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James Rapien is Headed to Cleveland

Tyler McComas

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It was supposed to be just another ordinary day at the station for James Rapien, show prepping and scheduling guests. He refused to let his mind wander from anything else outside the walls of ESPN 1530 in Cincinnati. But suddenly, his concentration was broken when his cell phone started to ring. It was a number that he instantly recognized.  

Applying and interviewing for other jobs is the nature of the business in sports radio. Like anything else, there’s a right and wrong way to handle such things, but bettering yourself and exploring new opportunities is common amongst hosts, producers and reporters. 

When Rapien picked up his phone to answer the incoming call that could change his career, he made sure he was respectful, by stepping aside his current duties to take the call. On the other end of the line was Andy Roth, program director at 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland. After going through several phone interviews, sending numerous sound clips and even making a trip to Cleveland to visit Roth, the hosts, producers and everyone else at the station, the phone call he’d been anxiously awaiting had arrived. 

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When you’re in the middle of the job interview process, it’s extremely tough not to let your mind wander and think about the possibility of landing the job. It’s even harder, when you’ve made it onto the final list of candidates. Though Rapien admitted it wasn’t easy to shut down those thoughts, he said, “even when you’re interviewing, work at your current employer doesn’t stop.” 

That’s a great piece of advice to anyone going through the interview process. Though it’s an exciting time, what good are you to your current position if you constantly get distracted by the thoughts of working for another station?  I give a lot of credit to the way Rapien handled himself as a professional throughout this process. Even though he was going through a potential career-changing moment, he worked just has hard as he did before. 

Rapien wasn’t just looking for any reason or excuse to get away from ESPN 1530 or the city of Cincinnati. He loves working there. He loves his co-workers. The city is where he and his fiancé have made a home. So when it came down to Roth calling Rapien the first time, the interview process was going both ways. 

“When interviewing with a station, you’re also interviewing them to make sure it’s a good fit for you.” That was another fantastic bit of advice that came from Rapien. When he initially saw the opening at 92.3 The Fan on social media and Barrett Sports Media, he was interested, but he wasn’t sure if the logistics, such as moving with his fiancé to Cleveland, would work out. He wasn’t about to just jump at the first opportunity that came about, he really wanted to make sure this was the right move for both personal and professional reasons. 

Soon after, Rapien came to the conclusion this was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. So when Roth finally called after a long interview process to offer the reporter position, Rapien was sure this was the right fit for him. 

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TM: Was there a question during the interview process that surprised you?

JR: Sure, I think there’s always questions like that during the interview process. I’m not sure if one sticks out specifically, I would say, and I think this is the key to any interview, I’ve always treated them as it’s not about really going out of your way to impress the employer, it’s seeing if it’s a good fit for you.

I go into them interviewing the company, too. Am I interested in them? When someone asks me a question that throws me off, it truly doesn’t throw me off too much, because I’m going to answer honestly and the best way that I can.

If it’s a good fit, it ends up being a good fit. I think a lot of people, in any industry, put a lot of pressure on themselves during the interview process and do a lot of prep. I didn’t really do any practice questions, or anything like that. I wanted to be genuine. If they were interested in me, great. Obviously, it worked out well.

TM: How did you find out about the opening?

JR: I saw it on Twitter, I saw that the reporter was leaving. But also, I love barrettsportsmedia.com and I also saw it there.

TM: What did you do to reach out? 

JR: I sent a resume and that’s it. You would love to have contacts and things like that, I knew one of the producers there and I just eventually applied there. Apparently, they must have liked me at least a little bit.  

TM: In terms of clips that you initially sent over, did you send a couple of segments? A full hour? How did you approach it?

JR: I sent clips of different things, me with someone else, me interviewing a couple of different people, intro to hours, but this is a reporter position, so writing came into it, as well. Things I’ve done on blogs, websites, and stuff like that I sent over. They’ve heard me, but they also needed to read me. But I also recorded some updates so they could hear my abilities in that area. 

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TM: Was there a moment throughout the interview process where you realized to yourself that you had a legit shot at getting the job?

JR: Yeah, I think after you get a call and then you eventually get a couple more, you let your minde wander a little bit. But to be honest, I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I knew it would be a big move from Cincinnati. It’s my hometown and I think I’ve established a pretty decent role here with the station.

It was just kind of a feeling out process that we continued to have. It was exciting, sure, just the thought you could potentially be wanted for another position, but I don’t think there was ever a moment where I let myself get super excited. Of course I thought about, naturally you’re going to do that, but I didn’t want to get too excited, because you do so many interviews in this industry the last thing you want to do is get ahead of yourself and think you’ve locked up the position. I tried to stay as even-keel as I could. 

TM: Is it easier going through the interview process when you already have a job, versus being out of one and just praying you find work again?

JR: I think so. I wasn’t desperate or coming from a desperate place. I was coming from a place where I really like where I’m at, what I’m doing and the people I’m working with. But, naturally in this industry, you have to be open to listening and feeling things out. You have to be open to looking for other opportunities and exploring them when they present a great opportunity.

This felt like that. But absolutely, it’s much different and harder if I was coming from a more desperate place. I’ve been in that situation and it’s tough. The hard part is maintaining and not looking that way. It’s still realizing, oh, I’m not going to take this just because it’s offered, I’m going to take it because I think it’s a good opportunity for me. You just have to keep in mind that you’re gathering information on you, just like you’re gathering information on them. 

TM: It’s the nature of the business, guys leave and find new opportunities. But what’s the conversation like when you approach your current employer and tell them you’re accepting a position at another station? 

JR: My current employer, iHeart Media in Cincinnati, was just awesome throughout the process. From everyone I talked to about it, they totally understood and were excited for me. It wasn’t a, “Oh my goodness I can’t believe you’re leaving and taking that!” it was, “Wow. That’s awesome and a really good opportunity for you.”

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I’m grateful for that. I feel like that’s probably rare in this type of industry. This is where I was groomed and grew up in sports radio. They’ve seen me grow and were excited for me. I wasn’t nervous about telling them and I think that speaks to their character and how they view me and how I view them. 

TM: Did you list any references on your resume that worked at your employer?

JR: I didn’t include a natural reference area. Clearly, they saw I do a show with Mo Egger and that helped, but during the interview process I made it clear I do have them. My resume is a lot of little thing I’ve done, from play-by-play to writing for different websites, things like that. I’ve chosen, over time, to pick up little jobs like that to turn into resume builders. Naturally, everything is online these days and that’s how you apply. But no, references from the station weren’t on my initial list. 

BSM Writers

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.

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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.

Quick bites

  • 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.

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BSM Writers

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.

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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.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: Sunday Ticket Has Problems, Marcellus Wiley Does Not

Demetri Ravanos

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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.

ITunes: https://buff.ly/3PjJWpO

Spotify: https://buff.ly/3AVwa90

iHeart: https://buff.ly/3cbINCp

Google: https://buff.ly/3PbgHWx

Amazon: https://buff.ly/3cbIOpX

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