The temperature read minus 11 degrees as Sean Pendergast turned into the driveway of his Chicago home. Only a couple of hours before, he had been informed his job as VP of Sales would no longer be available to him. The company he had been with for over 10 years no longer needed his services. He was unemployed while trying to raise three children. Along with that tough news, he was also going through a divorce that had turned his personal life upside down. It was a cold, dark night on February 23rd, 2007 and Pendergast felt he had hit rock bottom.
But one simple email may have changed his life forever, and it just so happened to have come earlier that day. A co-worker in Houston, who also lost his job that day, asked that Pendergast reach out to his contacts at Sports Radio 610 in hopes of landing a gig on the sales staff. After being crowned as a 5-time Smack-Off winner on the Jim Rome Show, Sean “The Cablinasian” had gained notoriety over the radio, as well as contacts at the biggest sports station in Houston. As he sent the email to someone in production that would get the resume in the right hands, Pendergast, as a joke ended with:
“PS. Carve out a couple of hours on the weekend for me. I may be coming, too.”
What was intended as a harmless joke, ended up as a twist of fate, as Pendergast soon received a call regarding the message at the bottom of the email. Chance McClain, the recipient, called Pendergast with the news that he and a group of others from Sports Radio 610 were starting a new sports radio station in Houston named 1560 The Game. Not only did McClain want Pendergast to be a part of it, he wanted to capitalize off his notoriety from the Jim Rome Show and host the afternoon drive.
That was Pendergast’s first conversation over the phone regarding a career in sports radio. The next, he was told, would come in the next few days. It would actually come five minutes later, as John Granato, the man in charge of putting the daily lineup together, called for the interview that would ultimately decide if Pendergast would get his first job in radio. Much to his surprise, the interview wasn’t much of an interview at all. Instead, the phone call consisted of Granato asking, “So, are you coming?”
Pendergast was the kid who grew up in the northeast, calling into radio stations as a 12-year-old, disguising his voice as someone who was over 18, so he wouldn’t get kicked off the air. He was the college student with the radio show that loved the craft and dreamed of becoming a host. He was the adult that just got let go from a job he hated while going through the most challenging tribulation of his life. And now, in his late 30’s he was a first-time sports radio host in Houston.
John Harris, now the sideline reporter for the Houston Texans, would serve as Pendergast’s first co-host at 1560 The Game. The two shared a lot of similarities, as Harris was also doing a show for the first time after leaving a regular job that he hated. For the next four years, Pendergast and Harris would cut their radio chops on the afternoon show of the fourth-highest rated sports station in Houston.
After showing early talent and experiencing success in his new sports radio role, Pendergast came to the conclusion around year three at The Game that he needed to find a way to Sports Radio 610. Sure, he was thankful for the opportunity given, but now it was time to make his way to the biggest and best station in town. The one he always listened to while living in Houston and calling the Jim Rome Show. The one that was the home of the Houston Texans. Pendergast started by networking in any and every way he could.
That started with Pendergast making it a point to introduce himself and talk to the Sports Radio 610 PD at every Texans game in the press box. He also became friendly with the other radio hosts at 610, just in case they’d have something nice to say if his name was floated around for a position at the station.
Eventually, in 2012, he would get an interview with 610 for a host position on the morning show. However, he would come up short as the station decided to hire current Fox Sports host Nick Wright. Though he didn’t get the gig he was striving for, he left with pieces of advice that would help him down the road with 610. Through the interview process, PD Gavin Spittle taught Pendergast how to structure his contract, as well as other things he could do to help improve his craft and become more hirable.
After taking those suggestions to heart, a host position on the afternoon show at 610 would open a year later. On January 1st, 2014, Pendergast conquered his goal of making it to the best station in Houston. Though he took an abnormal journey to the host seat, Pendergast’s story is one of how well networking can work. Whether it’s an email or simply engaging with important decision makers, the slightest things can alter someone’s career path in the sports radio industry. Luck is always needed, but working hard and making the right connections will never go out of style.
Today, you can hear Pendergast on The Triple Threat weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on Sports Radio 610 in Houston.
TM: I think a lot of people may be in this situation. You lived it, so you’re perfect to ask. If you’re a host at the smaller station in town and want to get to the bigger one, would you do so by sacrificing pay and title? Such as becoming a producer or reporter?
SP: I don’t think I would have taken a backward step professionally, because the guy you want to be is the host. I had three kids at the time I was making that career decision, they were all around their high school years, so I had a line that I had to draw that said, okay, you can’t go below this. Now I did take a pay cut to go over to 610. I was making decent money at 1560, I had been there a while, I had some good sponsors and even though our ratings and signal weren’t great, our sponsors and listeners were very loyal. But I did take a pay cut to move stations. It was almost a ‘prove it to me’ kind of thing and so I busted my ass the first three years there and we had really good ratings.
I always made it a point to be very involved with sponsors and the sales, which I don’t know that everyone in this business does, but the one thing I’ve benefited from is my background for 15 years in the business world. It’s really helped me in terms of being a radio businessman. After the pay cut to move to 610, I crunched the numbers and knew where I had to be in order to make ends meet and provide for my kids, child support, things like that. But it was worth it. I always feel like if you work hard at it, if you’re good at it, you may take a couple of steps backwards but be five steps forward. That’s how it’s worked out for me and it’s really gratifying.
TM: Is that a PD and an owners dream? To have a host that’s good, but is also willing and has experience in the sales world?
SP: It would be for me. Let’s face it, the most important thing is revenue. Ratings are obviously important, but we know how flawed that system is. At the end of the day, it’s all about making money.
I’ve been in a position of management and leadership in the corporate world, never in radio, but If I were a PD or a manager of a cluster, and I was looking at hosts where all things were equal in terms of on the air talent, but one had a background of being cognizant of the business side and understood what the sales staff had to go through, I would think that would be nirvana.
TM: With social media being such a big part of our daily lives, could a host contribute by developing and keeping a relationship with a client with Twitter, Facebook, etc.?
SP: No question about it. It’s big for me, and I know the sales staff at the station uses my social media following as a selling point. Not because it’s just a decent size, it’s decent in terms of a local host, it’s not in the hundreds of thousands, but it’s 28 thousand or so of a lot of Houstonians. I engage a lot on there, and I think it’s important that they know I’m very active with it.
It’s not just me tweeting something out because you ask me to, I feel strongly about the products I endorse and I try to present them in a humorous and creative way. I know the clients I have think social media is important. That’s half the thing. The perception of the client, whether it truly winds up being important or not, I don’t know if we can truly measure that yet. I think it’s still this animal we’re trying to wrap our arms around. But I do think it’s a measure of relevance.
I do think you can use it creatively and I have clients that even pay me just for the social media following. They don’t have the budget for radio, but they know I have a social media following. They pay me for my engagement on social media to talk about their business. There’s not many, just a couple, but I think it’s crucially important and evolving. I think as more things go online it becomes more important. I know that was the reason I got hired at 610, because I had a big social media following.
TM: Changing gears a bit since you’ve been at a low moment where you’ve lost a job. Is it tough working at a station where things are changing and people are getting replaced?
SP: Emotionally, it’s hard. We just had that happen last week, our HR director, who’s been super helpful for me, I mean if you have kids and you have benefits, your best friend is the HR director. Ours just got let go, because Entercom is consolidating some of those positions. It’s really hard to watch. But from the position I’m in, there’s very little I can do about it.
You feel for those people, you wish them the best, and offer whatever help you can, but for me, as a host, I just want to make myself as valuable as possible. I think the way you do that, is twofold. One is the revenue side, taking care of sponsors and making sure you’re engaged with them, whether it’s taking them to lunch, inviting them to the studio, or even inviting them to Texans practice. You also need to have conversations with them and understand where their challenges are to see where we’re falling short. Also finding out what we can do to tweak our approach to make radio work for them. You can have the greatest relationship in the world, but eventually you’re going to reach a breaking point where the client looks at it and realizes they can’t spend money on something that’s not working.
The other way to do it, and something I set out to do, is to show versatility. My personal goal was to host a two-man show as No. 1 chair, host a two-man show as a No.2 chair and host a solo show on a pretty regular basis. Just so I can show versatility and show my station that whatever needed to be done, I could do it.
TM: You drive a three-man afternoon show, along with Ted Johnson and Rich Lord, with Ted being the ex-athlete and football guy. How do you balance each day, when some days need to be driven more towards certain hosts on the show?
SP: It’s my job to make sure that I’m self-aware enough to know that I have topics from the rundown that are Ted friendly or Rich friendly, or something that I know we’ll get a real healthy debate on. Not to the point where everyone is going to end up hating each other behind the scenes, but something that’s a healthy debate that we’ll have a difference of opinion on. We’ve been together long enough for me to know what that stuff is.
The best advice I got when I moved to a three-man show was from Jim “JR” Ross. His advice was to be the point guard. He did a three-man booth back in the day for Monday Night Raw and he told me to be aware of what everyone’s strengths are and that they’re getting their touches. That’s kind of what I’ve abided by, is just accessing as the show goes along that everyone is getting their stuff in.
TM: Here’s something else that’s a little off topic but I’ve been pondering on it. Why it may not be that big of a leap, I have a theory that I always try to find radio people when I need a guest for a show. Reason being, is that I believe being entertaining with a good flow is just as important as information. Radio hosts understand that and not all newspaper and internet writers do. Do you take that thinking into account with your show? Or just look for solid information that someone on the beat can provide?
SP: To me, the best interviews are the ones where they leave some nuggets. The ones where you look at the text page after they’re done and people are texting in to react what they said. Reporters aren’t always the best for that, because their strength is supposed to be just reporting the truth and getting the facts.
I tend to like radio guys or people whose platform is either internet based or podcast based. I think there are TV guys or reporters who like to get on the radio and deliver their opinions, because maybe their medium doesn’t allow them to do so. I just want make sure that someone, at the end of the day, is interesting and that the audience is learning something.
That’s the biggest thing. I want to feel like they’re coming away with something that’s either a fact they didn’t already know or some point of view they hadn’t previously thought of. I just want to make sure they’re interesting and give interesting answers.
Adam The Bull Is Giving Cleveland Something It’s Never Had Before
“It was only more recently that I was like why do I have to only be a radio guy?”
After spending 22 years on the radio, Adam “The Bull” Gerstenhaber was ready for a new adventure. In fact, the former co-host of Bull and Fox on 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland did not have a new job lined up when he signed off from his 11-year radio home last month.
“I was already leaving without having a new project,” admitted Gerstenhaber during a recent phone interview with BSM. “I left before I knew for sure I had a ‘next project’.”
Gerstenhaber was preparing for his final show with co-host Dustin Fox on April 1st when he was contacted by an executive producer for TEGNA, a company that was developing a Cleveland sports television show on YouTube. The executive producer, who had just found out that Bull was a free agent, made it clear that he wanted Bull to be a part of the new project.
It all came together very quickly.
“Let’s talk on Monday,” Gerstenhaber told the executive producer. “And within a week they signed me up.”
The Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show on YouTube featuring Gerstenhaber, former ESPN personality Jay Crawford, 92.3 The Fan’s Garrett Bush, and rotating hosts to make up a four-person round-table show, made its debut last Monday. The show, which airs weekdays from 11am to 1pm, features passionate Cleveland sports talk, live guests, either in-studio or via Zoom, as well as interaction from the audience through social media.
“I’m very excited,” said Gerstenhaber. “It’s a definite adjustment for me after 22 years on radio doing television. For the last 11 years, I’ve been doing a radio show with just one other host and I was the lead guy doing most of the talking and now I’m on a show with three other people and it’s such an adjustment. So far, I’m having a ball.”
And so far, the reaction to the show has been very positive.
A big reason why is that it’s something that Cleveland didn’t have and really never had, unlike a city like New York, where there are local radio shows that are simulcast on regional sports channels.
“There’s nothing like that in Cleveland,” said Gerstenhaber. “And there was certainly nothing like this with a panel. Cleveland is such a massive sports town and now people that don’t live in Cleveland that are maybe retired in Florida or Arizona, now they actually have a TV show that they can watch that’s Cleveland-centric.”
The new venture certainly represents a big change in what Bull has been used to in his radio career. He’s enjoying the freedom of not having to follow a hard clock for this show. In fact, there have already been some occasions where the show has been able to go a little longer than scheduled because they have the flexibility to do that on YouTube.
Doing a show on YouTube gives the panel a great opportunity to go deep into topics and spend some quality time with guests. And while there is no cursing on the show at the moment, there could be the potential for that down the road.
Don’t expect the show is going to become X-rated or anything like that, but the objective is to be able to capture the spirit and emotion of being a sports fan and host.
“It’s something we may do in the future,” said Gerstenhaber. “Not curse just to curse but it gives us the option if we get fired up. It is allowed because there’s no restrictions there. The company doesn’t want us to do it at the moment.”
There’s also been the shift for Gerstenhaber from being the “point guard” on his old radio show, driving the conversation and doing most of the talking, to now taking a step back and having Crawford distributing the ball on the television show.
For a guy called “The Bull”, that will take some getting used to.
“Jay is a pro’s pro,” said Gerstenhaber. “He’s the point guard for this but he’s also part of the conversation. I’m not used to not being the point guard so I have to adjust to that. I think it’s gone pretty well and the chemistry is pretty good and with time we’ll get used to the flow of it.”
Gerstenhaber’s move from sports radio to an internet television show is a perfect example of how the industry is changing. A good portion of the listening and viewing audience these days, especially those in the younger demographic, are not necessarily watching traditional television or listening to terrestrial radio. For a lot of sports fans, watching and listening on a mobile device or a computer has become a very important way of life.
The desire to adapt, along with a shorter workday, was very enticing to him.
“It was only more recently that I was like why do I have to only be a radio guy?” wondered Gerstenhaber. “There were things about my job that I was unhappy about. I was doing a five-hour radio show. It’s too long. That’s crazy. Nobody should be doing a five-hour radio show at this point.”
Broadcasting on the internet has arrived and it’s not just a couple of sports fans doing a show from their garage anymore. The business has evolved to the point where the technology has provided more opportunities for those who have already enjoyed success in the industry and are looking for new challenges.
Kind of like Adam The Bull!
“I think years ago, probably like many people in the radio business, we looked at internet and podcasts as like whatever…those guys aren’t professionals…they’re amateurs,” said Gerstenhaber. “But the game has changed.”
Gerstenhaber, Crawford and everyone associated with the “Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show” should not have much of a problem attracting the younger audience. That demographic is already accustomed to watching shows on YouTube and other streaming platforms. The challenge now is to get the more mature audience on board. There are certainly some obstacles there.
I know this from experience with trying to explain to my mother in Florida how she can hear me on the radio and watch me on television simply by using her tablet.
Bull can certainly relate to that.
“My mother is still trying to figure out how to watch the show live,” said Gerstenhaber with a chuckle. “The older fans struggle with that. A lot of my older fans here in Cleveland are like how do I watch it? For people that are under 40 and certainly people that under 30, watching a YouTube show is like okay I watch everything on my phone or device. It’s such a divide and obviously as the years go by, that group will increase.”
With the television show off and running, Gerstenhaber still has a passion for his roots and that’s the radio side of the business. In the next couple of weeks, “The Bull” is set to announce the launch of two podcasts, one daily and one weekly, that will begin next month. But he also hasn’t ruled out the possibility of returning to terrestrial radio at some point.
“I have not closed the door to radio,” said Gerstenhaber. “I still love radio. I would still, in the right set of circumstances, consider going back to radio but it would have to really be the perfect situation. I’m excited about (the television show) and right now I don’t want to do anything else but I’m certainly going to remain open-minded to radio if a really excellent opportunity came up.”
The landscape of the broadcasting industry, particularly when it comes to sports, has certainly changed over the years and continues to evolve. Adam Gerstenhaber certainly enjoyed a tremendous amount of success on the radio side, both in New York and in Cleveland, but now he has made the transition to something new with the YouTube television show and he’s committed to making it a success.
I Heard A Lot of Boring, Uncreative Sports Radio On Friday
“Sometimes your first idea is your best one. You don’t know that though if you stop thinking after one idea. That is what it feels like happens a lot the day after NFL schedules are released”
Maybe this one is on me for expecting better. Maybe I need to take my own advice and accept that there are times the sports radio audience just wants a little comfort food. Still, this is my column and I am going to complain because I listened to probably six different stations on Friday and all of them were doing the exact same thing.
The NFL schedule was released on Thursday night, so on Friday, regardless of daypart, every show seemingly felt obligated to have the same three conversations.
- How many games will the home team win?
- What does the number of primetime games we got mean for how much respect we have nationally?
- Why do the Lions still get to play on Thanksgiving?
Football is king. I get that. Concrete NFL news is always going to take priority. That is understandable. But where was even an ounce of creativity? Where was the desire to do better – not just better than the competition, but better than the other shows in your own building?
I listened to shows in markets from across the league. The conversations were the same regardless of size or history of success. Everyone that picked in the top 5 in last month’s draft is going to go 10-7. Every team that got less than 5 primetime games feels disrespected. It was all so boring.
Those of us in the industry don’t consume content the way listeners do. We all know that. Perhaps I am harping on something that is only a problem to me because I listen to sports talk radio for a living. If you don’t ever want to put more than the bare minimum of effort into your show, decide that is the reason for my reaction and go click on another article here.
Consider this though, maybe the fact that I listen to so much sports radio means I know how much quality there is in this industry. Maybe it means that I can spot someone talented that is phoning it in.
I want to be clear in my point. There is value in giving your record prediction for the home team. Listeners look at the people on the radio as experts. I will bet some futures bets in a lot of markets were made on Friday based on what the gambler heard coming through their speakers. All I want to get across is there is a way to have that conversation that isn’t taking two segments to go through each week one by one. I heard no less than three stations do that on Friday.
Sometimes your first idea is your best one. You don’t know that though if you stop thinking after one idea. That is what it feels like happens a lot the day after NFL schedules are released. It’s a very familiar rhythm: pick the wins, get a guest on to preview the week 1 opponent, take calls, texts and tweets with the listeners’ predictions.
I didn’t hear anyone ask their listeners to sell them on the over for wins. I didn’t hear anyone give me weeks that you could skip Red Zone because one matchup is just too damn good. I didn’t hear anyone go through the Sunday Night Football schedule and pick out the weeks to schedule dates because the matchup isn’t worth it.
Maybe none of those ideas are winners, and that is fine. They are literally three dumb ideas I pulled out of the air. But they are all ways to review the schedule that could potentially leave a smile on your listener’s face.
Show prep is so important, especially in a group setting. It is your chance to tell your partner, producer, or host that you know you can do better than the idea that has just been thrown out. Quit nodding in agreement and challenge each other! It may mean a little more work for you, but it means more reward for the listeners. And if the listeners know they can rely on you for quality, creative content, that leads to more reward for you.
And lay off the Lions. It’s Thanksgiving. You’re stuck at home. The NFL could give you Lions vs Jaguars and you’d watch.
Why You Should Be Making Great TikTok Content
“We’re specially trained in the world of TSL (time spent listening), and the longer people view your content on TikTok, the more the app rewards you by shoving your content into more and more feeds.”
It feels like there’s a new social media platform to pay attention to every other week. That makes it easy to overlook when one of them actually presents value to your brand. It wasn’t long ago that TikTok was primarily used by teenagers with the focus being silly dance trends filmed for video consumption with their friends and followers alike. Now, as the general public has become in tune with how this complicated app works, it’s grown far beyond that.
TikTok is now an app used by all types of demographics and unlike TikTok’s closely related cousins Instagram and Facebook, this app provides a certain type of nuance that I think people in our line of work can really excel in.
Before I get into the nuts and bolts of how you can use TikTok to your advantage and how to make your videos catch on, I think it’s important to first mention why this matters for you. Now, if I’m being realistic, I’m sure there are some that have already stopped reading this or those that could scroll away fast enough when they saw the words TikTok. You might be thinking that this doesn’t fit your demo, or maybe that it’s a waste of time because productivity here won’t directly lead to an uptick in Nielsen ratings. But I’m not sure any social network directly leads to what we ultimately get judged on, and we aren’t always pumping out content directly to our core audience.
TikTok, like any other app you may use, is marketing. This is another free tool to let people out there know who you are and what you offer in this endless sea of content. And the beauty of TikTok is that it directly caters its algorithm to content creators just like us. Bottom line, if you are a personality in sports talk, there’s no reason you can’t be crushing it on TikTok right now. All it takes is a little direction, focus, consistency, and a plan.
Unlike Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter where you can throw a photo up with a caption and be done for the day, TikTok’s whole model is built on creative videos that keep users engaged for longer periods of time. This approach works. According to Oberlo, a social media stat tracking site, people spend more time per day on TikTok than any other popular social media application. 38 minutes per day!
This is where this is good news for us in talk radio. We’re specially trained in the world of TSL (time spent listening), and the longer people view your content on TikTok, the more the app rewards you by shoving your content into more and more feeds. TikTok’s algorithm doesn’t care how many followers you have, your level of credibility, or the production on your video. All ir cares about is 1) Is your content good. and 2) Are people watching it. 3) How long are they watching it. The more people watch and the longer they watch creates a snowball effect. Your videos views will skyrocket, sometimes within hours.
So, how do you create content that will catch on? It’s really not all that different than what you do every day. Create thought-provoking commentary that makes people think, argue, or stay till the end to get the info you teased up for them. I’ve found through my own trial and error that it’s best if you stay away from time-sensitive material, I’ve had more success the more evergreen my content is. That way, the shelf life expands beyond just that day or week. This is different for everyone and there’s no one-size-fits-all, but this is where I’ve seen the most success.
Also, put yourself out there, don’t be afraid to say something that people are going to vehemently disagree with. Again, it’s not unlike what we do every day. It’s one thing to get someone to listen, it’s another to get them to engage. Once they hit you in the comment section, you’ve got them hooked. Comments breed more views and on and on. But don’t just let those sit there, even the smallest interaction back like a shoulder shrug emoji can go a long way in creating more play for your video.
If you want to grow quickly, create a niche for yourself. The best content creators that I follow on TikTok all put out very similar content for most of their videos. This means, unlike Instagram where it’s great to show what a wildly interesting and eclectic person you are, TikTok users want to know what they’re getting the second your face pops up on that screen. So if you are the sports history guy, be the sports history guy all the time. If you are the top 5 list guy, be the top 5 list guy all the time, and on and on, you get the point.
Other simple tricks:
- Splice small videos together. Don’t shoot one long video.
- 90 seconds to 2 minutes is a sweet spot amount of time.
- Add a soft layer of background instrumental music (this feature is found in the app when you are putting the finishing touches on your video)
- Label your video across the screen at the start and time it out so that it disappears seconds later. This way a user gets an idea of what the content is immediately and then can focus on you delivering your message thereafter.
- Research trending hashtags, they are far more important than whatever you caption your video.
- Use closed captions so that people can follow your video without sound.
Finally, don’t be intimidated by it or snub your nose at it. Anything that helps your brand is worth doing and anything worth doing is worth doing well.