What’s sports radio truly all about? Why did so many us dream of the opportunity to voice our sports opinions on a platform for so many to hear? Why do we do entry-level jobs with little pay just have a chance to one day climb into the host seat? To answer all those questions, I only need one word: Passion.
You see, passion is what sports radio is truly all about. It’s what started this format and it’s what will keep it going for many years to come. Passion can’t be faked. It’s the true, raw emotion of a sports debate that makes this business different from any other. Passion is what separates sports radio from just a hobby, to a product that can be profitable and broadcasted in every corner of the country.
When it comes to passionate hosts in the Oklahoma City market, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who shows it more than Sam Mayes. Co-host of the Triple M Ranch on The Franchise every weekday from 3-6 p.m. Mayes brings a level of energy that’s captured the local audience and made him into one of best hosts in the market.
But above everything else, above the passion and the willingness to work hard, Mayes is super competitive. Maybe that comes from his playing days at Oklahoma State, maybe it’s just in his genes, but competing is something that keeps him striving for greatness every day on the air.
”I love to compete, said Mayes. “This is going to sound crazy to you, but I don’t know that I’m a huge sports fan. For me, it’s about the competition. I love the scheming that goes into it and the night before the action and the feeling you get from it. For me, talking about teams competing is something I’m passionate about, because I’m doing it every day on the radio. It’s all about competition and that comes from very fundamental things such as giving great effort, working hard and being a good leader. You can make those things translate whether you’re talking about football, tennis or whatever. The passion comes because I love watching guys compete at the highest level and I really appreciate it.”
During his time at Oklahoma State, Mayes didn’t take a single radio or TV class. But he did learn from his head coach, Les Miles, on how to handle the media. That may have been more helpful than any class.
As OSU was trying to gain traction in the early 2000’s, Miles was a showman that used the media as a weapon to help his underrated football team. At the height of his era in Stillwater, Miles was always quick to make a confident and quirky comment that was instantly the biggest story in the state. Mayes quickly became a favorite amongst the local media, because he learned how to be personable in front of the camera like his coach. That skill would prove to be extremely beneficial when it came to life after football.
A future in the NFL seemed like a definite when Mayes left Oklahoma State. But just when aspirations were at their highest, a broken leg in the Senior Bowl threw a big wrench into his plans. After going undrafted and never fully being able to return from such a serious injury, playing football for a living was now off the table. As you’d imagine, his life was turned upside down. Soon after, Mayes found himself back in Stillwater working at a 9-hole golf course where he admitted he was “drinking a whole lot of beer and trying to figure out what was next.”
What came next, was an unexpected conversation that led to an opportunity in sports radio. Jack Borgen, a salesman at Triple Play Sports in Stillwater, approached Mayes at the golf course and instantly recognized him. Borgen remembered how great Mayes was with the media and pitched the idea of trying his hand at sports radio. Mayes was all about it. He quickly ascended from doing a one-day a week show with the station to hosting his own show from 3-6 every weekday to even doing fill-in work for the Sports Animal while still working at Triple Play Sports. It was a random occurrence that led to Mayes finding something he was not only passionate about, but also had a real talent for.
In 2013, Tyler Media decided to create their own sports radio station with the booming 107.7 signal the company already owned. One of the first calls management made to potential hosts for The Franchise, was Mayes. The opportunity to be one of the key personalities of a station being built from scratch was too much to pass up.
After debuting on the station with a show named Mid-Morning Mayes along co-host Colby Daniels, it soon became of the most unique shows in the market. The positive feedback soon led to Mid-Morning Mayes transforming into the Triple M Ranch and moving to afternoon drive time on the station.
“Tyler Media is an incredible company and the message they sent was we want to be the future of Oklahoma sports talk radio,” said Mayes. “The Sports Animal has been established around here forever and what they have there is great. Mark Rodgers and Al Eschbach are mentors of mine. What Tyler Media sold to me, in terms of Oklahoma football, was an opportunity to cover a perennial powerhouse. I just couldn’t pass that up. Even with the Thunder being what they are, even though The Sports Animal is the flagship of the Thunder, the reality is, the biggest dog in this state will always be OU football. It was too good of an opportunity to cover a sport I’m passionate about and a team that’s one of the all-time greats.”
Mayes never hides the fact he played at Oklahoma State. In fact, he’s extremely proud of it. He also never shy’s from his love of covering OU football. That often leads to OSU fans on social media criticizing his takes on the two in-state schools. But Mayes isn’t worried about that. His sole focus is to provide the best content while being straightforward with the listener.
“I think it probably helps that I’m not from the state,” said Mayes. “I think if I grew up in Oklahoma as an OSU fan, it would have been much tougher. I also think it would have been harder if I didn’t win a bunch of those games. I mean, I won two of those (Bedlam) games and should have won a third one. That was even during the time period where OU was winning national titles. I don’t have any bad feelings towards OU by any means. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the way they play football. Bob Stoops is from my hometown, he’s a Youngstown guy. The transition was extremely easy, because I promise you that I’ll never lie about college football. I’m just not going to do it. Some Oklahoma State fans are frustrated with me right now, but I’m just going to always tell things how I honestly feel.”
Though handling Twitter trolls is something he has to manage at times, Mayes is a big believer in the power of social media. His goal, is to be transparent and invite the listener into his own personal life. Mayes doesn’t just want to be a local talking head in the media, he wants to be someone you feel like you know and could have a beer with. Last year’s trip to cover the Orange Bowl in Miami was just a reminder of that, as an evening trip to the bar meant OU fans introducing themselves and offering to buy him drinks. Mayes knows his sports takes aren’t going to be appreciated by everyone, but he wants to be a relatable guy to the listener. He may be the guy on the radio, but his roots are still blue collar as ever.
Though things are going well for Mayes and the Triple M Ranch, as listenership continues to rise, don’t confuse that with him being satisfied. Though the results continue to get better and better, his desire to learn only continues to grow. Remember, Mayes is competitive. His goal is to be the best in the market. If he never achieves that, it won’t be from a lack of hard work and effort.
“The easiest thing ever in the world, as a sports talk radio host, is to get their information from one spot and not look anywhere else,” said Mayes. “I’ve really focused on getting as much info as I possibly can before I formulate my opinion. I want to read things from people that I agree with, but also people I don’t agree. Seeing things from all angles is important to me. The more accurate information I can give someone the better. Making that a daily routine, much like a football practice, has been really good for me.”
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.