Schein, Tierney, Gray & Carlin Still Driven to Create, Improve and Evolve
“We all have the same goal. We want radio to thrive. We realize how much potential this industry still has to give.”
The BSM Summit is coming up on February 26-27, and the two day conference presents a great opportunity for the sports radio industry to share, collaborate and even steal ideas from other minds. Who better to steal from than the talent themselves, the people who are implementing new ideas on a daily basis?
On-air hosts are naturally creative and engaging. It’s what makes them successful and worthy of learning from. Creativity is a big part of staying fresh and introducing new ideas to help one grow. Engaging people helps create additional listening, whether it’s to a radio show or a speaker at a conference. Whenever you’re learning, it’s helpful to have a creative, engaging teacher.
I spoke to Maggie Gray from WFAN, Chris Carlin of 98.7 ESPN New York, SiriusXM’s Adam Schein and Brandon Tierney from CBS Sports Radio about the BSM Summit and their abilities to share ideas and industry knowledge. Four successful sports media members, each with passion for the industry and a desire to see it grow.
Brandon Contes: You’ll be speaking in two weeks at the BSM Summit, a conference which brings together a large number of industry people, especially programming executives. How important do you think it is to have talent involved in helping advance that initiative, because let’s face it, you guys are engaging personalities, and when you speak people listen.
Maggie Gray: We all have the same goal. We want radio to thrive and we realize how much potential this industry still has to give especially from the on-air side. You feel the connection you have with the audience. Keeping that connection, finding new audiences and keeping radio relevant, keeping radio part of peoples’ everyday lives, no matter if you’re on the talent side, executive, agent – we all have the same goal, serve the audience and grow the audience.
This is what we do. We entertain people. We also get a charge out of doing things in front of a live audience because for the most part we’re in a studio looking at each other. It’s great to get in front of people in the industry to talk about the future of radio. Most of us are in this business we’re radio geeks, so we all have this love for radio and audio. Getting in a room with people who share that is great.
Chris Carlin: My constant thought is to get better and when you get that level of talent in one room it’s invaluable because we don’t get exposed enough to how others think about the industry, their shows and how they attack them. I’m a guy that wants to attack his weaknesses as a talk show host and get better every day. Stealing ideas from people is not the worst thing in the world [Laughs] and when you assemble these minds in this environment to exchange ideas, it’s going to give you an opportunity to get better.
Adam Schein: I think the entire experience is going to be amazing. I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve seen clips from the previous Summits and every time I watched, I learned something. The healthy exchange of ideas, how people execute and prepare, what works in different markets in sports radio in 2020 to capture people’s attention. It’s a great opportunity.
I saw clips of Colin Cowherd and Jim Rome last year and I look forward to exchanging my ideas and visions of how I execute everyday on Schein on Sports and what goes into the show, how I prepare for it. And I look forward to listening to other people, to hear how they go about their business. I’ve had this circled on my calendar for awhile now.
Brandon Tierney: It’s a great way to exchange ideas, network, build our individual brands and champion what I believe is the most intimate, absolute best medium of them all, radio and audio content.
It’s great to see different talents with different styles from different networks on the same stage simultaneously. You get an interesting cross section and exchanging of ideas, a unique template if you will. It grows our business, and it’s advantageous to everybody, not just people who program stations, but those who are deeply entrenched and mid-career. The goal is to evolve and be proactive, and from my point of view, my goal is to be better tomorrow than I was today. When you get in a room like this, you increase your chances to do that.
BC: Creativity is essential for a talent to be successful. So too is having the opportunity to collaborate. That can have a great impact on building chemistry and a great show. How important is it for people to be around others to expand their thinking?
MG: I truly believe there are no stupid questions. One of my favorite things about the job are the brainstorming sessions before our show. We call it the spitball. I love that part. I love the collaboration of ideas because you just don’t know what’s going to hit. Someone can say a word or half of an idea and then it goes from there and turns into something great. I think the more collaboration you can get the better a show is going to be.
CC: You have to take swings. It’s funny, I’m driven by a fear of failure to begin with, but when it comes to being on-air, I’m not afraid to fail. You have to be willing to evolve and take chances. There have been plenty of times where I’ve done something on-air and it didn’t work. You can tell if something needs to be tweaked or if it’s never going to work. If you’re just doing a show and talking about sports, you have to find ways to separate yourself. You have to figure out how to do something different. I want to be the guy that gives you the aspect or idea of a story that you haven’t thought about yet. Different has to be good and so does taking chances.
AS: You always want your show to be fresh, and have creative ideas provided. You try to surround yourself with incredibly bright and creative people. I love talking about the product of radio. I always like discussing ideas of what works and what fits my personality and speaking with people at SiriusXM like Steve Cohen, Eric Spitz, Steve Torre, Bill Zimmerman and Jason Dixon who is amazing when it comes to feedback and different things to try. Positive reinforcement can also go a long way, ‘this works, keep doing it!’ Those are the kinds of things that resonate and I always enjoy talking about the product, I’m a junkie for that stuff.
BC: How do you see the role of a program director? Do you want them to serve as a coach and mentor or focus on business and what time to run a contest?
AS: You always want a program director who is the ultimate sounding board. Someone you can talk to about the show, about an interview, idea, someone you can talk about life with. Being a coach and mentor in addition to everything else. I’m lucky to have that on a lot of levels at SiriusXM. We have great people and great radio people and that’s vital to our success.
Eric Spitz years ago changed my life and shaped how I do a radio show with the POKE scale on how to judge every show. Passion, Opinion, Knowledge, Entertainment and you can’t lose sight of all four in terms of criteria for a daily show. And to me, entertainment’s at the top of the charts. Being able to tell a story, keeping people engaged, it’s all part of the deal and something I take pride in.
BT: The best program directors are equal parts professional manager or coach, but also psychologist. The best talents truly care about what we put out there, and what we attach our name to for public consumption. I don’t care who you are or how good you think you are, there’s vulnerability that comes with that. The presence of somebody who knows the business, but also knows what works and what doesn’t work, you need an honest assessment. It doesn’t help anybody to just keep saying ‘great show.’
Not every show is great, not every segment is great, not every interview is effective. Some things are poorly constructed and some things are grand slams. If something doesn’t sound right or is short of the talent’s potential, they need to call you out on that. And some PD’s are married to the company more than the talent and that’s understandable, but you want to know if something takes a sideways turn, that the PD still has your back.
BC: How helpful was having a program director that was already on-air in the same market, like Spike Eskin in Philly?
CC: Having worked with Spike for just a year, I love how he thinks and I trust his instincts. I’m getting acquainted with Ryan Hurley now at ESPN and I really like talking about show philosophies with him and listening to the way he thinks.
Spike fascinated me from the first time I met him because we have the same goals, but he thinks differently than I do and gives an invaluable perspective. Eric Spitz has been that way for me in my career too. I’m always open to people who think differently because I can potentially learn from them. Constantly getting different ideas is exciting.
BC: What’s one area of weakness in the sports radio industry that you think needs to be addressed?
MG: Finding new audiences. Think about the NFL or NBA, they’re never satisfied even though they have massive audiences. I think radio stations should be the same way. There’s always a new set of ears to go after and keeping that aggressive growth mindset helps all of us. Still be true to your core audience, but find that future audience, become part of their lives and be 360 about it. It’s so important for radio stations to be where their audience is. It’s not just radio and the person in the car, it’s about being part of their everyday lives, being available online and streaming to make sure they don’t have to go searching for you.
CC: I’m still trying to figure out where we’re going to fit in the future in the digital space. Smart speakers have been a major advance, but I want to know what others think about the slice of the pie that sports media and entertainment has moving into the future. As an industry we may have had 65% of that pie before, it’s gone down a little bit and how do we get that back? It’s difficult, but not impossible and I want to know what other people think about it. I heard 15-20 years ago radio is dying, we may have taken some hits, but it’s still around, it’s still popular and it still makes waves.
AS: I think there is a wonderful place for callers in sports radio and I know there are a lot of differing opinions on that. I’m a big believer in using callers wisely in sports talk radio. Going back to when sports radio was invented, WFAN, 1987, two-way sports talk. I think a lot of places have completely lost sight of that. There’s a way for me as a solo host to be passionate, opinionated, knowledgeable, entertaining, have my own show while implementing callers that make the show better, make me better, make for entertainment. Producers and call-screening is a big part of it. I know not everyone in the industry thinks the same way which is healthy, but I’m adamant that phone calls are a big part of sports talk radio.
You have to be able to attract great telephone calls, it’s a skill. If you do it right, it enhances the nature of a sports radio show.
BT: The challenge is always growing the medium in a forward direction. Major League Baseball’s obstacle is pace of play and appealing to a younger generation and they’ve worked on addressing that. In basketball, you see the evolution of the three-point shot as the sport grows. In golf, pace of play has also permeated the conversation.
We can’t look at radio and just say there are a few national networks doing well, there are a few elite local programs doing well, it has to be bigger than that. It needs to be bigger than just CBS, ESPN, FOX, or SiriusXM. It has to be bigger than just WFAN, WEEI, KNBR or The Ticket in Dallas. It needs a true vision and there can’t be complacency because it’s evolving quickly. You need smart people to lead it in the right direction, more importantly you need passionate people.
Adam Schein, Brandon Tierney, Chris Carlin and Maggie Gray will be appearing at the 2020 BSM Summit on February 26-27 in New York City. For tickets visit BSMSummit.com.
Brandon Contes is a former reporter for BSM, now working for Awful Announcing. You can find him on Twitter @BrandonContes or reach him by email at Brandon.Contes@gmail.com.
Disney Has One Logical Choice For The Future – Jimmy Pitaro
“If Bob Iger wants his next successor to come from the sports world, that is his guy. Hell, forget sports. Pitaro may be the best person available no matter how far and wide the search goes.”
Bob Iger’s latest tenure atop the Walt Disney Company fascinates me. The company begged him to come back to clean up the mess made by his handpicked successor, but it was made clear from the get-go that he has a very limited window to get this right and then go home. That is why, less than six months after Iger returned to Burbank, we are already hearing about who will be the next CEO of Disney.
There is reportedly a shortlist of candidates for the job and it is sports-heavy. Two of the four spots are occupied by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro. I see the value both men could bring to the job, but I think there is a clear frontrunner and obvious choice.
Jimmy Pitaro is already inside the Disney walls. He has already learned to operate within the Disney hierarchy. He has had to answer investors’ tough questions about budget and direction. If Bob Iger wants his next successor to come from the sports world, that is his guy. Hell, forget sports. Pitaro may be the best person available no matter how far and wide the search goes.
Adam Silver’s tenure as NBA Commissioner is the target of all sorts of criticism, mostly from people that don’t watch the NBA anyway. For all of the pissing and moaning about load management and player empowerment, people are still watching and the league is still as profitable as ever. By the metrics that matter to the people that matter (team owners), he is doing an excellent job.
On a recent episode of Meadowlark Media’s Sports Business, John Skipper made it clear that he loves Silver and thinks he would make an excellent CEO for the Walt Disney Company, but that is a totally different world from the one Silver is currently thriving in.
“My advice would be to stay at the NBA,” the Meadowlark Media boss said. “It’s not a public company. You don’t have to face shareholders. You do have to face 30 NBA owners, but you don’t have activist shareholders. And I think Adam is a committed NBA commissioner. He’s been for a long time.”
The public posturing of Ron DeSantis will always get attention, but it doesn’t always have to be taken seriously. The moment he threatened to dissolve the special district in Central Florida that Walt Disney World operates out of, legal scholars were quick to point out that the proposal would create a major burden on the state and its citizens that no politician wants to be responsible for.
DeSantis wanted his culture war. Disney wanted the problem to go away. The two sides quietly found a compromise that made it look like the governor didn’t lose while Disney got to go on basically with business as usual. That is the kind of corporate policy war whoever takes over for Bob Iger will have to be ready to wage.
Disney needs a salvager in that chair, someone who knows how to diagnose the problems of business relationships and find fixes that hurt each side just enough that both can say the other really took it on the chin. Pitaro is that guy.
Look at ESPN’s relationship with the NFL when he arrived versus where it is now. The company needs someone that makes stars and creators feel like this company is one that it can trust and one that they want to be in business with. Look at what Pitaro has done to bring the Manning Brothers, Pat McAfee, Joe Buck and Troy Aikman under the Disney umbrella while simultaneously finding ways to keep stars like Stephen A. Smith and Bomani Jones happy with non-exclusive deals that allow them to grow their profile with new opportunities outside of the company walls.
Most importantly, no segment of the Walt Disney Company and arguably, no network on basic cable, has had to answer as many questions about the future of distribution as often as ESPN. Jimmy Pitaro has been asked about a future where entertainment is driven solely by the needs of the audience so many times that he has undoubtedly thought about the ups and downs of the streaming landscape more than just about anyone else on Earth.
Bob Iger will be atop Disney through the end of the year and into 2024. This isn’t a decision that is being made tomorrow. Even when it is made, Iger doesn’t just get to write a name down on a piece of paper, slam down an “APPROVED” stamp and go home.
Everyone on that reported shortlist will be vetted by Iger, his confidants, members of the Disney board, and shareholders. Some may wince at the fact they have no idea how Jimmy Pitaro envisions running theme parks and a cruise line, but the reality is that no one checks all the boxes for any job as big as this one until they have been in it for a while.
When you know the perfect fit for a job doesn’t exist, you go looking for the person that is the best fit. I think Bob Iger and Disney have already found him in Bristol, CT.
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.
Michael Kay Couldn’t Leave 98.7 ESPN New York Just Yet
“I wouldn’t want to leave it the way it is right now.”
When a New York Post report back in January suggested that Michael Kay was “seriously contemplating retiring from his 98.7 ESPN New York show”, maybe he was in a dark room in his home thinking about his future.
In his mind, his days of hosting sports talk shows were pretty much over.
“When that story came out, I thought I was definitely not going to come back,” said Kay during a phone interview with Barrett Sports Media. “I almost appreciated it a little bit when Aaron Rodgers said when he went on the dark retreat that he was 90% retired. Well, I’d say I was even more than that. I was probably 95% certain that I was going to walk away in September when my contract was up.”
But between then and now, Kay had a chance of heart and he announced this past Thursday on his show that he had signed a new contract with 98.7 ESPN New York and that his show would continue for “a good long while”.
The decision to stay was not an easy one and, as it turned out, it was his family that played a big role in staying at 98.7 ESPN New York.
“It was really difficult,” said Kay who is also the television play-play-play voice of the New York Yankees on YES Network.
“The most difficult part of it is that my kids are 8 and 10 so you want to see important things in their life. Even during the winter when I’m off from the Yankees, I’m out of connection from 3:00 to 7:00, so I had to reconcile with that. I talked with my wife and I actually talked with my kids about it, too, and they like me doing it so I decided to keep doing it.”
After initially feeling like it was time to step away after hosting The Michael Kay Show for 21 years, Kay began to reconsider but he also knew that he had to decide with his current contract expiring this September. The sales staff at the radio station needed to know because they had to inform potential advertisers who was going to host the show. Kay also owed it to his co-hosts Don La Greca and Peter Rosenberg to let them know what his plans were.
Everyone at 98.7 ESPN New York needed a decision.
“The radio station has to make contingency plans,” said Kay. “What’s going to happen if I, in fact, do leave? All of those people are impacted.”
Speaking of La Greca and Rosenberg, Kay’s sidekicks played a huge part in his decision to continue doing the show. There’s a tremendous amount of chemistry on the program and Kay wasn’t about to walk away from his radio family.
“Don and I have been together 21 years,” said Kay. “That’s a longer relationship than my wife and I have. We’re really special friends. Peter is for about 8 years and I feel the same way about him.”
Kay also acknowledged the people behind the scenes like Program Director Ryan Hurley, as well as executives from both ESPN and Good Karma Brands.
“They certainly tried to appeal to me to stay and after a while, it got to me,” said Kay. “I said you know what I’m not done yet so I decided to re-up. The pull to stay was stronger than the pull to just kick back and relax.”
These are certainly interesting times to talk about sports in New York.
Baseball season is about to get underway and both the Yankees and Mets are expected to be playoff contenders.
Future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers could be on his way to the Jets while the Giants are coming off of a trip to the playoffs last season.
The Knicks and Nets are heading toward the NBA Playoffs while the Rangers, Devils, and Islanders could all be going to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
But all of the local teams’ success wasn’t a factor in Kay deciding to continue talking sports.
“To be honest, it didn’t play any role because sometimes when teams are bad it makes for better talk radio,” said Kay. “The fact that they’re good and they could be playing in postseason, all of them, is intriguing but that didn’t play a role.”
And now that Kay has signed his new contract, he can continue his quest to regain the top spot in the afternoon drive war with WFAN. The show has been losing the ratings battle with Carton & Roberts and it would have been difficult to retire with his show in second place.
It’s not the reason why Kay decided to sign a new deal, but he does now have some more time to become number one again.
“Obviously, I wouldn’t want to leave it the way it is right now,” said Kay. “We had beaten everybody that they put in front of us. We beat Mike (Francesa), and we beat Joe and Evan. People conveniently forget that we also beat Carton & Roberts. Carlin, Maggie, and Bart…we beat them all. Our ratings, for some reason, have not been comparable to what they were before the pandemic hit.”
The ratings aside, Kay is happy with the content he, La Greca, and Rosenberg provide their listeners daily. While they have some catching up to do in the battle with WFAN, Kay is pleased with the product and that his show is good clean sports talk.
In Kay’s mind, business is business but he has his way of doing a show.
“Ratings tell you one thing and that’s how we keep score, but if you listen to what comes out of the speakers, in my opinion, our show is the best sports show in all the country. We not only talk about sports but we treat people with respect. We don’t have to go low-brow. Ratings didn’t have anything to do with (his decision) but it does give you a little more runway now to make up some ground. We have already proven that we can beat them.”
Michael Kay has been a part of 98.7 ESPN New York going back to the launch of the radio station in September of 2001. Just like Aaron Rodgers, he was pretty close to calling it a career…but Kay didn’t want his radio career to fade to black just yet.
Peter Schwartz has been involved in New York sports media for over three decades. Along the way he has worked for notable brands such as WFAN, CBS Sports Radio, WCBS 880, ESPN New York, and FOX News Radio. He has also worked as a play by play announcer for the New Yok Riptide, New York Dragons, New York Hitmen, Varsity Media and the Long Island Sports Network. You can find him on Twitter @SchwartzSports or email him at DragonsRadio@aol.com.
Xperi & Joe D’Angelo Are Ready For Radio’s Future
“I want this audience to see how they can leverage the technology that is nine times out of ten already going to be at their radio station.”
In October 2022, Xperi Senior Vice President of Global Radio and Digital Audio Joe D’Angelo hosted the single most impressive radio presentation I’ve ever seen at the NAB Show in New York.
I wrote about my takeaways from the presentation after returning from New York, which essentially boiled down to: Xperi is looking out for the future of radio like no one else is. I don’t think that’s hyperbole. The company is making sure FM radio is in the best place to succeed as the audio space continues to evolve and see more and more emphasis placed on on-demand digital offerings.
D’Angelo will continue the conversation in a panel at the 2023 BSM Summit titled “How Radio Can Compete and Win in the Connected Car” on Tuesday, which will focus on the company’s DTS AutoStage platform. The offering from Xperi will revolutionize broadcast radio as automobiles become more and more technologically advanced.
“So many other platforms are much more crowded — mobile phones, smart TVs, smart speakers — there’s very low barriers of entry to building a brand, and getting content on those platforms,” D’Angelo said. “But broadcast radio has the unique advantage in the car and it’s incumbent on the publishers — the producers of content — to look for every opportunity to sustain and exploit that branding and that relationship with the car driver.
“We also allow and deliver internet-only radio — so streaming services for broadcasters — as well as catch-up content. So if you wanna make yesterday’s morning show available today, we create all the linkages there, as well as podcasts. If you’re creating podcasts, we create those linkages that aid in the discovery of that content and serve it up on your behalf on the dash of the car.”
DTS AutoStage will allow drivers to continue listening to radio stations even after leaving the broadcast range of a station, utilizing the station’s stream to continue a seamless audio delivery. Additionally, it will provide real-time analytics weekly to stations about the time spent listening, and a “heat map” of where your listeners live, work, and travel.
D’Angelo noted that the sports radio space is ripe with opportunity to promote and utilize the technology Xperi has worked on, adding that music has been co-opted by brands like Apple and Amazon to sell you more products, while sports radio is simply looking to share opinions and content with passionate audiences.
“The real opportunities now are accruing to the talk formats and sports is such a ripe opportunity with a passionate audience, and I’ll tell you from personal experience, finding sports programming on a platform like TuneIn is nearly impossible,” D’Angelo continued. “If you’ve ever used it and tried to search for a live event, you’re going to get a catalog of a hundred different things that might related to the team but have nothing to do with the live event.
“I’m coming here because we’re at a unique opportunity where I want to explain to this audience how what they do can benefit from the technology we’ve deployed…clearly, sports programming — live sports, sports talk, sports betting, local sports — is a really unique category for local radio and I want this audience to see how they can leverage the technology that is nine times out of ten already going to be at their radio station.”
At the BSM Summit, D’Angelo will showcase the real-time analytics available to stations who opt to share data with the platform, and will give attendees a look at a sample of what information is supplied to stations and companies by using data gathered by listeners of Washington D.C.’s 106.7 The Fan. BSM Summit attendees will get a first look at the information, before it’s released worldwide at Radiodays Europe on March 28th.
Garrett Searight is the Editor of Barrett Sports Media and Barrett News Media. He previously was the Program Director and Afternoon Co-Host on 93.1 The Fan in Lima, OH. He is also a play-by-play announcer for TV and Radio broadcasts in Western Ohio. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.