business.  For the larger companies it is BIG business and there are BIG expectations.  Yes, it’s radio, it’s the entertainment industry, but like any other business it all ultimately comes down to dollars and cents (or is it sense?).  And, while we all know the real story, the reality is two of our largest companies in the industry did file for bankruptcy, so it was easy for that to become the story. 

Now, we all have to do our part to change the narrative and focus on all of the positives…one client, one agency at a time.  The good news for us, is that when we improve our craft, the higher compensation comes with it!

One of the most common mistakes people make in radio is believing that their contributions to a company entitles them to something greater. Managers believe the brands they run are ‘their radio stations’ and the hosts, producers and contributing members all feel their presence and value to a brand is vital and difficult to replace. Their contributions certainly do matter, especially to those they work with, but in the grand scheme of everything, we’re all still replaceable parts. Some may have greater value, but none of us are irreplaceable.

How many times have you heard someone who’s young and on the way up in their career complain about the money, long hours, and lack of attention they receive from their employer? There’s this belief that their hard work should be recognized, radio should reward its people better, and more TLC should be provided by bosses.

It might be a wise thing to do if you want to retain good employees, but does an employer owe you that? They do not. A company’s primary responsibility is to make sure your check clears every two weeks, and provide you with access to the building to showcase your talent either on-air or behind the scenes during the hours you’re assigned to work.

If you’re smart, you’ll appreciate and take advantage of every single rep because experience benefits you no matter where you go in the future. As we all know, the only thing guaranteed in radio is that something will eventually change. Many people desire to work in this industry, so there’s always going to be someone standing behind you wanting what you have and willing to accept the position at a fraction of the cost.

The key words here from Jason are “none of us are irreplaceable.”  Like the programming side, we have our superstars, too.  There are sellers who are the best at what they do and while you would absolutely hate to lose them, the fact of the matter is you’d recover.  The best possible thing you can do to protect yourself in this business, no matter which side of the building you are on, is to have those air tight relationships – be the person who brings the money (or the audience) along with them, however, while that makes your position very strong, it’s not irreplaceably strong.

Too often I hear complaints about the way companies operate. A host may not like what they’re being asked to focus on from a content standpoint or they may feel restricted from using specific words or tackling certain stories. Producers bitch about the pay, demands of the job, and hours involved to tackle each task. Programmers become frustrated when companies push self-serving initiatives on them, market managers meddle with their product, and corporate folks limit their ability to hire or retain good people.

In many cases I’ve agreed with their concerns, but whether I think they’re right or not, it’s still about convincing those above you to reevaluate a situation because they ultimately have the final say. There is no Mr. Cumulus, Mr. Entercom or Mr. iHeart standing in your way. There are people tasked with representing each company and looking out for its business interests, even if it means halting your plans and complicating your situation.

Stop it.  All of us, just stop it.  When you go to work for a company, you play by their rules.  Now, if you disagree with something happening or have suggestions on how to improve certain aspects of the job, prepare a “case” and make yourself heard.  You have to go in, though, knowing that you might get turned down and have to continue doing something you disagree with.  That is just part of life and happens at companies each and every day.  Too much time is spent complaining about things that are out of our control and putting an end to that would save an incredible amount of time.  

I’ve been fortunate in my career to work with some really great people but I’ve also dealt with some shady characters too. Over the past ten years I’m not sure our industry has improved the way it treats its own people. I see too many instances where people perform higher than expected and still lose their jobs over money.

There have also been instances that I’ve experienced firsthand as an entrepreneur which leave a sour taste in my mouth. I’ve done favors for market managers and executives only to have emails ignored afterwards. I’ve witnessed programmers act in cowardly fashion, threatening employees over contributing a piece of content to the BSM website. I’ve had hosts reveal serious issues, only to ignore the advice, and not address it with their employers, and then complain again months later when the same issue pops up.

What you need to remember if you’re working as a host or behind the scenes employee is that your employer is paying you to harness your talent, connect with an audience, sell their advertiser’s products, and extend your resume. By doing so, they’re giving you the chance to increase the viability of your personal brand, and place yourself in position to benefit from the experience you’ve accrued. Maybe it will be with the same radio company. Maybe it won’t.

I, too, have worked with some great people over the last twenty-plus years and plenty of shady characters as well (oh, the book I could write!).  For the sellers, the company is giving you the chance to build a book of business using their well-known brands, their talent and their programming – so take advantage of it! Your job is to go out and close business, (all/some/most) of the tools are provided to you to do that and you get to piggy-back off of, in some cases, a heritage radio station that has spent millions on talent, marketing and branding and built great standing in the community.  Pretty good deal if you ask me.  Additionally, as mentioned earlier, you have the chance to build such a strong relationship with your clients, they go wherever you go.  

For those involved on the managing end, there’s a different message that needs to be understood. The station you manage may be part of your identity, and you may love it dearly, but it is not your property. The company owns the brand, you simply operate it. The day you leave, the show goes on. You may not like the direction of where the ship sails next, but it’s no longer your ship to steer when you take your hands off the wheel.

Executives sometimes get caught up in the moves a station makes after they’ve left, and they forget that the choices they made while in control aren’t guaranteed to remain permanent. I’ve gone thru it myself a few times. You can feel differently about the way an operation is being run, and want to rescue what you perceive as ‘your brand’, but all that matters in the end are the results, and how the people involved respond to the new path forward.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over time it’s that there are many different paths and styles to enjoy success. You may have to change a few parts to fit a new vision, but a good brand with good people serving a good audience will always find a way to remain relevant and successful.

I’ve been there. Sometimes you are incredibly invested in things you’ve been a part of, but when you leave, it’s not done the same and you don’t think anyone will care about it as much as you did.  That should be expected.  I suppose I would worry more about the person who spends a lot of time with a company, then departed for whatever reason, and did not feel connected when they left.  Most of us are putting in obnoxious amounts of hours either doing the job or thinking about the job, it would be a shame to have it not really mean much to you.  

Because so many people involved in the radio business have passion and love for the work they do, they struggle to cut the cord. The station and staff become part of your heart and soul, and although you may care more about what happens to them than a CEO sitting in a boardroom examining the brand’s profitability, it’s not your choice to make. They made the financial investment in the station, you didn’t. That gives them the right to run it however they see fit.

The point behind this column isn’t to cast a black cloud over the industry, it’s to provide you with a cold dose of reality. Radio is a business, but the line of work you do is special. The people around you share a similar enthusiasm for sports, and it’s a common bond which brings us all together to distract us from the pressures we face each day in life. Yes it’s a job, but it’s a rewarding one whether you’re making $8 an hour or seven figures.

I used to know a gentleman in the business, who every time he talked about what we did, said “This beats a real job any day of the week!”  It is special, the business we are in.  Even the little people, like us, get the envious look when you tell someone what industry you’re in, followed by the “What’s (so-and-so) really like?”  

The fact of the matter is, the younger you are when you learn that radio is a business, the better off you will be.  The business of radio consists of revenue and ratings, so make sure you are bringing one or the other and there will always be a place for you, unless you are simply a nightmare to work with.

Work hard.  Do your job to the best of your abilities.  Not much else is in your control, so don’t waste time with it.  I have written this before, but it’s one of my favorites from Dave Gifford: “There isn’t a sales problem in the world that can’t be cured by more presentations!” That’s what you can focus on and control and that’s what the key to making more money is, so as the saying goes “You do you.”

We all have opinions about the pros and cons of this business. The industry will never satisfy 100% of us. Some operators will do things to make employees feel essential to their success. Others may not. You can waste a lot of energy worrying about everything under the sun or ask yourself two questions: “Do I feel a connection to the job in my heart, mind and soul?” and “Is it a career worth investing myself in for the long haul?”

If the answer is yes, then that should be plenty enough reason to continue doing it. If you’re still unfulfilled and feel you need more control, then there’s a solution – buy a radio station. Then, and only then, is the station and each decision truly yours.

As sellers, doing what we do each day, we don’t have a lot of extra energy to waste on worrying, so the only choice is to decide if you are someone who loves being in this business and is willing to grind it out.  For most of us, that answer is yes, and if it isn’t then I’m going to STRONGLY disagree with Jason and suggest you not buy a radio station!

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The Voices of Mike Gorman and Jack Edwards Will Be Missed in Boston

Gorman’s signature “Got it!” when a Celtics’ player hit a big shot will reverberate in Beantown forever, while Edwards’ “in your face” and “juicy rebound” will elicit smiles for years to come.

John Molori

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Photos of Jack Edwards and Mike Gorman
Credit: NY Times (Gorman) Stanley Cup of Chowder (Edwards)

In the span of just a few days, the Boston sports scene bid farewell to a truly dynamic broadcasting duo – two of the region’s most recognizable, beloved, and revered voices.

After 43 years, Mike Gorman is stepping down as the lead play-by-play announcer for the Boston Celtics on NBC Sports Boston. Similarly, after a nearly two decade run, Jack Edwards is leaving his post as Boston Bruins’ play-by-play announcer on NESN. Both men will end their runs after the Celtics’ and Bruins’ local playoff telecasts.

These two Boston icons could not be more diverse in personas – the staid, understated, and even-keeled Gorman, and the brash, feisty, and hot-tempered Edwards. While both of these men have forever planted their flags firmly in Boston media soil, their respective reaches went beyond New England.

Gorman, 76, is a Dorchester, MA native. He began his career at WNBH in New Bedford, MA. He also worked for WPRI in Providence, RI, the PRISM Network, and for NBC covering the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

The multi-Emmy award winner was inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004 and received the 2021 Curt Gowdy Award and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2021.

Edwards, 67, was born in Evanston, IL and raised in Durham, NH. The University of New Hampshire grad got his first media gig as a morning news producer and reporter at WGIR-AM Radio in Manchester, NH.

He also worked at WMUR-TV in Manchester, WJAR-TV in Providence, WCVB, WHDH, and WRKO radio in Boston, ESPN, and ABC. He did play-by-play for 2002 World Cup and 1995-2002 Little League World Series and won a 1991 Emmy for Sports Reporting at ESPN.   

Gorman was essentially the first ever TV voice of Big East Conference college basketball. Handpicked by Commissioner Dave Gavitt, his smooth tones signaled the dawn of one of the most successful and memorable college hoops conferences in the history of the game.

In the early 1980s it was Gorman‘s voice that became synonymous with amazing players like Patrick Ewing of Georgetown, Chris Mullin of St. Johns,  Pearl Washington of Syracuse, Ed Pinckney of Villanova, and many others. Edwards, meanwhile, was an excellent SportsCenter anchor at ESPN fitting into the clever, slick, and sarcastic style of people like Rich Eisen, Kenny Mayne, Stuart Scott, and Craig Kilborn.

In their Boston broadcast booths, both men fostered unmistakable catchphrases that set them apart from the crowd. Gorman’s signature “Got it!” when a Celtics’ player hit a big shot will reverberate in Beantown forever, while Edwards’ “in your face” and “juicy rebound” will elicit smiles for years to come.

More than just broadcasters, Gorman and Edwards were as Boston as a lack of parking and bar hopping on Boylston Street. They were not just welcomed into viewers’ living rooms. They were actually a part of the living room, like a time-worn recliner or a coffee table ingrained with bottom of the glass stains.

Both men also enjoyed epic runs with longtime color analysts. Most recently, Gorman was working with Brian Scalabrine, but for 39 years, he cultivated one of sports’ longest running broadcast teams alongside Basketball Hall of Famer Tom Heinsohn who passed away in 2020.

Heinsohn was as demonstrative, loud, and boisterous as Gorman is serene, tranquil, and halcyon. Still, the pair flourished together. Gorman tells a story of how he had prepared voluminous game notes for his first broadcast with Heinsohn. Before the opening tip, Heinsohn grabbed the notes, tore them up, and threw them into the Boston garden ether. As Gorman relates, Heinsohn wanted the pair to talk about what they saw on the court, not on a piece of paper.

Edwards’ NESN partner, former NHL player Andy Brickley, is one of the best hockey color analysts not only in Boston, but on the national scene as well. The pair worked in smooth synchronicity like a center and winger on the ice. Edwards was unafraid to criticize, bristle, and chastise opposing players while Brickley reeled things in knowing the game inside, outside, over, under, through, and any other preposition you can choose. 

Like any good play-by-play and color analyst team, Gorman and Heinsohn and Edwards and Brickley complemented each other tremendously. Use whatever comparison you want, the Yin and Yang, words and music, or peanut butter and jelly. Although with Edwards, there may have been a little bit of Fluffernutter in there as well. 

Many would say that it is easier to create a lasting broadcast presence locally than nationally. I beg to differ. In fact, it is even more difficult especially in four sport, hardscrabble, gritty, and often pessimistic cities like Boston, New York, Chicago, Detroit, and Philadelphia.

Both Edwards and Gorman had pretty impressive predecessors.  Men like Bob Wilson, Fred Cusick, Dale Arnold, and others graced the Boston Garden calling Bruins games. Similarly, the likes of Len Berman, Roger Twibell, Bob Cousy, Glenn Ordway, and others called Celtics hoops over the years.

It takes longevity, work, talent, and time to create the legends that are Mike Gorman and Jack Edwards. I had the pleasure of interviewing both men on a number of occasions over the years and talking to them off air was no different than listening to them on air.

Gorman is the epitome of class and cooperation – extremely conversational and wonderful in sharing an open exchange of thoughts. Edwards is a bit more of a wild child – ultra candid, unapologetic, and willing to go places others would not dare tread.

Gorman perfectly balanced his role as narrator, pace setter, and straight man for the explosive personalities of Heinsohn and Scalabrine. I once asked him about his style and he answered, “I try to be non-intrusive, hopefully adding to the viewing experience without interrupting it. A little humor every now and then helps, and knowing when to be quiet is all important. Play-by-play is supposed to be spontaneous, not planned.”

When Edwards took over full-time duties as the Bruins’ TV voice on NESN in 2007, I asked him the same question, and he replied, “The model play-by-play guy is very vanilla. I’m a Heath bar crunch sundae. I am good at getting the facts, but I always try to convey something on another level, and that has gotten me into a lot of hot water. I am intense. My job is to identify the drama in a game and relate it to the viewer.”

Amen to both. Edwards’ perch high above rink side and Gorman’s courtside seat will be filled by young broadcasters who will stake their claims and establish their legacies, but they will never be Mike Gorman or Jack Edwards, two men whose styles, while different, were similarly captivating.

And while they will no longer sidle up to the microphone or slap on the headset, their echoes live. Old broadcasters never truly go away. Their voices remain in the sports’ consciousness, like a Larry Bird jump shot, a Bobby Orr goal, or remnants of cigar smoke wafting through the Boston Garden rafters.

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MLB Central Stays at the Center of the Action

“I think for me, the beauty of what we do is the fact now that the chemistry between the three of us is so strong.”

Derek Futterman

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MLB Central – Robert Flores, Lauren Shehadi, Mark DeRosa
(Illustration) Robert Flores, Lauren Shehadi, Mark DeRosa; "MLB Central" Logo – Courtesy: MLB Network | Studio 21 – Courtesy: Clickspring Design

As the sun takes its respite on the East Coast, Mark DeRosa is wide awake and locked in on the slate of Major League Baseball games across the country. There are usually no more than 15 games occurring on a given night, and he makes sure to select two or three contests on which to place extra emphasis and scrutinize ahead of MLB Central the next morning.

Once the clock strikes around 10 p.m. EST, he is on the phone with members of the production team at MLB Network to share his observations and deliberate potential topics. In addition to preparing for conversations with MLB Central co-hosts Lauren Shehadi and Robert Flores for the next morning, he also works to compile a nuanced, precise breakdown. Reaching the final product that airs on television in front of the display in Studio 21, however, takes collaboration and synergy from several different departments.

The breakdowns DeRosa presents are not always centered on clear highlights, but rather the granular details that affect causation with the potential to shift an outcome. In combining quantitative and qualitative means of study, he has established a reputation as a sharp baseball luminary with a production mindset.

“I always feel like my breakdowns and my analysis to be deeper than what you’re going to get in a highlight package,” DeRosa said. “There might be a pitch in the fourth inning that didn’t get called. There might be a stolen base in the fifth inning that no one saw that doesn’t show up necessarily in the box scores or plays that don’t show up necessarily in the box scores that I know have massive effects on the way the manager manages the rest of the game [and] the way the players attack the rest of the inning, so that’s how I try and approach it.”

DeRosa played college baseball at the University of Pennsylvania before embarking on a 15-year MLB career. The journey across the big leagues took him to various organizations, including the Atlanta Braves, Texas Rangers and Chicago Cubs, and firmly entrenched at a confluence of varying approaches tailored towards a common broad end goal. Communicating with perennial All-Star sluggers such as Chipper Jones, Albert Pujols and Michael Young added and refined his philosophy on hitting. DeRosa aims to convey these esoteric principles to viewers of MLB Central as he dissects the game.

“I just try and take you inside the mind of the great players,” DeRosa said. “I was a role player for a long time in my career, and I sat on the bench and had a firsthand experience with Hall of Fame pitchers and Hall of Fame managers and just kind of picked their brains throughout the course of the early parts of my career to try and formulate a plan and understand what they were thinking.”

When MLB Network revealed that it was going to be debuting a daily morning show on its airwaves, DeRosa was not sure how the logistics of such an endeavor were going to work. Matt Vasgersian had experience in the timeslot working as a co-host on Hot Stove during the offseason, which in turn allowed DeRosa to feel that he could stick to his baseball analysis in its early stages.

“When that red light’s on, I’m no different than when it comes off,” DeRosa said. “Everyone who’s ever played with me knows that. My heart’s in the right place; I’m not jealous; I’m proud of my career.”

Lauren Shehadi Rises Through the Ranks

From the onset of MLB Central, DeRosa has worked alongside Lauren Shehadi and observed her deft knowledge and professionalism. Shehadi remembers being present at Oriole Park at Camden Yards when Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. played in his 2,131st consecutive game, breaking the historic games-played streak of Lou Gehrig. A 20-minute standing ovation and significance of the feat catalyzed her to find a way to stay around the sport in perpetuity.

In order to pursue her dream, Shehadi attended the University of Florida and immediately began to hone her craft. While attending school, she worked as an overnight editor at Suncoast News Network and also had production responsibilities, including listing birthdays and the winning lottery numbers. During her formative years in the business, she accidentally gave the wrong person a $250 lottery winning, an aberration that caused her to think she was not cut out for the role. Despite the blunder, Shehadi persisted and worked with the outlet’s sports director to create content for her demo reel, which she then sent to hundreds of broadcast outlets around the country.

“It’s so interesting because I was a waitress when I was young, and I always feel like you need to be a waitress to understand how to be a good guest at a restaurant,” Shehadi said. “You have to know what that waitress or waiter is doing and what they’re going through to understand how to be a kind guest at a restaurant. I feel the same way in television production.”

Working as a co-host on MLB Central is a role Shehadi considers a labor of love, but it took repetitions and a willingness to improve to be considered for such an opportunity. Despite being nervous to relocate to Minot, N.D. to begin her job at KXMC-TV, the outlet’s news director, Jim Olson, turned out to be an invaluable mentor. He helped her inject personality into the newscast while keeping the stories focused on the subject matter.

As a weekend sports anchor and weekday sports reporter, Shehadi would travel to capture footage from local sporting events and bring it back to the station. There was one instance when she carried her camera into Saskatchewan, Canada to film a junior varsity ice hockey game and then drove back, always ensuring her station wagon was fueled.

“You had to fill up your sole tank of gas because it was that cold,” Shehadi recalled. “If your car stalled out, you’d die of hypothermia, so you had to have full gas wherever you went. You had to be aware [and] you had to plug in your car at night.”

As Shehadi became more experienced in the industry, she cultivated versatility and built her skillset across different platforms of dissemination. While working for CBS Sports as a contributor to its website and college sports network, she learned how to convey information in a compendious manner and express her opinions.

From there, Shehadi secured an audition for MLB Network and perceived that she did not know as much about the game as was necessary. Because of this, she safeguarded against oblivion and studied every player, manager and ballpark around the league. In developing this erudition, she also combatted initial apprehension about speaking while listening to a talkback feed in her ear during a show.

“Why is Freddie Freeman so good at the plate? Because he’s able to slow the moment down,” Shehadi said, “and I think as broadcasters, that’s what you try to do. I think in my early years at MLB Network, I wasn’t able to [do that], and I work on it every day still.”

MLB Network Lauren Shehadi Preparation Sheet
Courtesy of MLB Network

Displaying propensity and intelligence for baseball is not only achieved by accruing knowledge, but also a cognizance of when to ask questions. Shehadi considers herself a casual baseball fan and contributes to an environment that encourages open conversation and dialogue.

When former first baseman Carlos Peña referenced high-probability swings during his analysis, she thought she knew what it meant but was not entirely certain. Since she played softball and studied the game, she assumed that there could be someone watching from afar who may not know as well. As a result, she decided to ask Peña to confirm what entailed the concept he was discussing.

“I was just literally crossing my fingers in hopes that I wouldn’t end up on YouTube where it’s, ‘See, this girl that hosts a baseball show doesn’t know what this is,’ and he said, ‘You know, it’s a good question,’” Shehadi recalled. “I thought, ‘Okay.’ He said, ‘The bat stays through the zone [for] a longer time,’ which is what I thought it was. But you don’t always know, and the beauty of our show is that he can answer that question and someone at home learned something that day.”

Akin to DeRosa, Shehadi watches several baseball games simultaneously every night using her phone and television. Once the new day commences, she views Quick Pitch to see the rest of the action, reads articles on the league website and studies the network’s research packet. At the same time, she considers the discussions and perceptions made about players, some of whom come into the studio for live appearances.

Robert Flores’ Road to the Show

When Matt Vasgersian became the new play-by-play announcer for Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN, the MLB Network morning program named Robert Flores as the new co-host of the show. Flores, who formerly worked at ESPN, had been employed by MLB Network since 2016 hosting a variety of programming. DeRosa stated that he has brought a different element to the show through his love of the Houston Astros, leverage of social media and humorous witticisms. 

“I feel like Robert Flores kind of ties it all in a bow with his ability to host and his one-liners, and I just think [MLB Central] gives the fan at home everything they would need with a smile on their face,” DeRosa said. “They laugh, they learn and they can enjoy a nice breakfast and a cup of coffee and enjoy the visuals.”

Flores began his career while at the University of Houston, working as an associate producer within the KHOU sports department. From the beginning, he could ascertain the speed of the newsroom and adapted his workflow to fit in the breaking-news environment. Being amongst industry professionals within a top-10 marketplace prepared him to transition to Monroe, La. out of school with limited resources in a smaller locale.

From there, Flores moved to Waco, Texas to serve as the sports director for KWTX-TV where he was responsible for managing personalities under a departmental aegis. He worked in the same role later in Austin, Texas at KEYE-TV while also continuing to garner repetitions as a reporter. The experiences within his formative years in the industry helped shape him into a professional with the sagacity and foresight to plan ahead and optimize a roster of on-air personalities and production personnel.

“It’s managing people from it’s simplest things like scheduling to the more complicated, intrapersonal and taking into considerations what others’ needs and what their wants are as well and trying to kind of fit it all under the same direction of what you want your sports department to be and things like that, so it was a great experience,” Flores said. “Again, I met so many great people along the way and so many that I’m still friendly with and keep in touch with every now and then.”

Flores endured challenges within the industry when he lost his job in 2004 and ended up being out of work for six months. Four years earlier, he had lost his father and was trying to combat the trauma associated with both outcomes.

As he continued the job search, Flores began to think about alternatives and considered exploring the real estate and insurance industries. He remembers asking his wife if he should change career paths, and she urged him to give the process more time and remain patient. Everything changed when his agent called to deliver the news that ESPN was interested in hiring him for a job on the network, and he was able to inform his son minutes later when he arrived home from school.

While Flores enjoyed his time anchoring SportsCenter and contributing to other programming at ESPN, the era was different in that social media was not embedded within the fabric of modern society. Although he joined MLB Network in 2015 and was known by its viewers across programming, there existed a risk that moving to MLB Central could cause him to suffer from imposter syndrome. After all, Flores was expecting harsh criticism upon his debut on the show; however, he entered the role unfazed and focused on delivering for the audience.

“In today’s society especially, I think fans are more apt to not like something, and I get it,” Flores said. “Matt Vasgersian was very popular [and] remains very popular with our fanbase… and I know there was some skepticism about me joining the show. I saw all of the, ‘Where’s Matty V?’ tweets and, ‘This guy stinks,’ and, ‘Get him off,’ and I understood it.”

In the five years that Flores has been part of the show, he has let his personality flourish and shared different ways he interacts with the game, including through playing MLB The Show video game series. Playing the simulation game over the years has helped him become more familiar with major-league rosters and prospects, granting him additional context and a different lens through which to talk about the league.

“To be fair, I do like to shoehorn dropping my Twitch handle and my Facebook page where I do my video game streams,” Flores explicated, “but I think it’s kind of looked at as kind of if I can get a joking eye roll from Lauren or from someone that says, ‘Hey, way to make the ‘reference’ to your gaming channel,’ I think it’s part of my charm, and I say that tongue-in-cheek.”

The Morning Commute

The composition of MLB Central as a studio show contrasts many of its counterparts in that it utilizes more hosts than analysts. Shehadi and Flores both view their role to serve as point guards to set up DeRosa for success in disseminating his opinions and insights.

“I think for me, the beauty of what we do is the fact now that the chemistry between the three of us is so strong,” DeRosa said. “I honestly know how to get Robert going, I know how to get Lauren going and vice-versa that I think the people at home – although I’m the former player that’s going to give the opinion – I still think that they’ve built this relationship at home with the three of us.”

The show also champions diversity and inclusivity, inspiring the next generation and trying to serve as role models. Flores is of Mexican-American descent and is honored when aspiring professionals reach out to share their gratitude for his work and how he represents what is possible. As a woman in the industry, Shehadi is aware of the misogyny and intransigence that can be faced, but she knows that there is respect for her work and that she belongs. Everyone on MLB Central is accepting of one another and attributes part of its success to strong chemistry.

Studio 21 is somewhat like Grand Central Station, especially since it houses multiple studio programs in addition to MLB Central, some of which include MLB Now and Quick Pitch. For Shehadi and DeRosa, it is one of their destinations on the travel itinerary, which involves both of them taking multiple flights per week.

Every week following the Tuesday morning show, Shehadi flies to Atlanta, Ga. to host studio coverage for MLB on TBS with Curtis Granderson, Pedro Martínez and Jimmy Rollins. Whereas MLB Central will focus on all 30 teams, MLB on TBS studio coverage primarily discusses teams featured within its Tuesday night doubleheader on its Pregame and Closer editions of the show. While Shehadi is in the TNT Sports studio, she is watching every game around the league and feels the most prepared for MLB Central the following morning. The key through it all is endurance and stamina, but she does not take the multifaceted role for granted.

“I feel so blessed to be able to do it, and it’s not lost on me that I get to host both,” Shehadi said, “so I just pray for no delayed flights and pray that I get everywhere on time.”

Similar to taking an extended road trip as an MLB player, DeRosa flies to the New York metropolitan area every week to be in studio for MLB Network. After the Friday morning show though, he boards a flight to return home to spend time with his family and coach his son’s baseball team. While he is away for the weekend, he still remains connected to the show by reviewing previous episodes and finding areas where he can improve, akin to a baseball player reviewing film.

“I like it when we go off-script occasionally – when we’re laughing; when things get a little funny at times and then we’re able to rein it in,” DeRosa said. “So I think for me, the idea of a good show to be honest with you is if I can get the people behind the cameras to start laughing, I usually think we’re doing something right.”

Flores believes that DeRosa is one of the most talented studio analysts in sports television and does not receive as much credit as he deserves in this regard. In formulating and constructing his breakdowns with the understanding of what will stand out to viewers with fluctuating interest levels and aptitude towards the sport, DeRosa tries to appeal to everyone. Last spring, he served as the manager of Team USA during the World Baseball Classic and had a chance to foster deeper relationships with several star players such as Mike Trout, Paul Goldschmidt and Mookie Betts. In turn, he discovered more about their personalities and work ethic.

“I thought Paul Goldschmidt – he is, he’s a silent assassin – but when I gave my first meeting the first day we met as a group, as soon as I finished, he asked me if he could address the team,” DeRosa recalled. “I did not expect that, so I walked away with a completely different mindset of [who] Paul Goldschmidt was.”

Beyond the Box Score

DeRosa, Shehadi and Flores provide authentic commentary about the topics at hand within a casual environment geared towards viewers with varying levels of proficiency and experience in baseball. The program attempts to spotlight as many different MLB teams as possible on the show and recognize the parity and emerging young talent within the game; however, there are signature teams discussed more often because of recent success. While MLB Central is situated in the mornings, the segments and topics are not proprietary to that daypart and could effectively function in different areas of the schedule.

“I think there’s a very fine line walking the three kinds of tenants if you will of informing and providing context and entertaining,” Flores said. “I think you’ve kind of got to be very careful not to do one more of the other, but I really think that our show is portable, I really do.”

Although MLB Central does not implement live callers from consumers akin to sports talk radio, it still finds ways to interact with the audience and impart sentiments of conviviality and revelry. Whether it be through poll questions or replies to a segment earlier in the program, there is a recognition and respect for consumers watching across multiple platforms.

“We have a bunch of really great viewers who have been with us for almost a decade, and we constantly highlight them on X,” Shehadi said. “We constantly put their tweets on the screen, and some of them we disagree with all the time.”

DeRosa, Shehadi and Flores hosted their 750th episode of MLB Central last summer and all remain committed to the program. Everyone leaves their ego at the door and approaches the show in a manner resembling a player arriving at the ballpark for a game.

Concurrent with rules changes across Major League Baseball that led to augmented attendance, greater offensive output and a hastened pace of play, MLB Central remains aware of the latest innovations in sports media and looks to continue innovating within the dynamic landscape. Although there is an early wake-up call to arrive at the studio and prepare beforehand, DeRosa, Shehadi and Flores are able to effectuate a morning show of which they are proud and hope to continue for years to come.

“I love what we have both on screen and maybe more importantly what our show unit has off screen,” Flores said. “It’s a very collaborative effort. We have so many talented men and women behind the scenes in our research department; in our control room; from the producer to the director to our assignment desk, [which] plays a vital role in booking guests. It’s just everyone pulling in the same direction. I can honestly say it’s the most enjoyable professional experience I’ve ever had.”

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BSM Writers

Advertising Strategy for 24/7 Businesses

With lower ad costs aimed at the audience who makes staying open late worth it, you can be ringing in the profits on the night shift.

Jeff Caves

Published

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Graphic for a business sign "Open 24 Hours"

If you have prospects who are open for business between Midnight and 5 am, why not have them make it worthwhile and help them develop an advertising strategy? They might be surprised how inexpensive it can be.

Many companies operate 24/7:

– Convenience stores, gas stations, and truck stops.

– Fast food chains like Taco Bell, Jack in the Box, and McDonalds.

– Hospitals and Emergency Care clinics.

– Hotels, motels, and grocery stores.

– Airports, bus depots, and cabs.

With an effective marketing strategy, “it’s gonna be all right on the night shift.” Here are some insights and tips to give these prospects to help them attract and retain customers to their 24/7 business:

Understand the Night Owl

At night, customers seeking services or products often prioritize convenience, speed, and availability. Sometimes, price isn’t the controlling factor, nor is it even the best quality they seek. Make offers and go to market with these needs to better cater to your target audience and keep them returning for more.

Advertise: Digital Billboards

Digital billboards are great for visibility, especially at night when there’s less competition for attention. Consider strategically placing advertisements along busy freeways or nightlife hotspots to capture the attention of passersby and promote your business’s offerings and operating hours. If you can buy :15 ads on Times Square in NYC for $40, you may be shocked at what you will pay locally for rotating ads from Midnight to 5 am. 

Radio Ads on the Cheap

Radio is a powerful medium for reaching customers during the late-night hours. Larry King was America’s most listened-to-talk radio program in the late 80’s. For 16 years, he broadcast live between Midnight and 5:30 am from coast to coast. Select radio stations with programming tailored to your target audience’s preferences and air ads during peak nighttime listening hours. Pop music stations for night clubbers at 2 am or News Talk for late-night drivers wanting to stay engaged. Give incentives to overnight listeners to visit your business NOW. While the audience may only be 10% of the daytime crowd, so are the prices. And let’s face it, if they are driving and listening to the radio, that’s your #1 prospect! Expect rates at most stations under $25 per commercial in major cities and less in other areas. Promote late-night specials, highlighting convenience and speed of service. If you are a hospital, airport, or bus company, brand your business with the overnighters, reminding them you are open when they need you.

Mobile Digital Advertising

Target potential customers in the vicinity of your business during late-night hours. Use geotargeting to deliver ads to mobile phone users in high-traffic areas like concerts, ballgames, or nightlife districts. Drive foot traffic right through your front door. Promote time-sensitive offers or exclusive late-night deals through mobile ads. Don’t expect a price break, though, when purchasing them.

Easily Monitoring KPI’s

Regularly monitor the performance of your efforts and adjust as needed. Your late-night business is probably way less than daytime, and tracking key metrics such as foot traffic, sales, and customer feedback will be easier. If an offer is working on your radio campaign, look into buying more stations and cut back on areas that don’t work. Apply the 70-20-10 rule to your ad budget.

With lower ad costs aimed at the audience who makes staying open late worth it, you can be ringing in the profits on the night shift.

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