Getting to know Mo Egger is a testament to what a small world radio is. Mo got his start producing Jim Scott’s morning show at WLW in Cincinnati. Jim’s son, Scott Fitzgerald (obviously not his real name) has been one of my very best friends in this industry for the better part of a decade. I didn’t know this before I picked up the phone to call Mo, but at the end of our conversation we started swapping stories about this family we both have an emotional connection to.
In his radio career, Mo has moved up at iHeartMedia’s Cincinnati office. He has never moved out, and he doesn’t have any plans to either.
Like so many of his listeners, Mo Egger was born in Cincinnati and he plans to stay in Cincinnati. The Reds and Bengals unite the town’s sports fans, while the Buckeyes, Bearcats, Muskateers, Wildcats, and maybe half a dozen other college teams divide it.
My conversation with ESPN 1530’s afternoon host touched on legendary Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman’s final season behind a microphone, Mo’s sensitivity to local college basketball fans, how we have each screwed up our kids, and the finer details of making and eating authentic Cincinnati chili.
Demetri: Why do you you think there is no competition for you guys in Cincinnati? I know there are multiple sports stations in the market, but they’re all in your building, right?
Mo: Yeah. It is just sort of the way ownership in the market played out. We happen to own all of the AM sticks here that matter.
When I was in high school and college there was a company called AM/FM I think. They had a sports talk radio station that was really quite good. We actually ended up hiring a lot of their guys. One of them is still with us.
They were on the air from 1994 until like 2000 or 2001. They had a morning show, a mid day show, and an afternoon show. They took the Bengals rights for a while. Then just the way things went down with regulation in the 90s, that station ended up folding.
Then across town Radio One launched a station in 2012.
D: This was the CBS Sports Radio affiliate right? If I remember, weren’t they all national shows?
M: No. They had a local morning show and a local afternoon show. The problem against us is we have the rights to everything. We have the Reds, Bengals, UC (University of Cincinnati), and Xavier. The problem in a market like this is that it’s hard when you can’t get rights to anything.
It’s a weird market. I am on ESPN 1530. WLW is literally two doors down, and a lot of what we do is programmed not to compete with them, but to offset or supplement them. If you want to do sports talk radio, there’s really only one place to go.
D: Does the average sports fan in Cincinnati value the play-by-play more than hosts and shows?
M: Yeah. Maybe. It’s a baseball-centric town and the sport you most connect to radio is baseball. And we’ve always had iconic broadcasters doing baseball in this town, so that branding has always meant so much.
It’s funny, whenever I hear people talk about apathy for the Reds, they can still recite what Marty Brennaman said the night before. It may be a little less so for the NFL because that is such a TV sport. Plus, when you have the rights you have access to Marty and to the Bengals guys and you have a larger degree of access to the teams themselves, which helps the programming.
The Reds are so unique because, he’s retiring this year, but Marty doing a Reds game is almost like another talk show. He is so opinionated. It’s always been interested to me how he kinda sets the tone for what so many people say and think. Not many people have done this the way he does and have a voice that is so authoritative. It’s what makes the broadcast so unique.
D: How much do Reds fans care about that story? The team isn’t competitive this year. Is who will replace Marty Brennaman a subject on your show?
M: I don’t think people care who replaces Marty. I think whoever replaces Marty, people will just complain about him.
Cincinnati is a very parochial town. Sports talk radio, as you know, is very local, but maybe here even more so. It really has to transcend if it happens outside the 275 loop or we’re probably not going to talk about it.
We’ve had a lot of coaching changes here over the last couple of years. Maybe it’s like this everywhere, but the Reds need a new manager and everyone just mentions their favorite former Red. The Bengals need a new head coach and everyone just mentions their favorite former Bengal. There are a lot of folks that consider themselves die hard Reds fans that probably can’t name five other local baseball broadcasters, because they just aren’t paying attention.
They’re using a guy from their Double-A team on broadcasts this year named Tommy Thrall.
D: This is the kid from Pensacola, right?
M: Yeah. I think they are doing the smart thing. They’ve had him work some games with Marty. He is doing their postgame show. I think they’re working him in and saying “here’s our guy” so that when the torch is passed to him the listeners will accept it, but when it was announced, no one knew who he was.
Those are obviously big shoes to fill. If you ask most Reds fans who should take Marty’s place they would say “I don’t know. Thom Brennaman?” or “Why not have Jeff Brantley do the games?”. I don’t think most listeners could really give you a bunch of qualified candidates.
D: So it’s the Dietrich story then that is the obsession night in and night out?
M: Oh yeah. It’s been interesting, because this team has been entertaining and they have had so many of these kinds of personalities. Cincinnati is the world’s biggest small town, but when these big personalities show up, people just embrace them. It makes us feel like “We’re New York! We’re cosmopolitan! We’re cool!”.
I think Derek Dietrich has done that. I think Yasiel Puig has done that. Nobody did that better than Chad Johnson. They just made people not only feel good about Cincinnati but like Cincinnati is cool.
I also think that has framed how people view the team. As we’re talking they’re 27-32. They haven’t been above .500 since opening day. The franchise itself hasn’t advanced in the postseason since 1995, but right now no one wants to hear that because of Derek Dietrich and Yasiel Puig. This team has a certain personality that has hooked people.
Now, you haven’t necessarily seen that translated into ticket sales. That is such an uphill battle for this team that it will take more than a Derek Dietrich to sell some tickets, but they’ve really changed the conversation around here. It’s been fun to talk about something besides “Why can’t they win?” or “Who are they going to trade?”.
D: Maybe I’m wrong here, but it seems like the Reds have had that situation a lot since like 2010. Maybe the team is not good, but there is one exciting player that you don’t want to miss the highlights from whether it is Joey Votto or Johnny Cueto or now Derek Dietrich.
M: Well Votto is always that guy. He’s been the best player for like a decade. You talked about 2010. No one saw that team coming. They won 90+ games. I cannot remember anything that galvanized Reds vans like that year when he initially didn’t make the All-Star team.
People were pissed. They took that personally. We had the league leader in OPS and he didn’t make the All-Star team? If he was playing for the Yankees or the Cubs or the Mets you can’t tell me he isn’t a shoo in!
The one thing we aren’t used to here is someone making $236 million. Money always changes relationships. We’ve gotten a lot of milage out of that topic. I think it greatly changed the relationship between Joey and this city. Plus, the sport has changed over the last 20 years. It’s more analytically driven and he has been at the epicenter of that.
In 2013 he was in the top 10 I counted in like 19 different offensive categories. I could still do three hours everyday on “Joey Votto is overrated because he doesn’t have enough RBI.” I could say “Yeah, but he leads in on-base percentage, plus they have two other guys with 100 RBI and its largely because of Joey Votto.” No one wanted to have that conversation.
He put together seven straight MVP calibre seasons, with the exception of 2014 when he was hurt, and yet he was the most polarizing guy. I can’t name a whole of other cities where the guy that was clearly the best player was the most polarizing guy. There was just this time where you could not have a conversation about Joey Votto without people mentioning what he was making. That’s interesting to me.
It’s maybe predictable. There’s just been no one like him, and he’s not going away. He’ll be here for the next four years, and he’s still making a lot of money and from a pure baseball standpoint, the numbers aren’t what they have been in the past.
D: What about when you switch over to college sports? What is fandom like in Cincinnati, because Ohio State is this big national brand, but I get the impression that Cincinnati is more of a college basketball town, and when it comes to college basketball, you have two much better teams right there in the city.
M: It’s funny. I try to approach my show knowing I’m a fan. I’m a UC basketball fan. I’m a UC football fan. I grew up a fan of those teams.
The first thing I try to do is say “Okay, if I’m going to talk about the Bearcats, I need to be able to do it in a way that I am not going to lose the Xavier fan, the Ohio State fan, the Kentucky fan, the Dayton fan, the Louisville fan, the Indiana fan, and that’s hard to do. It’s particularly hard when there is a coaching change or any major topic that is specific to one school. I’m really cognizant of that.
I get pushback all the time. “Boy, your show is a three hour UC lovefest,” but I really go out of my way. If we are going to have someone on talking about UC basketball during the season, I am going to make sure we have someone on later talking about Xavier basketball, because I am really sensitive to the perception that you are unfair to one school because you love the other.
Whenever you’re doing college sports in this market, you have to frame things in a way that at least keeps fans of other programs there. You also have to go out of your way to make sure you’re talking about every program objectively and fairly. I don’t pride myself on much, but I have a good relationship with Xavier University. We have their coaches on and we do plenty of topics. We talk about them fairly.
I go back to Cincinnati being very parochial. If I talk about Kentucky basketball, who by the way, we carry their games, I will inevitably get a call. “Why is a Cincinnati station talking about Kentucky basketball? They’re 90 miles away.” Well, it matters to a lot of people in my audience, and I’m always going to serve my audience.
Most times you are going to try to make those topics broad enough to appeal to everybody, but sometimes they are big stories for just one school. A few years ago Ohio State played for the national title in the first College Football Playoff. It used to be they played a BCS game. The run up to it was Christmas and you might not be on the air so then it would just kind of happen. Well, this time you had a College Football Playoff game and then the title game. It lapsed into the new year. Then you had Cardale Jones and the whole quarterback situation. It was a unique situation and it mattered to a large chunk of my audience.
I would still hear from UC people. “Why are we spending so much time on Ohio State?” and it’s like “Look, if UC is playing for a national title, we’ll be there. Ohio State is playing for a national title. That’s not my fault. It matters to a lot of my audience. We’re going to talk about it.”
I think, if nothing else, over time you try to establish enough equity and trust with the audience that they get it. If Mo is talking Kentucky basketball it is because something major is happening, and if they stick around, we will get back to the Bengals or the Reds or UC.
D: You’ve got a pretty young kid, right?
M: I have a 2-year-old.
D: Do you ever wonder about the psychological effects of having a dad in sports talk radio?
M: (Laughing) I wonder about the psychological effects of having me for a dad.
D: (Laughing) My kids are older. They are 9 & 7, but I do sometimes wonder what effect it has, and granted I am not on the air everyday right now, but when I was I would wonder what sort of effect it has on them to turn on the radio and hear someone calling their dad an idiot.
M: Well, her mom does that, so she’s used to it. I’ve never really thought about it from that point of view.
D: Well, you’re welcome for keeping you up tonight.
M: (Laughing) Well, to me I would also worry about the psychological impact of her dad not having a job, so I am glad I don’t have to do that. One thing I do think about, you know this, any host has to be relatable. A large chunk of my audience has kids, so naturally I introduce that into the conversation without her getting shit for it.
I don’t want her feeling like she has no privacy. My life can be an open book, but she didn’t ask for that. I definitely have thought about that, but as for the psychological impact, I could be driving a truck and I would still worry about my psychological impact on her.
D: Speaking of your relatability, I would imagine a huge chunk of the audience grew up in Cincinnati just like you and are now raising their kids there.
M: Oh sure.
D: Is it a “I was born here and so I will die here” kind of place, or do you have a lot of transplants coming in from other cities?
M: It’s mostly insular. I will hear from people that moved here from St. Louis or Pittsburgh. I always enjoy hearing from people that left here but still make time to listen to the show or catch the podcast. It makes me feel good when people tell me the show is a connection to home.
We got a call a couple of weeks ago from a guy who was a Cardinals fan and he grew up in Illinois and then he moved here. He said “Hey, I like your show” and then went on and made whatever point.
I think that’s need. Maybe you aren’t talking about something that matters to them, but I always think it is cool when people embrace whatever their new town is all about.
Let’s face it. It’s 2019. It’s easy for that guy to keep listening to whatever he was listening to before he came here, but he chooses to listen to us. That tells me that what we are doing is at least interesting enough to keep somebody or get someone who maybe isn’t interested in the subject matter. That’s flattering.
Even within the town it’s an insular town. It is segmented between the East Side and the West Side. Then there is Northern Kentucky. It’s the world’s biggest small town. Whenever people what school you went to, they aren’t talking about college. They want to know what high school you went to.
D: When someone that didn’t grow up in Cincinnati or at least doesn’t have a strong connection to the teams tells you they still love the show, do you consider that a personal compliment or is that a tribute to topic selection?
M: Oh, maybe a little bit of both. I certainly don’t think it is because they like me. I mean, why would you?
Look, when you move somewhere eventually you will be interested in what is happening there. You’ll be interested in civic matters or local politics. Chances are your new friends and co-workers will be into the local teams.
We moved away for a while when I was a kid. My dad was still a Reds and Bengals fan even though we were living in New Jersey, but he would still listen to New York sports radio and he has opinions about the Jets and Giants. He cared even though he didn’t root for those teams.
I do think on some level you have to connect with them. You have to be entertaining enough to get someone to sit through hours and hours of Reds and Bengals when maybe they are into other teams. It does make me feel good to hear from those folks.
D: So just how insular is the Cincinnati fandom? Were people there into LeBron coming back to Cleveland because it was still an Ohio story or did you treat it like “that’s a Cleveland story and my listeners don’t care”?
M: I think that was big enough that we could do it.
D: What about the Blue Jackets’ run in the playoffs this year?
M: That one is interesting. You can obviously find pockets of Blue Jackets fans. They have been a perennial playoff team and they won a series this year, so I think you had folks who didn’t have a hockey team that were like “There’s a team a 100 miles from here? Fine, let’s root for them.”
I think a lot of sports fans over the last…however long they’ve been around, have gone up to a game, and it’s a great experience. Because of that, they may not be hardcore hockey fans, but they’ll say “Well, I went to a Jackets game and had a good time, so they’re my team”. Then when they are playing important playoff games maybe those folks are a little more likely to watch.
You know though, what happens here is we are four hours from Pittsburgh and about four hours from Detroit. When the Blue Jackets came to town it took them forever to be good. Meanwhile the Red Wings and Penguins are winning Stanley Cups. The people that were into hockey before 2000 they already had a team. Chances are that team was either Detroit or Pittsburgh, and for the most part those teams gave their fans in Cincinnati little reason to jump ship.
I had John Tortorella on. That was really good. During the playoffs we had their play-by-play guy on, not before every game but there’s certainly enough of a market that it made sense to do some guest driven segments.
D: What kind of support staff do you have for your show? Between doing a show, writing for The Athletic, and doing your occasional TV work I would imagine you need all the help you can get in show prep in order to have a personal life.
M: I need help just getting out of bed.
I’ve actually been really lucky. In our building, I’ve always had the best producer. I think the reason is I did that job. I really understand how important what a producer does is to making a show great. Every producer I’ve had I’ve sat down with and said “Look, these are my expectations and my expectations are high, because I did that job.”
Maybe I wasn’t the world’s greatest, but I understood how a fully invested and engaged, creative producer can help a show. I ask them to do a lot, but I never ask them to do anything I wasn’t asked to do.
From 2009 through the end of last year I only had two different people. That is great consistency. The guy I had has moved on to Cleveland and now I am working someone new in. That can take some time, but I really value that job.
I wish more people in our business valued that job. As an industry, I wish we did a better job of cultivating producers and giving them an idea of what is expected and how rewarding the job can be and what a jumping off point that job can be. I rely on that position.
Sometimes it becomes a little bit of a crutch. When we do go through a change, there is a moment of “holy crap!” and you realize all the things that the guy that just left did for you. Now you have to get the new person conditioned to do all of that. That’s when I start to have a little bit of inner dialogue with myself about “am I being a little too reliant on the producer?”.
It’s a job I put a lot of value in. Every producer I’ve ever had, I always tell them to come with ideas. What is weird now is we’re kind of having the first generation of guys come into this job that didn’t grow up listening to the radio.
When I was a producer at WLW, I was 20 and I had grown up listening to that radio station. I was put on the morning show I grew up listening to, so I knew what it was supposed to sound like. I grew up listening to talk radio, and I got it. Now, nothing against these kids now, they just haven’t grown up listening to a radio station.
D: I was a producer before I started hosting as well. I always debate with PDs about what makes a good producer. My argument is you can build a rolodex. There is no substitute for drive and creativity. I think that can be found in the guys that want to eventually be hosts, and I wonder if these kids that grew up not listening to the radio can give the medium the kick in the ass it needs sometimes to compete with the plethora of other entertainment options that are available in your car or on your phone.
M: Oh, there’s validity to that. I have this conversation with every producer I have ever had, again that is not a lot of them, but it’s “Chances are you are listening to stuff I’m not listening to and consuming stuff I’m not. So bring ideas from that. Use those options and see what ideas you get that fit what we are trying to do.”
I think there’s value there, but you do need basic radio fundamentals. Radio is real time. Podcasts aren’t. So you do need to get people that understand this is happening right now and this is what you have to do.
I am with you in the sense that it helps an industry that is trying to evolve and adapt to have people who’s backgrounds aren’t entirely radio. At the same time, it helps to have people that get how it’s supposed to work. That way you can take what has worked and modernize it based on these other things outside our sphere.
Another thing I agree with you is, my last producer wanted to be a host. The person I was with before him didn’t want to host. She wanted to be a sideline reporter and is doing that for FC Cincinnati now. I think there is a difference between “I want to be on the air” and “I want your job,” because I have seen that one. I have seen the producer sitting on the other side of the glass and stewing, thinking “God! I am better than this guy!”. I want someone with aspirations higher than guest booking, but that version of it? That’s not productive.
D: What is the deal with you people and chili on spaghetti?
M: (Laughing) It’s the best!
M: I will admit that it is an acquired taste. I was walking downtown. I used to live there about four years ago. The Washington Nationals were in town. I’m going to meet a buddy to go to a game and I decided to stop in at Skyline Chili.
I sit down at the counter next to this couple from Maryland. They’re there to see the Nationals. The guy tells me the concierge at their hotel told them they had to check out Skyline. So I say I can help walk them through the menu and tell them what to order. They take one taste and look at me like I have three heads.
It is really, really an acquired taste, but there aren’t a lot of people in Cincinnati that don’t love it. I prefer a coney. That’s a small hot dog with the chili on it as opposed to the 3 way, which is what you’re talking about, but man, just talking about it has made me hungry.
I’m a big Cincinnati chili guy. I understand how that is viewed by outsiders, because it is very specific to this part of the country.
D: To see it on any sort of travel show, the chili does not look unlike the meat sauce my mom used to make with spaghetti, but for whatever reason the mental image of a kidney bean on top of spaghetti grosses me out.
M: Cincinnati chili is almost like a soup. People from other parts of the country think of chili and they picture something really chunky. They think of huge meaty chili. That’s not us.
The beef in Cincinnati chili is cut down really fine. It is almost like a sauce. It really is. It’s good. At least, I think it is.
D: I say this as someone that grew up on the Gulf Coast, sucking the brains out of crawfish heads, you guys eat some gross stuff up there.
M: (Laughing) Fair enough.
Now Is The Time To Build Your Bench
“There’s a good chance you have a producer, production person, or even a salesperson who has a big enough personality that they can hold your attention.”
As we crawl towards the Thanksgiving holiday week, many content managers are likely in the middle of figuring out what they’re going to put on the air.
Since most marquee talent take the entire week off, this can present scheduling headaches.
Some stations (who can) will pick up more syndicated programming. Hey, why not? It’s a cheap, easy solution that’s justified by the fact that business is slow in Q4, and your GM doesn’t want you spending any more money than what you have to.
Other stations will hand the microphones over to whoever happens to be available. This usually ends up being the same array of C and D listers who aren’t that great, but they can cover when needed and usually tend to be affordable.
Both of these decisions, while usually made out of convenience, are terrible mistakes. Quite frankly, it’s one of the many frustrations I have with spoken word media.
Content Directors should be using the holidays as an excellent opportunity for them to answer a particularly important question: DO I HAVE A BENCH???
One of the most common refrains I hear from other content managers is that they have no talent depth. Everyone constantly is searching for the “next great thing,” yet I find that very few people in management that take the time or the effort to seriously explore that question.
My response to them is always, “Well, how do you know? Have you given anyone in your building a chance yet?”
Often, the answer is sitting in their own backyard, and they don’t even know it.
Years ago, Gregg Giannotti was a producer at WFAN. Then Head of Programming Mark Chernoff gave him a chance to host a show because of how Giannotti sparred off-air with other hosts and producers in the building. Chernoff liked what he heard and gave his producer a shot. Now, he’s hosting mornings on WFAN with Boomer Esiason in what is considered one of the best local sports-talk shows in the country.
Carrington Harrison was an intern for us at 610 Sports Radio in Kansas City. He worked behind the scenes on Nick Wright’s afternoon show and had a fairly quiet demeanor. It was rare that we ever spoke to each other. On one of his off-days, Nick was talking about Kansas State Football and Carrington called in to talk to him about it. I couldn’t believe what I heard. Not only was his take on the Wildcats enlightening, but he was funny as hell. Soon after, we started working Carrington’s voice into Nick’s show more and eventually made C-Dot a full-time host. He’s been doing afternoons on the station for several years now with different co-hosts and (in my opinion) is one of the best young voices in the format.
There’s a good chance you have a producer, production person, or even a salesperson who has a big enough personality that they can hold your attention. Why not give them the opportunity to see what they can do? Honestly, what’s the risk of giving someone you think might have potential, a few at-bats to show you what they can do? If your instincts are proven wrong and they aren’t as good as you thought they’d be, all you did is put a bad show on the air during a time when radio listening tends to be down, anyways.
If you go this route, make sure you set them up for success. Take the time to be involved in planning their shows. Don’t leave them out on an island. Give them a producer/sidekick that can keep them from drowning. Be sure to listen and give constructive feedback. Make sure that these people know that you’re not just doing them a favor. Show them that you are just as invested in this opportunity as they are.
I understand that most Content Directors are overseeing multiple brands (and in some cases, multiple brands in multiple markets). Honestly though, using the holidays to make a potential investment in your brand’s future is worth the extra time and effort.
Treat holidays for what they are; a chance to explore your brand’s future. Don’t waste it.
Digital Platforms Should Signal The End Of Niche Linear Networks
“Whether it is niche sports or exclusive shows, the streaming platforms have proven to be valuable catch-alls. They haved turned hard-to-sell programming into part of what you get when you are motivated to subscribe by Premier League Soccer or UFC.”
CBS Sports Network just isn’t built to last. It seems obvious, but it was really hammered home for me on Friday when Jim Rome went off on the network for preempting the simulcast of his radio show for coverage of swimming.
“You idiots are going to preempt this show for swimming?” Rome said. “Stupid.”
You don’t even have to watch the video, right? You can just read the quote and his voice is immediately what you hear in your head.
John Skipper went off on a number of topics during Sports Business Journal’s Media Innovators Conference last week. Some dismissed it as sour grapes. Others said his comments were those of a man that is completely unencumbered by rights deals and corporate interests.
One thing the Meadowlark Media leader said that was dead on was that there are only a few properties in sports television that truly matter.
“Until you can get the NFL, or the SEC, or the NBA on a streaming service, it’s going to be marginal in this country,” Skipper said in a conversation with John Ourand.
He was answering a question about the relevance of streaming services, but the fact is, he could have been talking about any outlet in the world of sports television.
With that being said, it isn’t just CBS Sports Network that isn’t built to last. Comcast got this message last year. That is why NBCSN is about to go dark. Sure, every niche sport has its fan base, but can you build a profitable and powerful brand on swimming, lacrosse and 3-on-3 basketball? You probably can’t.
BSM’s Jeremy Evans recently wrote about life in the metaverse and what it means to sports media. So much happens digitally now. Think about the last time you felt like you HAD to have a physical copy of a movie or album. It always made sense that television networks would get to this place.
Peacock, ESPN+, CBS Sports HQ and Paramount+ all have plenty to offer. Whether it is niche sports or exclusive shows, the streaming platforms have proven to be valuable catch-alls. They haved turned hard-to-sell programming into part of what you get when you are motivated to subscribe by Premier League Soccer or UFC.
CBS Sports Network isn’t the only cable sports network whose existence may be on borrowed time. You know about FS1. Did you know there is an FS2? Did you know beIN Sports still exists? Don’t worry. It seems most major cable operators don’t know it either. The same can be said for networks with names like Eleven Sports, Maverick, and Pursuit.
In fact, when you look at that group of channels, CBS Sports Network is probably in the best shape. It may carry the low end of college football and basketball, but it at least has sports with large, national followings.
Radio simulcasts have always been cheap programming. Once the production costs are recouped, there is a straight-line path to profit. Sports networks on this level will always be interested in carrying radio simulcasts, and that is a good thing. It means better studios and more exposure for the hosts involved. When the suits can have a legitimate debate whether the live sports their network carries will draw as many viewers as the simulcast of a radio show, it may be time to rethink the path forward.
Streaming platforms weren’t built exclusively for niche sports. ESPN+ launched with college football and college basketball at its core. Now that streaming platforms are here to stay though, it should start a conversation and migration.
The cable sports network was never anything more than a prestige play. It was a way to show that a broadcast network was so serious about sports that the few hours it could devote to games would never do. The problem is that ESPN got that memo decades earlier and established a juggernaut.
Even FS1, which has major talent and rights to major college football and basketball and Major League Baseball, is behind the eight ball compared to ESPN. They got a 34 year head start in Bristol! CBS Sports Network is behind FS1 and it has college football, basketball and hockey. It also has the WNBA and the NWSL. Still, it seems like it is on borrowed time. What does that mean for networks that can’t get a league comissioners to take their call?
I like some of the programming on CBS Sports HQ. I think Paramount+ has been a valuable tool this college football season. There would be nothing wrong with CBS shuttering CBS Sports Network. It is just the reality of where we are headed.
CBS is run by smart people. I have faith they will see the forest thru the trees in sports media and find the right solution before they start losing money. Streaming means consolidation and unfortunately, that means there may not be room for the FS2s, Mavericks, Pursuits, and Eleven Sports of the world. That doesn’t mean the sports those networks carry cannot find a new home. They may even find a home that makes more sense for them and their fans.
Can Your Station Create Its Own Holiday?
“Did you see social media on Friday? Did you see any media at all leading up to Friday? Disney created a 24-hour commercial you could not escape.”
A belated happy Disney+ Day to us all!
Did you see social media on Friday? Did you see any media at all leading up to Friday? Disney created a 24-hour commercial you could not escape. The best part, from a marketing standpoint, is fans were captivated by it. They either didn’t realize it was a commercial or they just didn’t care.
The execution was masterful. Granted, we Star Wars fans were left wanting a bit, but Disney dropped teasers for series and movies we didn’t know were coming and showed the first footage from one we have been anticipating for more than a year now.
I started thinking how a radio station could do this. How could it go out and create its own holiday? How for one day, can we make our fanbase excited and glued to social media eagerly anticipating announcements about what is coming next?
This is going to take some creativity. Disney+ is a platform full of multiple brands with multiple fanbases buying in. A sports talk station is one brand. It has varying levels of fanbases, but largely, your dedicated audience are the people that not only love sports, but also like your programming enough to be called P1s. Is that enough people to build an event like this around?
Who cares if it is or not! Go for it.
One thing that Disney did masterfully on November 12 is it brought partners into the fold and made them a key part of Disney+ Day. Fortnite announced that Boba Fett was coming to its game. TikTok announced Disney character voice changers would be available on the platform. Disney found the kind of partnerships that could spread its holiday to even the Disney+ Day equivalent of Ebenezer Scrooge.
You can do the same. Surely you have a local brewery as a partner. Can they brew a one day only beer for you? Partner with a restaurant. Can they put your station’s name on the day’s special? Would other partners offer discounts and promotions for celebrating the day? There are a lot of options here.
Now, what are YOU doing on your holiday? Disney has a deep well of franchises. It could squeeze Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar, its own studio and more for content and announcements. Again, you are just one brand, but there is still a lot you can do.
Build the day around announcing your special contributors for the football season. Drop new podcasts and play an extended clip on air. Announce new podcasts, the kind of things that will only be available digitally.
Look at 99.9 The Fan in Raleigh. Joe Ovies and Joe Giglio have created great, multi-episode series that are events for their audience. Like any narrative podcasts, those don’t come together overnight. As long as you have enough audio to build a solid 90 second to 2 minute long preview, you have something worth bringing to the air as part of the celebration.
Do you have a contract you are waiting to expire to make a change in a prime day part? Make your station’s holiday the day that the new talent or show hits the air for the first time. You can do the same for new weekend programs. Whether it is someone new coming to the station or just a new pairing, put them on air for your prime time audience to meet and have your weekday hosts help create some buzz for them.
As for the shows that are on every weekday, you have to make them special that day. Give away a big cash prize. Make the guest list epic – I mean everyone that is on air that day has to be a home run.
The other thing that Disney did so well was work to get all of its divisions involved. Check out this tweet from the Disney Parks account. Every single park around the world lit their iconic building up blue in celebration of the streaming platform’s holiday.
Can you work with other stations in your building? Maybe they won’t give you full on promotion, but between songs, if a DJ brings up a sports topic, would the PD be willing to have them mention that their sister station is celebrating all day? Would a news/talk PD let your talent pop on air to talk sports with their hosts and promote what is happening on your airwaves today?
The answer to these questions could be no. You don’t know if you don’t ask though. Also, if the answer is no, there is nothing wrong with asking for a little backup from your market manager. A station holiday is a major sales initiative after all.
The final piece of this puzzle to take away from Disney is you have to be everywhere. Any local show you air from 6 am until midnight needs to be on location. Fans should have easy access to them. How can they celebrate you if they are not allowed to be where you are?
Use the broadcasts however the sales department sees fit. Take them first to long-established clients to celebrate their loyalty on the station’s holiday. Use them to draw in new clients. Show off what your station can create with its fanbase.
Money has a way of motivating everyone. So, even if your hosts don’t like leaving the studio, these would be remote broadcasts priced at a premium and should have larger-than-usual talent fees attached.
Finally, let’s do something Disney didn’t. I was shocked that a company with this many iconic characters at its disposal and with a CEO that came from the consumer products division, didn’t have a line of merchandise ready to go. Don’t make that same mistake.
Create cool station shirts (not the cheap giveaway crap). Throw the logo on unexpected things like water bottles, bottle openers, facemasks, whatever! Have a merch tent wherever you go. Maybe set up a site to sell it for the day. Make the people come to you to get this stuff.
Twitter is a huge part of promoting what you do. Constantly show off what you are offering and what you have created. That is how Disney sold their event to its most dedicated fans as something not to be missed.
What were we celebrating with Disney+ Day? Nothing. Disney wasn’t even really celebrating anything. It was just a series of commercials wrapped up in fun packaging. Actually, there are a lot of holidays that are just a series of commercials wrapped up in fun packaging.
Not every holiday has to celebrate something once in a lifetime. Not every holiday has to even be real. Building your own will take a long lead time, but it is doable. Get sales, promotions and programming in a room and build a plan together. If Disney+ Day taught us anything, it is a valuable way to motivate your fans to spread your message too.
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