Two things happened over the weekend that caused my brain to produce a tasty idea. First, there were no fans in attendance at UFC 249 on Saturday due to the coronavirus pandemic. Without any crowd noise the distinct sounds of punches, kicks, and gasps for air as a fighter struggled out of a chokehold grabbed my attention. Then the Sunday airing of ESPN’s docuseries The Last Dance included a clip of Michael Jordan crying on the locker room floor after the Bulls beat the Sonics in the 1996 NBA Finals. The footage has aired plenty of times, but it was the first time I’ve actually heard Jordan sobbing. It provided a much different feel.
Here is my idea — drum roll please — if the NBA is able to resume its season, the league should offer the NBA playoffs on Pay-Per-View complete with sounds from the court. Commissioner Adam Silver said on Friday that fans are not expected if the season resumes. Instead of viewers feeling like something is missing without thousands of screaming fans in attendance, the audience would be gaining access that has never been granted before. And talk about memorable audio?
Oh baby, this is it.
Yeah, the NBA would need to smooth things over with current TV partners TNT and ABC/ESPN. I doubt they’d be giddy about a separate PPV broadcast cutting into their audience. Sure, the NBA would also need to urge players not to drop anti-gay slurs during games or anything outlandish that would be damaging to the league. But think of the upside.
Oh, the glorious upside.
We would hear top-shelf trash talking. We would hear players yelling at officials, coaches yelling at players, and players yelling at their opponents and own teammates. Can you imagine hearing audio of the time Draymond Green and Kevin Durant yelled at each other on the bench? Think of having the audio of Scottie Pippen telling Phil Jackson that he wasn’t reentering the game because Jackson drew up a final play for Toni Kukoč. You wouldn’t want to hear LeBron James talk smack to Kawhi Leonard, or Russell Westbrook jaw with — well with everybody? I sure would.
It. Would. Be. Beautiful.
Also consider that the NBA is leaking money worse than a 1989 Chrysler LeBaron convertible top. 40 percent of league revenue comes from fans — you know, the people that won’t be at these games. CCTV in China still has no intention of airing NBA games after Daryl Morey let his Twitter thumbs cost the league hundreds of millions. My idea would provide a sorely needed revenue stream for the NBA.
Did I just become Adam Silver’s best friend?
You might love or hate my playoff PPV idea (you should love it) but there is no doubt that now is the time to be in the ideas business. Doing a sports radio show during a global pandemic is all about being creative, which requires straying from that sports comfort zone at times.
WHAM sports talk host Bob Matthews did his final show last week in Rochester, New York. He told the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle that, “The coronavirus got the best of me. It’s been tough talking sports for two hours when there’s no sports.” I’m not questioning the creativity of Matthews at all. I’m saying that a sports radio show shouldn’t sound the same when the world is currently much different.
Think of how unusual the sports landscape is right now. The NFL held a fully virtual draft for the first time in league history. Giannis Antetokounmpo, the NBA’s reigning MVP, hasn’t shot a basketball in nearly two months because he doesn’t have access to a hoop. Only a select number of NBA teams have opened their practice facilities with such lengthy guidelines that it makes War and Peace look like light reading. The sports world has changed so much. Why would a sports radio show remain the same?
If you were about to bake a cake and realized you didn’t have any flour, would you proceed along while blindly hoping things magically work out, or would you alter your approach? We currently don’t have the key ingredient of live sports. Your sports radio cake isn’t going to come out the same way without it. You have to adjust.
Sports radio managers and hosts shouldn’t scrap their normal formulas altogether. It isn’t like LeBron is doing ballet dances to stay in shape while waiting for the Lakers practice facility to open. He’s training in similar, yet altered, ways. It’s about taking a quarter turn from the norm, not doing a complete 180. Look for ways to push the boundaries and experiment without abandoning everything that’s familiar.
If I’m a manager, I’m not constantly trotting out the same lineup as if these are normal days in a normal live-sports month of May. I’d throw a random listener on the air for a full segment with my host(s) and promote the bejesus out of it. I’d actually do it a handful of times, call it May Madness, and have listeners vote on the bracket-style contest for a prize. As a host I’m looking to create buzz while doing things that are memorable. Mr. P90X Tony Horton dropped by on my Portland show last week as I maxed out on overhand pull-ups. I got to a reasonable 20. Was it blow-your-mind stuff that reinvented radio? No. But it was something memorable that I could also share online.
You should live on Idea Street during this wacky time. Throw stuff against the wall and see what sticks. Just like the NBA playoff Pay-Per-View idea I laid out, weigh the pros and cons. Figure out how an idea benefits you and what the potential drawbacks are. (Btw, can you imagine hearing the audio of Jordan yelling at Knicks bully Xavier McDaniel from back in the day? How could you not love my idea? Sorry, back to business.) If your idea will likely lead to a win without risking the farm, let it rip!
What I love most about sports radio is the obligation to be creative. You also never know exactly how any day will play out on the air. Well, we’re talking days and months here due to COVID-19. The world is different right now. Your day-to-day life is different. The sports world is different. If your show sounds the same way it always has, I have one simple question for you — why? I don’t think these are desperate times for sports radio. Let’s just say that these different times for the industry call for different measures.
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.”
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.
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.
Media Noise – Episode 45
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.
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.”
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?
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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