The 2020 BSM Summit is here, baby! There is a plethora of on-air and programming talent in attendance at this year’s conference. Many of these people happen to be featured in this piece that you’re about to read, retweet, print out and frame. (Two out of four ain’t bad.) You’re sure to recognize many names and might already know plenty of details about these people. However, there are so many facets to a person that you might not be aware of other noteworthy qualities.
I asked each person to provide a fun fact about themselves — something that isn’t widely known. It could literally be about anything; something funny, a passion they have, or maybe a quirk that many people didn’t know existed. Something like Scott Shapiro once having a mullet and Maggie Gray liking broccoli on her pizza. I mean goodness; that’s worth the price of admission right there. I hope you enjoy learning new details about these distinctive people in the sports radio business.
Gregg Giannotti – WFAN, New York
I was an All-State musician in high school playing the string bass. Went to college as a music education major for three years before I changed to a communication major. I also was robbed at machete point in the Dominican Republic on vacation. Doesn’t sound all that funny but the full story is. All good, didn’t get hurt. Went to the beach right after.
John Mamola – WDAE, Tampa
Once worked as a parking attendant at the Ballpark In Arlington. Once taught Ozzie Smith how to run a radio soundboard. Also introduced Grammy-nominated band Hatebreed when I worked for Rebel Radio out of Chicago!
Peter Rosenberg – 98.7 ESPN, New York
I’m incredibly passionate about my dog, Bear, and take him all over the city with me. I can regularly be seen shopping for sneakers or clothes with an adorable corgi mutt.
Scott Masteller – WBAL, Baltimore
Many people may not know that I spent five years calling minor league baseball at the AA level. I called games for two years in my hometown of Williamsport, PA. I then took a job as the play-by-play announcer with the Wichita Wranglers in the Texas League for the San Diego Padres affiliate. Our team won the Texas League Championship in 1992 and I even got a champagne shower after the final game!
Matt Nahigian – 95.7 The Game, San Francisco
I was on The Newlywed Game and lost because I didn’t want my grandma to know what our secret term was for sex.
Jason Barrett – Barrett Sports Media
Something that isn’t commonly known about me is that I’m a huge memes guy. Every morning before I get out of bed to dive into the day’s news and my responsibilities of running BSM, I try to take 15-20 minutes to browse stupid stuff on social media that makes me laugh. It doesn’t matter if it’s cheesy, mildly offensive, or flat out disturbing; humor is different to everyone and I don’t take many things personally. I enjoy the social distraction before the avalanche of work appears in my inbox. It certainly puts me in a better mood starting off my day.
Bomani Jones – ESPN
I’ve had malaria twice when I was three years old. Michael Cohen once tried to call me in for something I said about Donald Trump in 2014.
Michael Kay – 98.7 ESPN, New York
I am one of the worst eaters of all time. I don’t eat condiments. Never had mustard, mayo or ketchup. And never had fish or an egg. I’m very odd.
Howard Deneroff – Westwood One
I do not go to the movies because I will ALWAYS fall asleep when sitting still in a dark room after a few minutes. The last real movie I saw in the theaters may have been Titanic…seriously.
Despite having produced network radio broadcasts of Super Bowls, NCAA Tournaments, Stanley Cup Finals, Olympics, World Series, and other sporting events for 30 years, if you Google my name, you will more likely find entries for me being a passenger/witness on a JetBlue plane in 2010. That’s when the flight attendant, Steven Slater, jumped off the aircraft while cursing on the intercom to quit his job. In the week that followed the incident, I appeared as a guest on the CBS Evening News, The Today Show, CNN, the BBC, the CBC, and too many other shows to mention. I prefer being behind the scenes for sure.
Maggie Gray – WFAN, New York
I once ate an entire large NYC pizza in two hours while simultaneously hosting a radio show. I realize how sad that is. It was a plain pizza from Joe’s in the West Village — and it was the size of a wagon wheel! My favorite pizza is mushroom, broccoli, and black olive (an odd combo, I know).
Phil Mackey – SKOR North, Minneapolis
I was a band geek in high school. I won multiple awards as a jazz trumpet player, including a soloist award at the New Orleans Jazz Festival. Although I haven’t picked up a trumpet in years, I now get my music fix through belting out high harmonies at karaoke dive bars around the Twin Cities.
Tony Bruno – Tony Bruno Show
I consider myself somewhat of a foodie, yet don’t like many common foods. I love eggs prepared every way except hard boiled; they gross me out! Also, despite being Italian, I’m not a big fan of cold meats like charcuterie (i.e. salami or pepperoni) although I like them on pizza. Same thing with tuna; I’ll eat seared filet, but can’t be near canned tuna fish or cold salads with tuna in it. I leave the room when someone is eating it near me and have thought of opening the emergency exit doors if someone brings one with raw onions on an airplane.
Bruce Gilbert – Cumulus/Westwood One
I’m not even close to being the most talented person in my own marriage. I’m married to the former Amy Williams who many of you knew as one of the ESPN Radio Affiliate sales reps from 1999-2006. Prior to that, Amy was very successful as a promoter in the music industry. She is currently co-hosting the First and Tens podcast with long-time Dallas radio personality Jasmine Sadry. In addition to being an amazing mom to our son, Hudson, Amy has become an established artist. She is a self-taught glass mosaic artist, specializing in customized, one-of-a-kind art pieces, using acoustic guitars as her canvas. You can see her amazing work at glassaxes.com.
Chris Canty – 98.7 ESPN, New York
I went to four different high schools in two different cities. I started out as a freshman in the marching band (playing the clarinet) to an All-State tight end on a state championship football team.
Don LaGreca – 98.7 ESPN, New York
I love movies. Have no problem watching a movie 100 times if I love it. Drives my wife crazy.
Justin Craig – ESPN Radio
When I was in high school, I once spent six weeks working for the town highway department where I grew up. I was part of one of the road crews that would go around picking up sticks, leaves or whatever junk was put out on the curb by residents. I only lasted six weeks because I couldn’t take the ridiculous amount of breaks that they took. It felt like we spent more time at McDonald’s on coffee breaks than actually doing anything. Not to mention it was cutting in to my time of listening to the great Brother Wease on WCMF.
Erika Nardini – Barstool Sports
Realizing that Starbucks lets you put heavy cream in your coffee has been a personal game changer. A venti red eye is my favorite.
Dave Tepper – Altitude Sports 92.5, Denver
I got into talk radio from being a professional stand up comic at the Laugh Factory in LA. Some coworkers are surprised because they don’t find me funny. My most memorable boos and heckles came when the club manager had me MC Latino night. They started on me right away. After plowing through my act and battling hecklers the best I could, my time was mercifully up. First act I introduced was Carlos Mencia who took the stage and destroyed the crowd for not giving me a chance. That meant a lot. Best memory — Green Day was at a show and pulled me aside to say I was their favorite comic of the night.
Chris Carlin – 98.7 ESPN, New York
I found my love of broadcasting because a drunk guy punched out an off-duty cop in a bar. He did color for football on the student station. He was asked to not return to the broadcast. They needed someone quickly and a friend at the radio station knew I loved sports and football, so I gave it a shot. Fell in love.
Gavin Spittle – 105.3 The Fan, Dallas
I have a huge passion for sports logos. So much so that I created a t-shirt line of fake, funny sports logos and made a business out of it — awesomesportslogos.com. My favorite logo is The Macon Whoopee. My favorite logo that I’ve created is The Cocksville Blockers.
Ryan Porth – 102.5 The Game, Nashville
Outside of sports, my #1 passion is music, which makes living in Music City that much better! My favorite genre is country and my favorite performers are Luke Combs, Eric Church and Foo Fighters. I’m not afraid to admit that a close second is The Bachelor / The Bachelorette. Go ahead, take away my man card.
Carl Dukes – 92.9 The Game, Atlanta
I love Frank Sinatra. I still practice in the mirror. I’m a good golfer. I love being on the water — fishing and boating. I also collect and love unique bourbons.
Fred Jacobs – Jacobs Media
I had a bagel route at the age of 12 in Northwest Detroit. I also danced with Little Steven Van Zandt and a group of go-go girls at a Jacobs Summit in Cleveland.
Julie Talbott – Premiere Networks
My brothers, sisters, and our families have had the same Christmas tradition since we were born. No matter where we are all living, we meet for Christmas Eve at our parent’s home and our grandparent’s farm for Christmas — all in Kentucky. We are up to 62 people!
Jason Fitz – ESPN Radio
I’m presuming most people know about the music stuff. Non-music: I don’t know how to swim OR ride a bike. I also have a crazy love of toys. Funko pops to vintage. Always out of the box. Not collected! Played with!
Spike Eskin – 94WIP, Philadelphia
I was in a band in my mid-20s called Project Mayhem (Fight Club reference). My roommate and I had never been in a band before, and we somehow found a bass player and a drummer who had never been in a band either. We did mostly covers of nu-metal songs from bands like Godsmack and Papa Roach. We played a total of four gigs, one in a WYSP listener’s backyard (called Backyard Fest). We wrote one original song, called “Tony Blair,” named after the British Prime Minister.
Demetri Ravanos – Barrett Sports Media
My dad is a chef. He made me start going to work with him when I was nine. The first thing I ever got paid to do was wrap baked potatoes and peel onions. I don’t even think he gave me minimum wage.
Amanda Gifford – ESPN
I played on the boy’s golf team in high school. To be fair, anybody was able to play, but I was the only girl. In the four years I played, I think I only played against another girl one time. I was usually the #4 or #5 golfer (top six played in the matches) and there are no “ladies tees” when you play in high school — everybody hits from the same tees no matter male/female. I never felt weird playing against male competition; it was part of the fun, but always funny to see their expressions when I showed up on the tee.
Mark Chernoff – WFAN, New York
My son, Mike, and I (he’s the general manager of the Cleveland Indians) make sure we have a baseball catch at least once a month. (Remember he lives in the Cleveland area and I live in the NY metro), but we make sure we do and have been doing it since he was a kid.
Armen Williams – Sports Radio 610, Houston
I played tuba for 12 years. In college, I marched in the Goin’ Band from Raiderland at Texas Tech University. My first game was inside the Horseshoe at Ohio State. During the halftime show, I was so nervous — pretty sure I played a total of six notes — I had to look straight up just to see the sky. The atmosphere was incredible.
This was also the first game for Ohio State freshman running back Maurice Clarett. He had a record-breaking day with 175 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 8.3 yards per carry. Guess we know which true freshman had the better debut.
Scott Shapiro – FOX Sports Radio
I was that 3rd grade kid who played basketball with a headband, wristbands, and goggles. Yes indeed! Oh, and a mullet to top it all off. When you have no shame even at a young age, you just let it all go. Now that I think about it, I was Kurt Rambis just without the mustache (nor was I ever clotheslined by Kevin McHale)!
Chris Kinard – 106.7 The Fan, Washington, DC
My first big sports memory was the 1988 Redskins Super Bowl victory. When I started in the business 10 years later I certainly never expected it would be 20 years in sports radio before I worked a championship parade. Or that two would come in consecutive years!
Freddie Coleman – ESPN Radio
I was at Live Aid in Philadelphia in 1985 THE WHOLE DAY!!! Saw so many of my favorite bands and had a chance to shake hands with Billy Ocean, Phil Collins, Ron Wood and Tina Turner.
Rodney Lakin – Arizona Sports 98.7, Phoenix
The BSM Summit will be my first trip to NYC. Never been before, which would probably make me the only person in America excited to leave sunny 70-degree weather for the cold and rain in New York. Happy to be here, though.
Mitch Rosen – 670 The Score, Chicago
Guilty pleasure; I read People magazine every Friday as it’s delivered to my house. I also reflect on one of my fondest memories in radio — producing Game 7 of the World Series when the Cubs won live on the Score. The first World Series Championship since 1908 and it happened on the Score — the first season the station had the broadcast rights. Sitting next to Pat Hughes and Ron Coomer on the call. It was radio and sports history. That was special and I was able to watch and hear it live along with over half of the listening audience in Chicago per Nielson.
Don Martin – FOX Sports Radio
I grew up an Army brat. Born in Nuremburg Germany to an American GI and a German mom. Thus I was raised speaking English and German.
I was the TV play-by-play voice of the now defunct “CAC” (Colorado Athletic Conference), which was absorbed into the RMAC in 1996. My analyst was legendary high school coach Sam Pagano. Both of his sons are NFL coaches (Chuck now with the Bears, and John is with Denver).
Jeff Rickard – 93.5/107.5 The Fan, Indianapolis
Like many before me, I have become a full-time limo driver with daily stops to the Orchard School, basketball practice, piano lessons, Math Bowl and Mathnasium with twice weekly appearances at the Indianapolis Children’s Choir. I have also been a board member at Fishers Montessori School.
Heather Cohen – The Weiss Agency
I sometimes respond to the name ROB because years before I became a programmer, and then broadcast talent agent, I started as a board operator. I found myself running the board for the legendary syndicated talk host, Bob Grant, on WOR in NY. He refused to call me Heather and would refer to me on-air as ROB. So, I became known as ROB during that period of my career.
Mike Thomas – ESPN 1000, Chicago
Long before my sports radio days I did afternoon drive on a country station in Southwest Michigan. I was known as Mike “Bubba” Thomas. Garth Brooks was HUGE and I would answer to someone shouting “BUBBA” at me!
Brandon Tierney – CBS Sports Radio
I attended an all-boys semi-military high school in Manhattan and played the glockenspiel in the military band as a freshman. I’m an avid fisherman — hooked an 800-plus-pound shark last summer in South Carolina and a 23-inch brown trout in Utah a month later on my second ever fly-fish cast. I’ve visited 45/50 states so far. My musical tastes are pretty eclectic, but I have a few go-to artists since college when it’s time to dig in/write/tap into creativity: Billy Joel, Simon and Garfunkel, Cat Stevens and Pink Floyd.
Justin Dove – Core Image Studio
I’m a born and raised Newfoundlander (east coast of Canada) in a small fishing town called Too Good Arm — population 80 people. Currently residing in Calgary, my wife Karla and I give a lot of time to the local rescue called Pawsitive Match. In 2019 alone, they have fostered and helped find homes for over 30 cats.
Brian Noe – FOX Sports Radio / NBCSNW, 620 Rip City Radio – Portland
I never set my alarm clock at the top of the hour. Instead of something like 8:00am — it’s 8:01. I have no idea why this feels right.
I also don’t drink. My dad struggled with alcoholism when I was growing up. I could see myself likely fighting the same battle, so I just stayed away from it. I’m very proud of my dad; he’s been sober for over 13 years now. It doesn’t bother me when friends and other people drink around me. I’d actually be rich if I received a nickel each time a friend jokingly asked before a liquor store run, “B, Jack and Coke? Jack and Coke, right?”
Meet The Market Managers: Ryan Hatch, Bonneville International Phoenix
“Our pitch is that these brands have a connection to the market. That works for us, and that works because it’s emotional. It works because it’s local. It works because of the creative messaging behind it.”
For as long as I have known Ryan Hatch, he has been a good friend, encouraging me to take advantage of each opportunity put in front of me. When someone treats you that way, you cannot be anything but thrilled when you see them do the same thing.
Late last year, Ryan was elevated from a programming executive role with Bonneville to become Market Manager of the company’s Phoenix cluster. He is now overseeing every aspect of a building that he has worked in for a long time.
I thought it would be fun to visit with him to see what has changed. The last time I profiled him, he was serving as PD of Arizona Sports 98.7. The last time we profiled Bonneville Phoenix for this series, it was Scott Sutherland in the Market Manager’s chair. So, what has changed?
In this conversation, presented by Point to Point Marketing, Ryan and I discuss the changing nature of our business, retaining great talent, and supporting the person who’s tasked with filling your former position and leading the programming team forward. When a company is ahead of the curve with its digital strategy and generating strong ratings and revenue, what’s next?
Demetri Ravanos: So how has the transition gone moving from programming into the market manager’s seat? We’re a little over six months into the change. How steep has the learning curve been?
Ryan Hatch: You know what? It’s been fantastic. And I have to give so much credit to Scott Sutherland, who was in the chair before me, and others within the company for really preparing me for this moment. But it’s not just a transition from programming. I would think even if I came up through the sales, marketing or finance side there would be a curve.
I’m learning new things every single day and loving it. So whether it’s six months or six years in this chair or more, I hope that I can always say that.
I love the job. I love the market. Obviously, you know, I’ve been here for such a long time and it’s the best chair to be in. I’m thrilled.
DR: You mentioned Scott and I started thinking about this after you and I set a time to talk. There’s this advantageous environment of education there, right? Because Scott is still in the area. He held your job before. You’re obviously in the building and that’s got to be advantageous for Sean Thompson. How much do those conversations take place day-to-day? There seems to be an opportunity for everybody to learn and build on the person that came before them because they can just walk down the hall and ask.
RH: Absolutely it can be advantageous because you’ve got institutional knowledge. Every person that’s been in your chair before can certainly provide important information to help expedite the onboarding process.
The other side of it is making sure that there are clear boundaries. I can speak with Sean Thompson coming in on the programming side. My goal is to empower him and embolden Sean to take this brand to a different level with new ideas and thoughts.
I’d been in that chair for so long, we were certainly ready for somebody new to come in with a new perspective and new experiences, and Sean’s done a wonderful job doing that. I think if you talk to Scott, he would probably say something similar. So when you ask the question, “is it advantageous?”, the answer is unquestionable. Yes, it is. At the same time, you have to really be clear on where those boundaries are, how much you want to give and share, and how much you want to let that person learn and experience it on their own as they’re creating their new environment, if that makes sense.
DR: So with those boundaries, are there things you see Sean putting into place that make you think, “Oh man, that’s really cool. I kind of miss programing at this moment”?
RH: Well, the irony is in asking that question, I think today is actually his 90th day on the job. So we’re still in the basic stages of him taking that chair.
He’s full of ideas, full of energy. I can’t wait to see so much of it come to fruition. But again, when you’re only three months in, you’re doing a lot of listening and a lot of learning before you dig in to start making change. I expect that to come, but he walked into a position with a great on-air staff, fantastic talent, an unbelievable digital team, with a great marketing and promotional support team behind him as well.
I’ll tell you what I’m most excited about is what’s going to happen this fall. After the listening and the learning is done, we’ll be starting to really build some exciting plans into the NFL season around the Cardinals and the NFL. We’re also hosting the Super Bowl in February of ’23 as well. So we’ve got a great big build coming here in Arizona.
DR: So let’s talk a little bit about the future and where things can go, not just for Phoenix, but for Bonneville overall. I told you this a million times. What has always impressed me about the company, even before you and I got to know each other, was that you guys were so ahead of the curve on recognizing the value of digital content. Arizona Sports is not a radio station, it is a brand.
I wonder now that you are in the market manager’s chair, how you look at all of the money from these different companies being put into podcasts. I mean, the deals being made to turn podcasts into TV shows or movies, do you ever think about what is possible or maybe what the next evolution for the digital side of Bonneville could or should be?
RH: Well, I think as a company, and not to speak for Tanya Vea, who’s in a new EVP position helping oversee a lot of our content initiatives, we’re opening up a mechanism for local ideas to be funneled up to a team led by our VP of Podcasting, Sheryl Worsley. The idea is to be able to support a local that might scale on a national level and help it achieve that potential. I think that we’re very aggressive. I think that we’re also very strategic in the podcasting world.
There’s a blessing and a curse there. The blessing is that that audience is expanding rapidly and the revenue’s been following, you know, slowly, but still following in that direction. The downside is how much time and energy and creativity a lot of our best talent have.
Do we want to put our talk show hosts, who are spending 4 hours a day creating live broadcast content, at the forefront of that effort? How many more hours a day of creative juice do they have left for a podcast or a passion project? It could be something that might not be entirely complimentary to the brand.
I think you have to be smart and strategic and understand how big of a bed it is you want to make. I think we’re being strategic about it and making the best decision for each individual circumstance.
DR: So what about from a broadcast angle? As podcasting continues to grow and becomes the kind of thing that sellers see as easier to get clients involved with, what are the things that terrestrial radio is going to have to do to secure its own future?
RH: Well, speaking on behalf of our properties here, where we’re all local news and all local sports. Really, that’s our business. I don’t think that there’s anything that can replicate the power of live, in the moment, information-based content. And that is the value proposition that broadcast has.
Now, will that traditional radio audience continue to decline and find other venues? Potentially. I mean, that’s just natural, and I think that we’ve seen that accelerate through the pandemic. That doesn’t take away from the importance though.
If you look at Bonneville Phoenix, whether it’s Arizona Sports or KTAR, our streaming numbers are way, way up. Our monthly app users are way, way up. Our smart speaker usage is way, way up. And I think too many times we categorize one as digital and one as radio. I look at it more through the lens of what is a live broadcast and what is driven by more destination-based, story-based, topic-based choices. That’s a different experience and you can serve both.
DR: What is your view of having that live content accessed by both radios and streaming devices? When you’re a programmer, I think it is it is easier to say, “Look, people are coming to this content. This is good content. That is what matters.” But now that you’re the market manager, I know you are a real advocate for total line reporting, but now the ratings take on this whole different meaning to you than they did before. What is your view of the right path forward to paint that picture easily and accurately for advertisers about just how powerful these brands are, whether it’s Arizona Sports or KTAR?
RH: Thank goodness we have fantastic sales management and account executives on the streets telling that story and big brands to back them up with that unique content that our stations are delivering. And as I’ve told you in different settings over the years Demetri, Nielsen is one of many tools that tell that story. When we’re on the streets talking to a potential advertiser, and understand that our game is not as national or our market is not as regional, we are hyper-locally focused. In Phoenix, Arizona, that’s a lot of small to medium-sized businesses. So when we can walk in and share a total audience report that gives a glimpse of Nielsen, which we know is antiquated and really, really needs to be reformed and updated. You’ve got to bring your Google Analytics and your Triton numbers. You have so many other tools to use to evaluate how our content is being delivered and consumed. You’ve got to paint that entire total audience story, and I will tell you that it’s a story that is very well received in Phoenix with our products.
DR: Maybe this is more of a question for your sales staff, but is it a matter of walking potential advertisers and current advertisers through each individual number, or do you find a way to synthesize it down into a simple illustration of how many people are listening to your content every day?
RH: It’s not a numbers game. It’s not getting into detail about how many tens of thousands of listeners we have on one platform and how many on another and how many views or clicks on websites. Our pitch is that these brands have a connection to the market. That works for us, and that works because it’s emotional. It works because it’s local. It works because of the creative messaging behind it. When you have something that works for your advertisers, they’re not going to be coming in and scrutinizing the numbers left and right.
Now, you have to deliver to the audience, and we have significant audiences. In fact, I’ll tell you right now, combining everything together. And it’s not apples to apples, because these are all different channels. But our audience is here in Phoenix between our websites, our apps, and our radio distribution. Our audiences have never been better. I mean, that’s a wonderful and easy story to tell.
DR: Play-by-play is obviously a big part of what you do on Arizona Sports. You and I have talked before about the landscape of Phoenix sports, and I think you’ve described it as, because Phoenix is a transplant market, you find yourself talking about everyone’s second favorite team.
So how does that play with advertisers? Do they buy into the idea that this is a unifying thing or is there some concern that it is too much of a transplant market for the value returned by play-by-play doesn’t match the cost to advertise in that space?
RH: Our original franchise, the Phoenix Suns, while, they had a disappointing end of the season, it couldn’t have been more galvanizing. That is the one team that has been here for 50-plus years. That orange blood does run deep. The Cardinals have had their moments. The Diamondbacks have the only championship in the major sports here, but that was back in 2001.
I’ll answer that question in a couple of ways. Number one, we are catering to the fans and to the super fans, but we try to create content that is going to be accessible and interesting for those that would claim that any of the franchises are their second favorite team in a given league. When you move into a market and you head to the office or nowadays maybe it’s a Zoom call, you still want to be able to have a conversation about something that’s relevant. You want a shared experience with your coworker or a neighbor, somebody at school when you’re hanging out waiting to up the kids. So often that conversation is sports.
We have a fantastic sports market. Now, where’s the passion level? Is it as high as a Boston or Philadelphia? Of course not and we’re not going to act like it is. But at the end of the day, what does an advertiser look for? They’re looking for an audience and they’re looking for something exclusive to put their message on. That’s what we’re able to offer with our play-by-play. On top of that, what’s become more and more important to us in our model, especially on the digital side over the years, is the access to those decision-makers, to the coaches, the exclusive access to the general managers with weekly calls, and things like player shows.
There’s so much more that you can offer beyond just the game itself that makes these partnerships great for our business and the advertising community.
DR: So coming out of what is being called The Great Resignation, what are you experiencing as a market manager and what are your other hiring managers experiencing? What are the new challenges of recruiting, whether it is sales or programing, any kind of talent in an environment like this?
RH: Well, let’s add to that and talk about inflationary pressures as well. I mean, there are so many factors at play right now, and I think it’s as tough as I can ever remember it.
What we’re doing here at Bonneville Phoenix is really leaning into our culture and making sure that we’re an employer of choice because we have a culture that people want to be a part of. It’s a good team environment full of hungry people that want to succeed not just for themselves. So the more hungry, humble, and smart people we find, the better off we’re going to be.
Now, that doesn’t mean that we haven’t lost. There’s been a dramatic shuffle. Right now, I can say that we’re close to a full boat, but that wasn’t the case a month ago. There are so many different forces at play right now. It is a difficult environment. Our news side alone faces unique challenges. News itself has been under attack for multiple years. Don’t you think that burns people out?
Absolutely I have concerns, but what can we control? Well, we can focus on executing the vision that Bonneville has provided. It’s built on passionate people and innovation. It is about creating a culture people want to be a part of.
DR: We’ve heard a lot about burnout when people talk about why they leave a job in any industry. We hear about work-life balance. You’re responsible for the entire building, so what are you telling your managers on the sales and programming side about creating an environment for employees that respects that those are real and valid concerns while still maintaining the level of expectation of quality for Arizona Sports and KTAR.
RH: We’re still committed to the highest standards, and we always will be. And we found that certain parts of the business can work pretty effectively from home, while other parts of the business really can’t. I will tell you, on the content side working from home, we did it when we had to. We did it, I would say fairly effectively for a few extended periods. But overall, in a local news and local sports environment that really is driven by the breaking news, the need to work together in a space is real. You just can’t do things as quickly or as effectively or as creatively if you’re separated. You just can’t.
Now, on the sales side, we want them on the streets. We want them out of the office, but there is a balance. So what are we asking our great sales managers to do? We’re asking them just to make sure that they are up to speed on where the activity is and that we’re doing all the jobs that need to be done. Do I ever see us going back to five days a week in the office? I don’t. I think that ship has sailed and I think that’s just fine. I think there’s some real benefit to that.
The way to make this all work is to empower our department heads to come up with a plan that’s going to work best for them, for their people, and deliver on what our expectations are for the business. And then as leaders, we have to understand that the plan is going to be evolving. It really is. This is not going to be decided on a new policy set. I think that we’re in a new world, probably for the rest of our lives.
Keith Moreland’s Broadcasting Fills Void Left by MLB Career
“When I got through… I wanted to do something with my life and I get that same feeling with broadcasting.”
Sports color analysts are more often than not former players. This has been a consistent norm across sports broadcasting at all levels. The analyst is there to add “color” to the play-by-play broadcaster’s metaphorical and verbal “drawing” of the game. For former MLB slugger and catcher, Keith Moreland, this was the surprise post-playing retirement career that has boosted him to a key figure in Austin media and national media alike.
Moreland played football and baseball at the University of Texas before making his way to the MLB for 12 years with key contributions to the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs in the 1980s.
Moreland reminisced on his decision to play baseball full time: “I thought I was going to be in the NFL, but Earl Campbell changed that. I had just played summer ball. We had won a championship and I missed the first few days of two-a-days. I hadn’t even had a physical yet and I’m in a scrimmage. I stepped up to this freshman running back and as he ducked his shoulder, one of his feet hit my chest and the other hit my face mask and he kept on truckin’. I got up and I thought ‘I could be a pretty good baseball player.’
So I told Coach Royal after practice I was going to focus on baseball and he asked ‘what took you so long? We were surprised you came back because we think you have a really good shot at playing professional baseball.'”
It was a good choice for Moreland. He was part of the 1973 College World Series winning Texas Longhorns baseball team. While at Texas Moreland hit .388 and became the all-time leader in hits for the College World Series. After being drafted by the Phillies in the 7th round of the 1975 draft, Moreland would go-on to play in the majors from 1978 to 1989.
“You go your whole life trying to get to play professionally. When I got through my opportunity to play in the big leagues, I wanted to do something with my life and I get that same feeling with broadcasting.”
Broadcasting was not the original retirement plan for Moreland. He first tried his luck at coaching with his first stop being his alma mater as an assistant for the Longhorns. At the time, Bill Schoening (a Philadelphia native and Phillies fan), was the radio play-by-play broadcaster. Schoening made Moreland a go-to for a pre-game interview and convinced him to come on talk shows. Schoening even convinced Moreland to practice live broadcasting skills by taking a recorder to games and listening back to them to learn.
“Bill was the guy who brought me onboard and I still have those tapes and I really learned from them, but I don’t want anyone else to ever hear them!” Moreland adds with a chuckle on how far he has come in over 25 years of broadcasting.
Moreland has been a key part of University of Texas radio broadcasts for baseball since the 1990s and has catapulted that broadcast experience to Texas high school football, Longhorn football radio and television broadcasts, ESPN, the Little League World Series, the Chicago Cubs and more since hanging up his cleats and picking up a microphone.
While his playing days are well behind him, Moreland still takes the spirit of his professional athlete background to his broadcasting:
“If you don’t bring energy to your broadcast, somebody’s gonna turn the game on and wonder ‘what’s wrong? Are they losing the game?’”, Moreland remarks, “So you have to come prepared and with energy for the broadcasts.”
Radio Partnerships With Offshore Sportsbooks Are Tempting
The rush to get sports betting advertising revenue offers an interesting risk to stations in states where the activity is illegal.
As the wave of sports gambling continues to wash over the United States, marketing budgets soar and advertisements flood radio and television airwaves. Offers of huge sign-on bonuses, “risk-free” wagers, and enhanced parlay odds seem to come from every direction as books like DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM fight over market share and battle one another for every new user they can possibly attract.
For those in states where sports betting is not yet legalized–or may never be–it is frustrating to see these advertisements and know that you cannot get in the action. However, as with any vice, anybody determined to partake will find ways to do so. Offshore sports books are one of the biggest ways. Companies such as Bovada and BetOnline continue to thrive even as more state-based online wagering options become available to Americans.
While five states–Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, and New York–have passed laws making it illegal for offshore books to take action from their residents, using an offshore book is perfectly legal for the rest of the country. While there are hurdles involved with funding for some institutions, there is no law that prevents someone in one of those other 45 states from opening an account with Bovada and wagering on whatever sporting events they offer. The United States government has tried multiple times to go after them, citing the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006, and have failed at every step, with the World Trade Organization citing that doing so would violate international trade agreements.
While gambling is becoming more and more accepted every day, and more states look to reap the financial windfall that comes with it, the ethical decisions made take on even more importance. One of the tougher questions involved with the gambling arms race is how to handle offers from offshore books to advertise with radio stations in a state where sports betting is not legalized.
Multiple stations in states without legalized gambling, such as Texas and Florida, have partnerships with BetOnline to advertise their services. Radio stations can take advantage of these relationships in three main ways: commercials, on-air reads, and the station’s websites. For example, Bovada’s affiliate program allows for revenue sharing based on people clicking advertisements on a partner’s website and signing up with a new deposit. This is also the case for podcasts, such as one in Kansas that advertises with Bovada despite sports gambling not being legal there until later in 2022.
People are going to gamble, and it’s legal to do so. In full disclosure, I myself have utilized Bovada’s services for a number of years, even after online sports wagering became legal in my state of Indiana. As such, advertising a service that is legal within the state seems perfectly fine in the business sense, and I totally understand why a media entity would choose to accept an offer from an offshore book. However, there are two major factors that make it an ethical dilemma, neither of which can be ignored.
First, Americans may find it easy to deposit money with a book such as Bovada or BetOnline, but much more difficult to get their money back. While the UIGEA hasn’t been successful in stopping these books from accepting money, it has made it difficult–near impossible, in fact–for American financial institutions to accept funds directly from these companies. Therefore, most payouts have to take place either via a courier service, with a check that can take weeks to arrive, or via a cryptocurrency payout. For those who are either unwilling or not tech-savvy enough to go this route, it means waiting sometimes up to a month to receive that money versus a couple days with a state-licensed service.
The other major concern is the lack of protections involved with gambling in a state where legislation has been passed. For example, the state of Indiana drew up laws and regulations for companies licensed to operate within its borders that included protections for how bets are graded, what changes can be made to lines and when they can take place, and how a “bad line” is handled. They also require a portion of the revenues be put towards resources for those dealing with gambling addiction or compulsion issues.
None of those safeguards exist with an offshore book. While the books have to adhere to certain regulations, it’s much more loosely enforced. I’ve lost track of the number of times a book like Bovada has made somewhat shady decisions on what bets to honor as “wins”, and how they handle wagers on what they deem to be “bad lines” where they posted a mistake and users capitalized on it. Furthermore, not a single dime of the monies received go towards helping those dealing with addiction, and there are few steps taken by the offshore books to look for compulsive or addictive behaviors.
As states look to move sports betting out of the shadows, the decision whether to take advertising dollars from offshore books seems to be an even larger gray area than ever before. Although it is perfectly legal to accept these funds when offered, it feels unethical to do so. There are moral obligations tied to accepting the money involved, especially given the lack of regulations and safeguards for players in addition to the limited resources for those who find themselves stuck in a situation they may struggle to escape. While it’s possible to take steps to educate listeners on these pitfalls, it simply feels irresponsible to encourage people to utilize these services given the risks involved, and the lack of protections in place.