Living in Los Angeles isn’t as glamorous when you’re broke and in your early 20’s. Just ask Lance Taylor, who moved west to chase down a dream as an actor right out of college. Taylor had read an article on how Matthew McConaughey was found at a bar in Austin and landed a star role in the movie Dazed and Confused. To him, that made it seem simple. He had a great personality, all he had to do was mingle with the right people and make important connections. Sooner rather than later, he thought he’d be discovered just like McConaughey.
Less than a year later, Taylor was packing up and leaving the west coast to travel back home and look for his next venture. His plan to mingle with the biggest decision makers in Hollywood hadn’t panned out exactly has he had hoped.
What he didn’t realize, was how expensive of a city Los Angeles was. Instead of being out and about most nights, he instead found himself working long hours to try and make ends meet, something many young actors find themselves doing. Taylor’s dream didn’t die because he wasn’t talented enough, in his own words, he was just too naïve to know what exactly he was getting himself into.
With a degree in radio from the University of Alabama, as well as play-by-by experience in the Jayhawk League in Kansas, on his resume, Taylor set out to chase another big passion of his. Like most in the radio business, he wasn’t shy about his ambitions. He wanted to be on the air, no matter the role, and began searching for a way to get behind a mic.
The trouble with having a radio degree, is that it never fully guarantees you a position out of college. Taylor found this out the hard way, as he was only offered a position in sales after sending out his resume to multiple stations. If he was to chase down a dream in radio, he’d have to start off by proving his worth on the sales side.
Though it wasn’t necessarily where he thought he’d have to start, Taylor began his journey at Radio Disney in Birmingham. A 4-test market that included other cities such Atlanta, Los Angeles and Minneapolis, Taylor actually found out quickly he was pretty good at his new position. Selling came natural to him, despite the fact that Radio Disney didn’t have any numbers at the time.
Soon after he started, he had already built an impressive client base. So much so, that the decision makers at WJOX in Birmingham plucked him away to join the team. The only sports station in Birmingham, Taylor saw it as a golden opportunity to finally make his way on the air.
Though he really found himself excelling at sales, Taylor was begging and willing for any opportunity to jump on the mic. He did so, by hosting random things such as a Monday Night Football show or a one-hour Friday roundtable that mixed and matched various personalities. No show was too small or unimportant for Taylor.
After continuing to sell at a high rate, one of the best, if not the best, radio station in Birmingham approached Taylor with a job offer. A country music format, it would take him away from sports, but the guaranteed offer was just too good to pass up. In his mind, Taylor accepted the offer and soon realized it was a deal he had to take. But sometimes fate takes over, and that’s what happened when he approached the GM at WJOX to inform him of his decision.
Clearly, Taylor had proven his worth both on the sales and talent side. He was a profitable employee that WJOX didn’t want to see walk out the door. The proposal to get Taylor to stay, was simple: He would now to be a co-host of a mid-day show on the station.
That offer was enough to entice Taylor to stay at WJOX. Though it was an un-paid role, he knew that would change after he earned his stripes on the new show. He was right.
After eight months, Taylor went from un-paid to 500 bucks a month. After four more months, the original host of the show was fired, which gave Taylor his own one-hour show. He was now making 1,000 dollars a month, not counting what he was still making on the sales side. His one-hour show turned into two after being extremely profitable. He would have two different co-hosts over the next four years, before finally being promoted to a four-hour show, a position he’s held for the last 10 years.
Today, Taylor is a host of The Roundtable on WJOX from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. every weekday, as well as a sales guy at the station. Amazingly, he’s nearly matched his worth on the talent side with his worth on the sales side. Talk about someone that means a lot to a station, right?
Taylor’s journey into the host seat is one that required him to practically beg to be on the air. But when you’re willing to take advantage of any and every opportunity, people notice and are more willing to give you opportunities.
Hearing Taylor’s story, there’s no mystery as to why he’s been so successful. Sure, it’s helped tremendously that he’s a huge asset on the sales side, but here’s a closer look at the day-to-day operations for someone that specializes in both sides of the radio business.
TM: How easy have you found it to be when you’re selling yourself to a potential client?
JT: I think it’s easy because it’s a popular radio station and the only sports format in Birmingham. We’re kind of a known commodity. With that being said, if I call on a business, not only have they heard of WJOX, they’ve heard of me because I’ve been on the air for so long. At least you get an audience for the decision maker and from there it’s a really good product and kind of sells itself.
Terrestrial radio seems to be dying, because you have so many options out there. There’s so many podcasts, XM, Sirius, the fortunate thing for us is that we’re in a market that’s so passionate about SEC football. Therefore, if you want up to the minute Alabama and Auburn football, you have to get it through us. We’re always going to have, what I would deem, as a base listener show.
TM: Do you think sports radio is harder to sell, than say, a country music or rock format?
JT: It’s much easier to sell sports radio. You’ve got so many options when it comes to music, including regular radio. There’s iTunes, Spotify, XM, Sirius, you can listen to what you want, when you want. Again, with sports talk, you’ve got a captive audience that’s loyal, constantly listening and doing it longer. I’ve always said that the two easiest formats to sell, because they’re passion driven, are sports talk and Christian.
TM: Just about everybody in your market is an Alabama or Auburn fan. Have you ever seen a scenario where a host portrays themselves as more Bama or Auburn sided, you try to sell him to a client, and they reject because of the loyalties they show on the air?
JT: Well, what we have are personalities that actually played at the two universities. I recently just got switched to the morning drive, I had done mid-days for 15 years, and two of our previous hosts in the mornings were a former Auburn kicker and a former Alabama quarterback. You always have to balance and for me as a sales guy, the way I would pitch a client, you don’t want to upset one of the two fan bases, so why not buy from both of them? Why not let both of them endorse your product? That way you’re getting a good balance from both fan bases.
TM: Last college football season is probably a good example for this question: Let’s say both Alabama and Auburn are both having strong years and in the College Football Playoff discussion. Who’s more relevant on a show?
JT: Well, we’re a bigger Alabama community. I would say, if you did an Alabama-Auburn split of our listeners, probably 65 percent are Bama fans. I think that’s an accurate portrayal of what our audience is. Obviously, it’s more important if Alabama is doing well, just from a listener standpoint. You either want the product to be really good or so bad that someone might get fired.
TM: Now that you’ve seen both sides, what do you think is mostly the biggest disconnect between the sales staff and on-air personalities?
JT: For me, it’s the sales staff not knowing the product and not knowing their personalities. To me, I think I’m a guy that could probably sell anything, but I wouldn’t necessarily enjoy selling just anything. I think your better sales people are ones that know the product, inside and out, and the people that are passionate about the product.
I think the disconnect becomes, I’ll see a sales person that I don’t even know, I don’t know their name or anything. I think it’s very important early on, and this is something I took a lot of pride in before I got on the air, I got to know the personalities. I sold them all equally because I thought each of them brought something to the table. Obviously, they had their own shows, so they were a strength of certain day parts. The station knew how important these guys were, well I think they can be important for my clients. So I got to know all the guys and the more I knew about them, the easier selling became. The problem with some of the sales staff is they don’t necessarily know everybody that’s on the air, what we do and I just think that can be a big disconnect.
But that can work both ways. We, as on-air guys, benefit from the sales guys and endorsements. I think it’s also important that on-air staff take the time to get to know the sales staff, as well.
TM: A lot of stations like to do sponsor interviews on the air. What’s your thoughts on the benefits and drawbacks of having a client on the air during a show?
JT: It’s interesting you ask this, because I’ve seen it from both sides. As a sales guy, I live on commission, so I enjoy getting that, but I think it hampers our product. For example, I’d have a metal roof guy come in that was a buddy and had a great business. The problem, is that there’s only so much of the market that is interested in purchasing a metal roof. When I say that, you’re probably talking about one percent. You’re tuning out 99 percent of your audience talking about metal roofs for five minutes.
Although your station can benefit from that revenue stream, it can also crush your ratings. It’s hard to sell a product without good ratings. If I had to make the decision, I’d say to not have the clients on the air. There are more creative ways to do things that get more for the client.
TM: Is digital that avenue?
JT: Yeah, I think so. It’s hard to explain to a certain generation how important the digital aspect is. But yeah, there’s so many different things you can do with digital. Having banners, pre-roll videos, you can really get creative on that side of things.
For someone that’s a diehard fan of the station and always listening inside their car, it might be harder to sell them that 10-15 percent of our listeners are actually siting in their office and listening on the website. It’s becoming easier to sell digitally, I still don’t know how educated some of our potential clients are on that .
Tyler McComas is a columnist for BSM and a sports radio talk show host in Norman, OK where he hosts afternoon drive for SportsTalk 1400. You can find him on Twitter @Tyler_McComas or you can email him at TylerMcComas08@yahoo.com.
The Future Is Now, Embrace Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+
As annoying as streaming sports is and as much as I haven’t fully adapted to the habit yet, Amazon and Apple have done a magnificent job of trying to make the process as easy and simplified as possible.
This week has been a reckoning for sports and its streaming future on Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+, ESPN+, and more.
Amazon announced that Thursday Night Football, which averaged 13 million viewers, generated the highest number of U.S. sign ups over a three hour period in the app’s history. More people in the United States subscribed to Prime during the September 15th broadcast than they did during Black Friday, Prime Day, and Cyber Monday. It was also “the most watched night of primetime in Prime Video’s history,” according to Amazon executive Jay Marine. The NFL and sports in general have the power to move mountains even for some of the nation’s biggest and most successful brands.
This leads us to the conversation happening surrounding Aaron Judge’s chase for history. Judge has been in pursuit of former major leaguer Roger Maris’ record for the most home runs hit during one season in American League history.
The sports world has turned its attention to the Yankees causing national rights holders such as ESPN, Fox, and TBS to pick up extra games in hopes that they capture the moment history is made. Apple TV+ also happened to have a Yankees game scheduled for Friday night against the Red Sox right in the middle of this chase for glory.
Baseball fans have been wildin’ out at the prospects of missing the grand moment when Judge passes Maris or even the moments afterwards as Judge chases home run number 70 and tries to truly create monumental history of his own. The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand has even reported there were talks between YES, MLB, and Apple to bring Michael Kay into Apple’s broadcast to call the game, allow YES Network to air its own production of the game, or allow YES Network to simulcast Apple TV+’s broadcast. In my opinion, all of this hysteria is extremely bogus.
As annoying as streaming sports is and as much as I haven’t fully adapted to the habit yet, Amazon and Apple have done a magnificent job of trying to make the process as easy and simplified as possible. Amazon brought in NBC to help with production of TNF and if you watch the flow of the broadcast, the graphics of the broadcast, NBC personalities like Michael Smith, Al Michaels, and Terry McAuliffe make appearances on the telecast – it is very clear that the network’s imprint is all over the show.
NBC’s experience in conducting the broadcast has made the viewing experience much more seamless. Apple has also used MLB Network and its personalities for assistance in ensuring there’s no major difference between what you see on air vs. what you’re streaming.
Amazon and Apple have also decided to not hide their games behind a paywall. Since the beginning of the season, all of Apple’s games have been available free of charge. No subscription has ever been required. As long as you have an Apple device and can download Apple TV+, you can watch their MLB package this season.
Guess what? Friday’s game against the Red Sox is also available for free on your iPhone, your laptop, or your TV simply by downloading the AppleTV app. Amazon will also simulcast all Thursday Night Football games on Twitch for free. It may be a little harder or confusing to find the free options, but they are out there and they are legal and, once again, they are free.
Apple has invested $85 million into baseball, money that will go towards your team becoming better hypothetically. They’ve invested money towards creating a new kind of streaming experience. Why in the hell would they offer YES Network this game for free? There’s no better way for them to drive subscriptions to their product than by offering fans a chance at watching history on their platform.
A moment like this are the main reason Apple paid for rights in the first place. When Apple sees what the NFL has done for Amazon in just one week and coincidentally has the ability to broadcast one of the biggest moments in baseball history – it would be a terrible business decision to let viewers watch it outside of the Apple ecosystem and lose the ability to gain new fans.
It’s time for sports fans to grow up and face reality. Streaming is here to stay.
MLB Network is another option
If you don’t feel like going through the hassle of watching the Yankees take on the Red Sox for free on Apple TV+, MLB Network will also air all of Judge’s at bats live as they are happening. In case the moment doesn’t happen on Apple TV+ on Friday night, Judge’s next games will air in full on MLB Network (Saturday), ESPN (Sunday), MLB Network again (Monday), TBS (Tuesday) and MLB Network for a third time on Wednesday. All of MLB Network’s games will be simulcast of YES Network’s local New York broadcast. It wouldn’t shock me to see Fox pick up another game next Thursday if the pursuit still maintains national interest.
- One of the weirdest things about the experience of streaming sports is that you lose the desire to channel surf. Is that a good thing or bad thing? Brandon Ross of LightShed Ventures wonders if the difficulty that comes with going from app to app will help Amazon keep viewers on TNF the entire time no matter what the score of the game is. If it does, Amazon needs to work on developing programming to surround the games or start replaying the games, pre and post shows so that when you fall asleep and wake up you’re still on the same stream on Prime Video or so that coming to Prime Video for sports becomes just as much of a habit for fans as tuning in to ESPN is.
- CNN has announced the launch of a new morning show with Don Lemon, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlin Collins. Variety reports, “Two people familiar with plans for the show say it is likely to use big Warner Bros. properties — a visit from the cast of HBO’s Succession or sports analysis from TNT’s NBA crew — to lure eyeballs.” It’ll be interesting to see if Turner Sports becomes a cornerstone of this broadcast. Will the NBA start doing schedule releases during the show? Will a big Taylor Rooks interview debut on this show before it appears on B/R? Will the Stanley Cup or Final Four MVP do an interview on CNN’s show the morning after winning the title? Does the show do remote broadcasts from Turner’s biggest sports events throughout the year?
- The Clippers are back on over the air television. They announced a deal with Nexstar to broadcast games on KTLA and other Nexstar owned affiliates in California. The team hasn’t reached a deal to air games on Bally Sports SoCal or Bally Sports Plus for the upcoming season. Could the Clippers pursue a solo route and start their own OTT service in time for the season? Are they talking to Apple, Amazon, or ESPN about a local streaming deal? Is Spectrum a possible destination? I think these are all possibilities but its likely that the Clippers end up back on Bally Sports since its the status quo. I just find it interesting that it has taken so long to solidify an agreement and that it wasn’t announced in conjunction with the KTLA deal. The Clippers are finally healthy this season, moving into a new arena soon, have the technology via Second Spectrum to produce immersive game casts. Maybe something is brewing?
- ESPN’s Monday Night Football double box was a great concept. The execution sucked. Kudos to ESPN for adjusting on the fly once complaints began to lodge across social media. I think the double box works as a separate feed. ESPN2 should’ve been the home to the double box. SVP and Stanford Steve could’ve held a watch party from ESPN’s DC studio with special guests. The double box watch party on ESPN2 could’ve been interrupted whenever SVP was giving an update on games for ESPN and ABC. It would give ESPN2 a bit of a behind the scenes look at how the magic happens similarly to what MLB Tonight did last week. Credit to ESPN and the NFL for experimenting and continuing to try and give fans unique experiences.
Jessie Karangu is a columnist for BSM and graduate of the University of Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland but comes from Kenyan roots. Jessie has had a passion for sports media and the world of television since he was a child. His career has included stints with USA Today, Tegna, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Sightline Media. He can be found on Twitter @JMKTVShow.
ESPN Shows Foresight With Monday Night Football Doubleheader Timing
ESPN is obviously testing something, and it’s worth poking around at why the network wouldn’t follow the schedule it has used for the last 16 years, scheduling kickoffs at 7 and then 10 on their primary channel.
The Monday Night Football doubleheader was a little bit different this time around for ESPN.
First, it came in Week 2 instead of Week 1. And then, the games were staggered 75 minutes apart on two different channels, the Titans and Bills beginning on ESPN at 7:15 PM ET and the Vikings at the Eagles starting at 8:30 PM on ABC and ESPN+. This was a departure from the usual schedule in which the games kicked off at 7:00 PM ET and then 10:00 PM ET with the latter game on the West Coast.
ESPN is obviously testing something, and it’s worth poking around at why the network wouldn’t follow the schedule it has used for the last 16 years, scheduling kickoffs at 7:00 PM and then 10:00 PM ET on their primary channel. That’s the typical approach, right? The NFL is the most valuable offering in all of sports and ESPN would have at least six consecutive hours of live programming without any other game to switch to.
Instead, they staggered the starts so the second game kicked off just before the first game reached halftime. They placed the games on two different channels, which risked cannibalizing their audience. Why? Well, it’s the same reason that ESPN was so excited about the last year’s Manningcast that it’s bringing it back for 10 weeks this season. ESPN is not just recognizing the reality of how their customers behave, but they’re embracing it.
Instead of hoping with everything they have that the customer stays in one place for the duration of the game, they’re recognizing the reality that they will leave and providing another product within their portfolio to be a destination when they do.
It’s the kind of experiment everyone in broadcasting should be investigating because, for all the talk about meeting the customer where they are, we still tend to be a little bit stubborn about adapting to what they do.
Customers have more choices than ever when it comes to media consumption. First, cable networks softened the distribution advantages of broadcast networks, and now digital offerings have eroded the distribution advantages of cable networks. It’s not quite a free-for-all, but the battle for viewership is more intense, more wide open than ever because that viewer has so many options of not just when and where but how they will consume media.
Programmers have a choice in how to react to this. On the one hand, they can hold on tighter to the existing model and try to squeeze as much out of it as they can. If ESPN was thinking this way it would stack those two Monday night games one after the other just like it always has and hope like hell for a couple of close games to juice the ratings. Why would you make it impossible for your customer to watch both of these products you’ve paid so much to televise?
I’ve heard radio programmers and hosts recite take this same approach for more than 10 years now when it comes to making shows available on-demand. Why would you give your customers the option of consuming the product in a way that’s not as remunerative or in a way that is not measured?
That thinking is outdated and it is dangerous from an economic perspective because it means you’re trying to make the customer behave in your best interest by restricting their choices. And maybe that will work. Maybe they like that program enough that they’ll consume it in the way you’d prefer or maybe they decide that’s inconvenient or annoying or they decide to try something else and now this customer who would have listened to your product in an on-demand format is choosing to listen to someone else’s product entirely.
After all, you’re the only one that is restricting that customer’s choices because you’re the only one with a desire to keep your customer where he is. Everyone else is more than happy to give your customer something else.
There’s a danger in holding on too tightly to the existing model because the tighter you squeeze, the more customers will slip through your fingers, and if you need a physical demonstration to complete this metaphor go grab a handful of sand and squeeze it hard.
Your business model is only as good as its ability to predict the behavior of your customers, and as soon as it stops doing that, you need to adjust that business model. Don’t just recognize the reality that customers today will exercise the freedom that all these media choices provide, embrace it.
Offer more products. Experiment with more ways to deliver those products. The more you attempt to dictate the terms of your customer’s engagement with your product, the more customers you’ll lose, and by accepting this you’ll open yourself to the reality that if your customer is going to leave your main offering, it’s better to have them hopping to another one of your products as opposed to leaving your network entirely.
Think in terms of depth of engagement, and breadth of experience. That’s clearly what ESPN is doing because conventional thinking would see the Manningcast as a program that competes with the main Monday Night Football broadcast, that cannibalizes it. ESPN sees it as a complimentary experience. An addition to the main broadcast, but it also has the benefit that if the customer feels compelled to jump away from the main broadcast – for whatever reason – it has another ESPN offering that they may land on.
I’ll be watching to see what ESPN decides going forward. The network will have three Monday Night Football doubleheaders beginning next year, and the game times have not been set. Will they line them up back-to-back as they had up until this year? If they do it will be a vote of confidence that its traditional programming approach that evening is still viable. But if they overlap those games going forward, it’s another sign that less is not more when it comes to giving your customers a choice in products.
Danny O’Neil is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously hosted morning and afternoon drive for 710 ESPN Seattle, and served as a reporter for the Seattle Times. He can be reached on Twitter @DannyOneil or by email at Danny@DannyOneil.com.
Media Noise: Sunday Ticket Has Problems, Marcellus Wiley Does Not
On this episode of Media Noise, Demetri is joined by Brian Noe to talk about the wild year FS1’s Marcellus Wiley has had and by Garrett Searight to discuss the tumultuous present and bright future of NFL Sunday Ticket.
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.