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Jarrett Payton Is Learning To Work From Home

“This whole situation has really put life in perspective for me. You take for granted sometimes how lucky we are to live the lives we do and all of the great things that come with it like sports.”

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Social Distancing, you’re familiar with the phrase by now I’m sure. It’s a necessary evil in the fight against the spread of the Coronavirus. The term means keeping 6 feet of distance between you and another person and it means gatherings of folks are kept very small. 

Image result for social distancing

Okay, so what’s that got to do with sports or the media? It’s got a lot to do with both. Have you noticed news anchors on your local TV news sitting at opposite ends of the desk or in different rooms all together? You’ve probably heard your local radio host say he/she is doing the show from home. It’s becoming more and more normal as stations are limiting the amount of people in their buildings to only those deemed “essential personnel”. 

My station, WGN in Chicago, is working with a streamlined staff in house. I had to go in last weekend to do a shift and it was like a ghost town. Thankfully there was plenty of Lysol, hand wipes, disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer available. 

To add to the craziness, there’s no sports to really speak of. 

Our sister television station, WGN-TV is also spacing out it’s working crew on the nightly newscasts. The weatherman is across the hall from the main studio in the “Weather Center” and the anchors are sitting far enough apart it’s difficult to show them both on camera together. One news anchor is actually sitting in the sports chair on the set. That means the sports anchors have been asked to do their reports from a remote location, their homes. 

Knowing a lot of the people on the air in Chicago, it has been kind of interesting to see the location they choose. Usually a spot in the house with some memorabilia or a nice bookshelf filled with sports publications. There is a curiosity by viewers to see where your favorite sports anchors live and what their houses look like. 

One such anchor is Jarrett Payton who handles the 4pm sports on WGN-TV and is a co-host of a nightly report on the station called ‘GN Sports which airs at 10:30pm. Except that show has preempted by coronavirus coverage for an indefinite period. I caught up with Payton via email this week (social distancing!!) to get his thoughts on a couple of things during this strange time in the world. 

Image result for jarrett payton wgn

First, I wanted to find out the challenges he’s facing, having to do a live sportscast from his basement rather than from the studio. Plus, the fact that he has two young children which provides some extra difficulties.

“The tough part is my wife and I are E-learning with our kids, so trying to do my work and helping them with theirs is whole different ballgame,” he told me. “The show must go on and delivering for the great people of Chicago is something that is very close to my heart.”

I would have imagined from the beginning that the other difficulty would be zero face to face contact with the sports producers in planning out the show. Also, at home there’s no teleprompter, so when JP is on air, it’s ad lib time. It’s also just such a different environment.

“Being at home doing my newscasts has been different but in some ways it feels like I’m out in the field doing a live shot really,” he says. “Technology makes it almost seamless to do what I normally do in the studio, in the comfort of my own home.”

He told me that email and cellphone calls replace the actual contact in the sports office. The fact that he’s done so many sportscasts and live shots make things a little easier to deal with under these circumstances. 

Then comes the question of content with zero live sporting events taking place. How surreal is that experience?

“Since I’ve been in the business, I’ve always had the understanding that sports never stops and news never stops. When you’re dedicated to your craft, you also understand there’s no days off in this line of work. So now, to have everything in the sporting world on pause, is very surreal,” Jarrett admitted. “This whole situation has really put life in perspective for me. You take for granted sometimes how lucky we are to live the lives we do and all of the great things that come with it like sports.”

Payton also mentioned to me that these days have tested the creativity of everyone involved in putting a sportscast together. I completely understand that. In fact, on one of my own casts last weekend, I celebrated the 2-year anniversary of Loyola Chicago’s Sweet 16 win over Nevada. I found some audio and made that a “kicker” story. 

Image result for loyola chicago nevada

The natural question to ask anyone involved in the sports media these days is what are you doing to pass the time? There is more downtime than usual now. 

“Being at home means a lot of family time,” Jarrett responds. “This whole situation is bringing us closer as a family. Things happen for a reason and for us it’s giving us more time with each other which we normally don’t have. Being dad is always first for me.”

The work from home mentality has become the way of life in the coronavirus pandemic. It isn’t clear exactly if these changes are being widely accepted by audiences or not. To me, it shouldn’t make a difference what location your sports anchor is delivering the report from. It’s still the news you want and need, it’s just not coming from a familiar location to viewers and listeners. 

I applaud these stations around the country, both radio and television that are focusing on the important things in this time. Providing informative and accurate news on the pandemic and keeping their employees healthy. 

BSM Writers

Keeping Premier League Games Shouldn’t Be A Hard Call For NBC

“Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans.”

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NBC Sports is facing some tough, costly decisions that will define its sports brand for the rest of this decade.  A chance to connect with viewers in a changing climate and grow Peacock’s audience as well.  However, making the right choice is paramount to not losing to apps like Paramount+ (pun intended).

NBC is currently in the business of negotiating to continue airing the Premier League as their current deal ends after this 2021-2022 season.  NASCAR is contracted to NBC (and FOX) through the 2024 season.

NBC’s tentpole sports are the NFL and the Olympics.  

Negotiations for the EPL are expected to go down to the wire. Rather than re-up with NBC, the league is meeting with other networks to drive up the price. NBC has to then make a decision if the rights go north of $2 billion.

Should NBC spend that much on a sport that is not played in the United States? It’s not my money, but that sport continues to grow in the US.

If NBC re-ups with the Premier League, will that leave any coins in the cupboard to re-up with NASCAR? Comcast CEO Brian Roberts hinted that there might be some penny pinching as the prices continue to soar. This may have been one of the reasons that NBC did not fight to keep the National Hockey League, whose rights will be with Disney and WarnerMedia through ESPN and TNT, respectively.

“These are really hard calls,” Roberts said. “You don’t always want to prevail, and sometimes you’re right and sometimes you’re wrong, but I think the sustainability of sports is a critical part of what our company does well.”

Roberts was speaking virtually at the recent Goldman Sachs 30th Annual Communacopia Conference. He told the audience that between NBC and European network Sky, that Comcast has allocated approximately $20 billion towards these sports properties.

Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh spoke virtually at the Bank of America Securities 2021 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference and echoed that the company is in a good position to make some strong choices in the sports realm. 

“The bar is really high for us to pursue outright acquisitions of any material size,” Cavanagh added. “We got a great hand to play with what we have.”

While the European investments involve a partnership with American rival Viacom, the US market seems to have apparent limits.

Last Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series at Bristol Motor Speedway was seen by around 2.19 million people. It was the most-watched motorsports event of the weekend. That same week eight different Premier League matches saw over 1 million viewers. More than half of those matches were on subscription-based Peacock. 

Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans. A game of typical soccer fan is used to a sport that is less than two hours long. The investment in a team is one or two games a week. 

My connection to the Premier League began before the pandemic.  When I cut the cord in late 2017, I purchase Apple TV.  Setting it up, it asks you to name your favorite teams.  After clicking on the Syracuse Orange and the New Jersey Devils, I recalled that my wife has family based in London, England.  They are season ticket holders for Arsenal, and that family redefined the word “die-hard” fans.

I’ve long been a believer that sports allegiances are best when handed down by family. I love hearing stories of people loving the New York Giants because their parents liked them, and they pass it down to their children.

I’ve successfully given my allegiance to the Devils to my young daughters. 

By telling Apple TV that I liked Arsenal, I get alerts from three different apps when the “Gunners” are playing. The $4.99 is totally worth it to see Arsenal.

Whenever I told this story, I was amazed to see how many other American sports fans had a Premier League team. Students of mine at Seton Hall University rooted for Tottenham Hotspurs, while an old colleague cheers on Chelsea.

Global Is Cool': The Growing Appeal of Premier League Soccer in America
Courtesy: Morning Consult

This is not meant to say that NBC should sign the EPL on my account. The key for any US-based soccer fan is that between Bundesliga, Serie A, and other leagues, there will be no shortage of soccer available on both linear television and streaming services.

Besides, Dani Rojas did say that “Football is life.”  NBC, originator of the Ted Lasso character, should make keeping its Premier League US connection a priority.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 45

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Today, Demetri is joined by Tyler McComas and Russ Heltman. Tyler pops on to talk about the big start to the college football season on TV. Russ talks about Barstool’s upfront presentation and how the business community may not see any problems in working with the brand. Plus, Demetri is optimistic about FOX Sports Radio’s new morning show.

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BSM Writers

6 Ad Categories Hotter Than Gambling For Sports Radio

“Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life.”

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For years sports radio stations pushed sports gambling advertisers to early Saturday and Sunday morning. The 1-800 ads, shouting, and false claims were seedy, and some stations wouldn’t even accept the business at 5 am on Sunday.

Now, with all but ten states ready to go all in on sports gambling, sports radio stations can’t get enough of that green. Demetri Ravanos wrote about the money cannon that sports gambling has become for stations. Well, what if you are in one of those ten states where it isn’t likely to ever be legal like California or Texas? Where is your pot of gold?

A Pot of Gold Articles - Analyzing Metals
Courtesy: iStockphoto

Or, let’s face it, the more gambling ads you run, the more risk you take on that the ads will not all work as you cannibalize the audience and chase other listeners away who ARE NOT online gambling service users and never will be. So, what about you? Where is your pot of gold?

Well, let’s go Digging for Gold. 

The RAB produces the MRI-Simmons Gold Digger PROSPECTING REPORT for several radio formats. In it, they index sports radio listeners’ habits against an average of 18+ Adult. The Gold Digger report looks at areas where the index is higher than the norm – meaning the sports radio audience is more likely to use the product or service than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. The report, generated in 2020, indicates that sports radio listeners are 106% more likely to have used an online gambling site in the last thirty days. That’s impressive because the report only lists 32 activities or purchases a sports radio listener indexes higher than an average adult. I looked at those 32 higher indexes, and I think we can start looking for some gold.

Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life. The gambling companies who commit significant money to get results will continue advertising and chase the others away. So, the future of sports radio needs to include other cash cows.

If it is evident to online sports gambling services that sports radio stations are a must-buy, who else should feel that way?  I looked at the Top 32 and eliminated the media companies. ESPN, MLB/NHL/NFL networks, and others aren’t spending cash on sports radio stations they don’t own in general. But Joseph A Bank clothing, Fidelity, and Hotwire should! Here’s your PICK-6 list I pulled together that’s hotter than sports gambling:

  • Sportscard collectors, Dapper Labs, Open Sea- read about Sports NFT $.
  • Online brokerage firms-Fidelity, Charles Schwab, Robinhood, Webull, TD Ameritrade
  • Golf courses, resorts, equipment, etc.- we play golf at home and vacation
  • Hotwire.com, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Airbnb, Carnival Corporation, and Priceline.com- we’ve used Hotwire in the last year.
  • FedEx, UPS, U.S. Postal Service, Venmo, PayPal, Zelle-we wired or overnighted $ 
  • Jos. A. Bank, shein.com, macys.com, nordstroms.com- we went to Jos. A. Bank in last three months

The sports card/NFT market is 32% hotter than the sports betting market for sports radio listeners. Everything on the PICK-6 is at least 100% more likely to purchase than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. All listed are at or above indexing strength compared to sports betting. The individual companies I added are industry leaders. Bet on it! Email me for details. 

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