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John Martin Is Young And Putting In The Work

“I talk to a lot of people in this industry that say you almost have to leave for your perception to change. That’s not what I want and that’s not what’s going to happen”

Tyler McComas

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R-E-L-A-X. That’s what Aaron Rodgers told Packers fans back in 2014 during a weekly radio interview on ESPN Milwaukee after his team started the season with a 1-2 record. It was solid advice, seeing as Green Bay won its next four games before finishing the season at 12-4 and coming inches away from a trip to the Super Bowl. Though it’s simple advice, being told to R-E-L-A-X can sometimes be the best thing a person can hear. 

If John Martin of ESPN 92.9 in Memphis could go back in time, he would give his 26-year-old self that same advice. Though his time travel wouldn’t even take him back a full two years, being a young show host has thrown things his way he’s had to overcome and endure. Learning to relax and trust his talent may have been the best thing someone could have told him.

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Truth be told, it’s not easy being a young show host, Yes, you feel ahead of the curve in your career with having an early arrival in the host seat, which shouldn’t be undersold, but with that comes a whole lot of work for a much lower price than the other hosts at the station. You may work harder, heck, you may even think you’re the best in the building, but don’t expect that paycheck to add any zero’s at the end of it.

Being young in this business can mean being both stressed and frustrated at times, but ultimately, it’s your attitude that will dictate how well you handle those situations. Remember, what may seem as challenging and overwhelming today will only help in the long-term of your career. 

Martin’s beginning in sports radio wasn’t unlike many others that attempted to make the climb at a young age. For over three years at ESPN 92.9 he was the station’s utility man, serving as a producer, fill-in host and anything else that was needed around the building. 

“I wasn’t getting paid to fill-in,” said Martin. “It was just like, hey, Gary Parrish is going to be out these days and you’re filling in. There were days where I would host three shows. It was so stressful. But in a way I realized doing it made me indispensable. I came to the realization that this was the way I position myself for the next host opening.”

It turns out that Martin was right. The lifelong Memphian showed he was both talented and dependable behind the mic, with a real authenticity on the air that the locals demand. But at that point, he still wasn’t a show host. Though it can be hard for a young broadcaster to realize not everything comes at once, Martin was still left wondering if fill-in work was all his career was ever going to amount to. 

“A lot of times when you’re young in this business, you start out as something other than what you want to be,” Martin said. “I was a producer and didn’t want to be a board operator. I wasn’t just that, but that’s what my role was. I did a show on Saturday mornings with chiropractors, which was a paid show called ‘Back Talk’. It was only an hour but it felt like it lasted an eternity. I wasn’t as professional as I probably should have been about it, I was 22 or 23 thinking, man, is this really what my career is?”

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Okay, nobody aspires to be on the air with a chiropractor talking about back pain. But if it’s your only opportunity behind the mic, you better make sure it’s the best radio show that talks about backs in the entire country. Think about it, if you can somehow make a show like that sound entertaining, a GM or a PD is going to want to find out really quick what else you can do behind the mic. The point, is that you have to take the non-glamorous jobs and treat them like they’re the biggest thing on the station. 

Hard work and perseverance eventually paid off for Martin. At 26 years old, he was thrust into the role of full-time host. Though that’s a dream scenario for anyone that young in the business, the new gig came with excitement, but also some immediate challenges, due to who he was replacing. 

“There was a popular guy that was leaving the station at that time slot,” said Martin. You know how it goes, everybody becomes 10 times more popular when they leave. No matter what the numbers say or the ratings say, people just hate change. I was watching it all unfold on Twitter, all the backlash from that departure. Even though my goal was to be a show host, I didn’t want to touch it. It was toxic.

“You never want to be the guy that follows the guy. Initially, I didn’t want the gig. But I talked to a friend who said ‘you don’t know how often these opportunities come around’. I had a conversation with my program director and said ‘hey man I want to throw my name in the hat. He looked at me and said ‘I don’t think your dreams are going to come true’. He told me that in a very polite way, but I left that meeting thinking it just wasn’t my time.”

Two weeks later, Martin was walking into the studio for the first time as a show host. Call it fate or destiny, but the job he was told he didn’t have a great chance at was now his. Martin’s job title was now different, but his age wasn’t. He was still 26. 

Most young hosts in this position will believe they’re immediately thought of in a different way with management inside the station, just because they’ve been elevated. That’s not always the case. In fact, be prepared to continue to fight the battle of being looked at as your former self that was the young producer or even the unpaid intern.

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“When you start out as something other than what you really want to be in the same company I do think it can be difficult for your managers and your higher-ups to start viewing you any differently,” said Martin. “Even when you get elevated to being a show host, it’s hard for them to not look at you as the kid who’s just a producer and hosting Saturday morning shows.

“Unfortunately that’s a challenge and I think everyone in our situation has to deal with. I talk to a lot of people in this industry that say you almost have to leave for your perception to change. That’s not what I want and that’s not what’s going to happen, but I do think that that’s a challenge that young people face.”

I’m not telling you this realization can’t be frustrating, especially when all you want is to be viewed the same way as the other show hosts in the building. But it’s the nature of the business for young people in the business to pay their dues. Besides, that something that’s hard to control. What you can control is the work you put in to make sure you earn credibility from the listener. 

“My main objective was to establish credibility,” said Martin. “A lot of that is through my reporting and I think I’ve proven that specifically with University of Memphis basketball. I really think that’s the only way you can combat it. I think it can be tougher for a young person if they’re just a talking head. I think establishing credibility is so important.”

This isn’t made to be a doom and gloom piece, its intent is to shed light on some of the challenges the young broadcaster will encounter. You should celebrate the fact you’re young and have a show. That’s awesome. Sure, at times it’s tough, but nothing that’s worthwhile is easy. Buckle your chin strap, keep at it and be the hardest worker in the building. Sweat equity is how you change your perception. 

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“For me it was about proving my managers were right for giving me the job,” said Martin. “It was about proving that life can go on after a popular show leaves. When your name is on the show it’s your livelihood. I view it as every day I’m fighting for my livelihood. That’s a mentality that I apply, especially booking guests. I’m not a producer but I work like one. I came from that so I know what a producer’s job is. So yeah I definitely have a chip on my shoulder and I still have one to this day. I think the minute you stop approaching your job that way is the minute you’ll start to fail. It’s a daily grind and you don’t last in this business by being complacent.”

To the young show host out there that’s trying to make their mark in the industry, just trust yourself. There’s a reason you were hired to the position you’re in. Though you may be presented with frustrating circumstances, NEVER let them affect your relationships with your co-workers, PD, sales staff or owners of the station. Trust yourself, your abilities and your show prep. If you can accomplish those three things, you’ll eventually find both success and respect. And remember…

R-E-L-A-X.

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“You can’t make it all happen in one week,” said Martin. “I put an unbelievable amount of pressure on myself. I would go back and say, look, man, work hard, be yourself, and do what you do. It’s all going to be just fine. Luckily that’s exactly what happened.”

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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