For 14 years, Tony Rizzo has entertained audiences with The Really Big Show on ESPN Cleveland and for decades, he’s been a sports media star in The Land.
“A star who draws attention and brings it every day on-air, but he’s also a great team player,” newly appointed ESPN Cleveland PD Matt Fishman said of the 59-year old Rizzo. “The great thing about Tony is that he cares about everyone here. He knows everybody on the team and their families, whether they’re in sales, marketing or an intern.”
Creativity, a willingness to adapt, build and grow a community has seen ESPN Cleveland’s midday show morph from what started as Rizz On The Radio into The Really Big Show we hear today. It has the sound of a drive time radio show, with characters, bits and intricacies, but because of Rizzo’s TV schedule, it launched and has remained in middays since 2007.
“If we had this conversation 15 years ago, I would have said we need RBS in afternoon drive,” Fishman said. “But with the app, smart speakers, our TheLandOnDemand.com website, people find what they want to listen to no matter what time of day it is.”
The Really Big Show wasn’t the plan in 2007 when Good Karma hired Rizzo and paired him with Aaron Goldhammer, a radio producer from Wisconsin. But that’s because the plan was not to be contrived by the traditional sports talk format.
“The biggest stroke of luck in my career is that I got a chance to work with Rizz,” Goldhammer told me.
The best depiction of Rizzo as one of Cleveland’s premier sports voices came from Ohio native and ESPN NBA Insider Brian Windhorst.
“For years when Rizzo hosted the Browns postgame show, no matter where I was in the country I always turned on my ESPN App and wanted to hear what he had to say. Sometimes I turned it on too early and just waited until he came on the air,” Windhorst said. “As someone who doesn’t live in Ohio anymore, only really follows the Browns out of morbid curiosity than actual fandom and works in the sports business where I turn down 5-10 radio shows a day, that I made that a priority is the best thing I can say about Tony and his influence.”
Before I spoke with Rizzo, I kept hearing how he doesn’t do interviews and I was even met with surprise that he agreed to do this one. Usually, it’s easy to find past interviews featuring on-air personalities because let’s face it – many radio hosts enjoy talking about themselves. I told Rizzo this at the start of our conversation and he admitted with a chuckle, that he doesn’t do many interviews.
Brandon Contes: I tuned into the show the other day and within seconds, I hear you telling a story from FOX 8, when you had to do a last minute interview with who you thought was an assistant football coach for Ohio State, but a couple questions in, you found out he was actually the new basketball coach.
Tony Rizzo: It was Thad Motta [Laughs].
BC: I don’t want to make the same mistake with you, so can I have some background?
TR: I’m a native Clevelander, I went to school here at Ohio University and started my career in 1986. I was lucky, my dad was a broadcast Hall-of-Famer in Northeast Ohio – Jack Reynolds.
He did radio and TV locally and then went to work for Vince McMahon and the WWF in the ‘80s, so we were big sports fans and had a broadcasting background growing up. He worked with Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura, I was able to hang out with Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan. I had a really charmed childhood and it prepared me for this business.
BC: Did you know you wanted to be a sportscaster and follow in your dad’s footsteps from a young age?
TR: I didn’t. I actually went to Ohio State to be a dentist, but that lasted two semesters before I came home and realized my calling was broadcasting.
BC: Were you a big wrestling fan?
TR: I was a huge wrestling fan, but my biggest passion was the Browns. My dad grew up in the ‘50s when the Browns ruled the NFL. We were born and raised Browns, Cavs and Indians fans. One of my first childhood memories was going to the old Cleveland Stadium and watching the Indians at five or six years old.
BC: Your broadcasting career started in 1986, was that TV or radio?
TR: I started with an AM station called WBBG as the overnight board op. At that time, the FM affiliate was WMJI and they hired John Lanigan, a big star in Cleveland who replaced Don Imus here in the ‘70s. They didn’t do a lot of sports, but they did news every half hour. The Browns were expected to be good in ’86, so that summer I said ‘let me go get you guys some interviews.’
Lanigan’s news director, John Webster wasn’t sure about it, but he ended up sending me to Browns training camp at Lakeland Community College. They used the sound on-air and I finagled my way on the show. I worked for free for a year, getting sound for the Browns and doing a couple of sportscasts, but that’s how I broke into this business. My dad helped me a lot, but I also owe Lanigan plenty. He taught me how to sell, how to be entertaining, informative and I can’t compliment him enough.
BC: Did you listen to a lot of radio growing up in Cleveland? Pete Franklin?
TR: I did, I listened to Pete Franklin, my dad even worked at the same station as him. My dad was a disc jockey there, he also did a movie show for channel 83.
BC: And now your son also followed the same path and is working for ESPN Cleveland?
TR: What a treat for me to have Michael here, we actually got to do an NCAA Tournament game together. We did one of the MAC Championship games down at the Q, and working with my son was one of the biggest thrills of my career.
BC: When did you get started at FOX 8?
TR: I did Lanigan’s show and then went part time to FOX 8 working a show called the Sunday Sports Page. We were fortunate to do very well and won multiple Emmy awards. I also did sports talk around ’93 – ’94 for an AM station, WHK. They called me and said, ‘we have a new sports talk radio format. Do you think you can do it?’
I was young and of course said absolutely, even though I had no idea how to do sports talk. I actually got cassette tapes of Mike and the Mad Dog, I listened and formulated my own show. From there, the format changed and I went to TV full time. I was the sports anchor for FOX 8 from ’97 until 2010, on the 10 o’clock news every day. In 2010 I left to work full time for Good Karma and the show I do now with Aaron. I still do a Sunday night show on FOX 8 called The Rizzo Show, a half hour at 11pm every week.
BC: Do you have a medium preference, TV or radio?
TR: I enjoy both, but I love radio. We do a four hour show every day on the radio and there’s not a whole lot that goes unsaid. When I was on FOX 8 as a sports anchor, you might get three or four minutes a night.
It helps to work for a great company. Good Karma Brands is fantastic. Aaron and I have worked together for 14 years now and he’s not only a great friend, but we’re a team and our show wouldn’t be what it is without Aaron.
BC: Was it always The Really Big Show? Because it’s not just turn the mic on, take calls and go home. There’s a creative and even comedic aspect to the show, did it morph into what it is now?
TR: It did morph into it. In fact we called it Rizzo on the Radio in 2007. It only took about six months until we realized we had something special. I learned this from Lanigan, we use life as content and in today’s COVID-19 world, our show was made for this. A lot of people are scrambling without games, but we’ve always been more than sports and tried to reach a bigger audience.
BC: Did growing up around wrestling impact the way you do a show? Using the audience, using drama, and that’s part of why it’s more than just sports?
TR: Without a doubt. We have drama, some of it we perpetrate, some of it the audience does. Aaron and I both have theatrical backgrounds from college and we play that up on-air all the time. We try to be as real as we can, but I’d be lying to you if I told you every once in a while there’s not a little WWE in our show.
“He makes everything going on, on-air or off-air, all part of the fun of the show,” Goldhammer said. “Even though I was just running the board and producing at the start, he encouraged me to keep the mic close. Because whatever drama was going on with an angry caller trying to get on-air, he wanted that to be part of the show. It helped make me comfortable and understand his vision, that it was an inclusive brand of sports talk.”
TR: The show’s called The Really Big Show and that was originally to poke fun at ourselves because we didn’t think we’d last six months. I was a fan of The Big Show on ESPN so I said ‘let’s call this The Really Big Show,’ and then it turned out to be a really big show! It’s RBS for short and we have characters that call in who we refer to as RBSers, much like Finebaum or Howard Stern have on their shows. And Howard is another show I’ve listened to for a long time. I’ve stolen a lot of things from him and I’m proud of it. We have a saying in radio, nothing is original, everything is stolen from someone.
BC: Like Howard, your show does a great job of building a community. You have listeners that contribute and feel part of the show, you have listeners that love the show and listeners that hate it, but still tune-in.
TR: I need either an A or an F. That’s what I’m after. The people that love Howard listen for an hour, the people that hate Howard listen for three hours.
BC: What about social media’s impact on the industry, because you’ve had interactions with Joe Thomas and Dan Le Batard that can bring attention to the show, but there are negative sides as well.
TR: It’s a love hate relationship. There’s good and bad, but when I started doing this stuff in the ‘80s, you had to watch sports on the news to find out any information. Now athletes can go ahead and tell you their plans on Twitter which makes things difficult, but also keeps everyone connected. The one thing I stress to Aaron, that my dad and Lanigan always stressed to me was you have to adapt with the times. I try to stay as current as I can. I have 134K Twitter followers. I don’t tweet a lot, but I do tweet news and during games. Social media is a big part of our show, it changed the industry forever.
BC: The pairing with Aaron is unique. You come from different generations, different areas of the country, you root for different teams – was that relationship smooth from the start?
TR: When I came to work for Craig Karmazin, I told him I want to use someone I worked with at WHK in the ‘90s for the show. He said ‘no, I got this young kid who’s been working his butt off for me in Wisconsin, could you just meet him and tell me what you think?’ I met Aaron at a Cleveland State basketball game and we hit it off. To your point, the dichotomy is great. Aaron is 20 years younger than me. He’s from a different part of the country. That good cop bad cop perspective has worked really well for us.
“We have the kind of relationship where he does not hesitate to tell me if an idea I have is bad,” Goldhammer added. “99 of my ideas might get cut, but if one idea works, then it was successful. It’s absolutely a collaborative effort and we build on each other. Rizzo’s real genius is not just in coming up with the idea, but taking a good idea and turning it ever so slightly to make it great.
We don’t hold anything back with each other, we’re due to get mad and have a screaming fight once every few months. But I think it’s healthy for our relationship because we don’t bottle anything up and having that brutal honesty is so important and even refreshing.”
BC: How was being part of the Draft Day movie, were you and Aaron on set for that?
TR: Ivan Reitman came and directed Aaron and I for five hours one night in Cleveland at our studios! But they elected to use us in a very cool way in the movie, they used us on the radio. At one point in the movie, I’m talking about the Browns GM, played by Kevin Costner, and I said ‘If you get this wrong you will be gone!’ Costner slams his radio shut and you can see 850 AM on the screen. My company went absolutely bananas.
BC: In addition to your media gigs, you also owned a pizza place?
TR: I had a bunch of businesses, I owned limousines, I was always trying to make a buck when my kids were young.
BC: Has that helped in terms of being relatable right now with small business owners during the pandemic?
TR: Absolutely, it’s a great point and it helps me connect with our listeners and advertising partners. I have advertising partners that have been on with me the whole 14 years I’ve been on-air, we pride ourselves on that and I think it helps especially in difficult times like this. You can relate to somebody who’s calling their own shots, paying their own healthcare and trying to keep their own businesses.
BC: At 59 years old, how much is left in the tank?
TR: There are days I’d like to retire and then there are days where I feel like I can go 10 more years. One thing COVID has done, is it’s given Aaron and I a lot of reps doing this show from remote locations. We’ve talked about me maybe moving down to Florida and doing the show from there, but I can’t see myself leaving The Really Big Show any time soon.
“It’s something I don’t want to think of, but always have to keep some names in mind and I have some people on the list, but I’m anxious to not have to go to that list for a long time,” PD Matt Fishman said of having to find Rizzo’s replacement someday. “He’s great on-air, he’s a great teammate and one thing we all miss working from home right now is that he brings as much energy to the office as he does to the show.”
Goldhammer was much less sympathetic when I asked, ‘can you imagine a time having to do the show without Rizzo?’
“Yea. Quote me on that, I’m itching to get rid of him,” Golhammer said with a hearty laugh. “I can imagine doing the show without him because he takes about 20 weeks of vacation a year. They call it in the NBA, ‘load management.’ And I think the key to increasing and maximizing Rizz’s career is just like LeBron and Kawhi. If we play him 48 minutes a night every game, we’re gonna get him closer to retirement. I think we have to do some load management to make sure he’s ready for the playoffs.”
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.
Mike Silver Has An NFL Backstage Pass
“When you go through a career transition like that, let alone during a pandemic, you find out a referendum on all your relationships.”
It was the 2010 NFL Draft and standout wide receiver Dez Bryant was eligible to be selected by a professional football team. As a journalist, Mike Silver has always looked to enterprise stories and wanted to be with Bryant when the moment he had been waiting for finally arrived.
Through a preexisting relationship with Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, he got in touch with Bryant and received permission to attend his draft celebration. Before being selected in the first round by the Dallas Cowboys, Bryant revealed to him that then-Miami Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland had asked him during the pre-draft process if his mother was a prostitute.
Once that information was published in Silver’s column, Ireland had to publicly apologize and was subsequently put under investigation by the team’s majority owner Stephen Ross.
“People were like, ‘How did you get that?,’ but I was very proud because really the way I got it was because Deion Sanders respected me enough based on things that had happened decades earlier and the way that I conducted myself that I was able to ultimately get to Dez,” Silver expressed. “That to me is a validation. I’ve nurtured relationships for years and years that have led to zero reporting and thought, ‘It’s okay; it’s just part of the process. It is what it is.’”
From the start, Silver was a believer in journalism and the power the profession had in divulging stories in pursuit of the truth. Born in San Francisco, Calif. and raised in Los Angeles, he would read The Los Angeles Times sports section for a half hour per day, observing the proclivities and vernacular of other writers. As a high school student, he co-authored a sports column in the Palisades Charter High School Tideline with current Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, gaining practical experience in journalism and cultivating professional relationships.
“I was the only Warriors fan in our school because I was born in San Francisco so he used to clown me for being a Warriors and 49ers fan like everyone else in our school – so I ended up having the last laugh,” Silver said. “By old standards, you’d say, ‘You can’t cover Steve Kerr. That’s your friend.’ I think in 2022 if I have to cover Steve Kerr, I’ll just be like, ‘You know what? Everyone knows we’re friends. I’m just going to be up front about it.’”
Silver attended the University of California, Berkeley where he earned his bachelor’s degree in mass communication and media studies. The school was not known for profound levels of success within its football and basketball programs, according to Silver; however, the student newspaper was a place to gain repetitions in covering sports and having finished work published, printed and distributed.
Towards the end of his time in college, Silver wrote stories that were published in The Los Angeles Times, the newspaper he grew up reading and from which he drew inspiration to become a journalist.
“We would tell the players we covered, ‘Hey, we’re trying to go to the pros too, and we’re not going to get jobs in this industry if we don’t write the truth,’” Silver said. “We were trying to break in as legitimate journalists and we definitely ruffled some feathers along the way.”
Once he graduated from school, Silver began his professional career writing for The Sacramento Union where he covered the San Francisco 49ers. Silver grew up as a football fan and was familiar with the team but always tried to find original, untold angles to differentiate his stories from others. Shortly thereafter, he transitioned to join The Santa Clara Press Democrat as a beat writer and used the time to further develop his writing and reporting skills. Five years later, he was in talks to land his dream job as a writer in Sports Illustrated, a prolific sports magazine focused on producing original content.
Sports Illustrated was released on Wednesdays and operated under the belief of trying to omit any stories that may have been reported in the days prior. The goal was to tell stories that were under the radar and would be impactful and memorable for its readers.
During a typical week, Silver would visit both the home and road teams in their own cities with the hopes of connecting with players and team personnel. After a game, he would go to the locker room, yet he would try to avoid doing one-on-one interviews since the content would likely be published elsewhere before the magazine was released.
Then, his writing process commenced and often went through the night, as Sports Illustrated had a 9 a.m. EST deadline the following morning. By taking the approach of enterprising stories, Silver quickly became one of the most venerated and trusted sportswriters in the country, composing over 70 cover stories for the publication.
With the advent of the internet though, journalism and communication was forever changed allowing for the free flow of information and ideas in a timely manner.
“Now I can arrogantly write to whatever length I want and every precious word of mine could be broadcast to the masses, but [back then] you better have it the exact length because it’s going on a page,” Silver said. “You’re maybe reading over a story 15 times or more to get it just right before the seven layers of editing kick in. You’re also leaving theoretically half of your great stuff on the cutting room table never to surface again or seldom.”
Nurturing a relationship built on trust and professionalism is hardly facile in nature, and it required enduring persistence and resolute determination to achieve for Silver. Through these relationships, he has been able to create both distinctive and original types of content. As innovations in technology engendered shifts in consumption patterns though, he decided to do what he originally perceived as being unthinkable and left Sports Illustrated after nearly 13 years.
“When I went there, I felt like we had 30 of the 35 best sportswriters in America and it was murderer’s row,” Silver said of Sports Illustrated. “I had a great, great experience there the whole time so I never thought I’d leave.”
After meeting with Yahoo Sports Executive Editor Dave Morgan and being given an offer with flexibility in the job and a promise of a lucrative salary, Silver knew it was simply too good to pass up. He opted to still write a column on Sundays to counterprogram Peter King at Sports Illustrated, who authored his own weekly “Monday Morning Quarterback” column.
Additionally, Silver agreed to write two additional branded columns per week in a quest to adapt to the digital age of media.
“I was trying to stay current and connect to an internet generation and keep up with the way that people were consuming their content at that time,” Silver said. “….We just had a spirit at Yahoo that we weren’t owned by anyone, we didn’t have a deal with the league and we were going to report the news in a very unfiltered way.”
An advent of the digital age in media has been the practice of writers appearing on television to present their information en masse, requiring changes in their delivery. Unlike in a written piece, reporting on television requires efficiently making key points and speaking in shorter phrases to allow the viewer to easily follow the discussion. Moreover, writers are sometimes presented with questions that may provoke deeper thought or analysis, and occasionally challenge their lines of reporting.
Silver never thought he would work in television, but as a part of his contract with NFL Media, he was writing columns and serving as an analyst on select NFL Network programming. In working on television on a league-owned entity, it forced him to step out of his comfort zone and pursue mastery of a new skill set.
“I never wanted to do TV voice and be cheesy and look like someone who was trained for the medium so my strategy was more to try to be myself on camera and see how that translated,” Silver articulated. “It seemed to work to some degree – and then obviously I picked up a lot of tricks of the trade and techniques and got better reps. Essentially, I think reporting is reporting [and] information is information.”
Moving into television, a medium with sports coverage that is, at its core, nonlinear due to the potential for breaking news and unexpected occurrences, changed the manner in which the information was presented and/or prioritized on the air. In a column, Silver’s goal was to find original angles and obtain anecdotes and quotes to implement into the storytelling. Now on television, sources were still used largely on the condition of deep background, meaning no individual or group could be attributed to the information in any way.
“With TV, there was an element of, ‘Hey man, I’m just trying to sound smart when I talk about you guys,’ which is code for, ‘I don’t have to use your name when I say this stuff, but when I’m weighing on why you just traded for Trent Richardson, help me understand what’s really going on with the Indianapolis Colts at this moment,’” Silver explained. “That’s just a random example. I liked [television] more than I thought I would.”
Silver’s contract was not renewed at NFL Network in 2021, providing a stark change in his lifestyle and leaving him looking for a job in the midst of trying economic times. Through a relationship he had with sports radio host Colin Cowherd, he was given the opportunity to join his upstart podcast platform The Volume as a host. Cowherd eagerly recruited Silver to the platform following a lunch in which the topic came up naturally in conversation about future endeavors.
“When you go through a career transition like that, let alone during a pandemic, you find out a referendum on all your relationships and I have a lot of them from players, coaches, owners and GMs to media people and friends in other industries, etc.,” he explained. “Colin Cowherd is someone I’ll never, ever, ever forget or stop being grateful to…. We were kind of talking some stuff out and he was like, ‘Why don’t we do a show on my network?,’ and we started talking about what that would be. We left lunch… and about 10 minutes later he called me and said, ‘Okay, here’s what I think,’ and kind of continued it.”
Today, Silver is hosting an interview-based program called Open Mike featuring guests from the world of professional football. Recent guests on the program have included Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff, New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh and Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Marvin Jones. Prior to joining The Volume, Silver had hosted a podcast with his daughter called Pass It Down, which ultimately ran for over 50 episodes and gave him experience working within the medium.
“I’m sitting there spending an hour with [Las Vegas] Raiders GM Dave Ziegler or [Buffalo Bills] linebacker Von Miller or whoever we have on,” Silver said. “You’re not only getting to know that person; you’re watching the way I connect with that person and usually have a body of work with that person, and there’s a comfort level there too.”
John Marvel was Silver’s direct boss at NFL Media and a friend he kept in touch with for many years. Through various correspondences and the dynamic media landscape, they decided to start their own media venture called Backstage Media. The company has a first-look deal with Meadowlark Media – a company co-founded by John Skipper, who also serves as its chief executive officer. Skipper was formerly the president of ESPN and someone Silver wished he had worked for earlier in his career.
“I did not know John Skipper before I left NFL Network,” he said. “I didn’t particularly have a dream to [ever] work at ESPN. We’ve had conversations over the years – ESPN and I – and it never seemed like the perfect fit for me. Now that I know John Skipper, it’s like ‘I would have worked for that guy any time.’ He’s fantastic, [and] I’m just so pumped to be in business with him.”
The company, which focuses on producing documentaries and other unscripted programming through the intersection of sports, music and entertainment, has various projects in development. The idea was derived out of both of their penchants for storytelling and an attempt to utilize new platforms built for engagement within the modern-day media marketplace.
“We’re hoping that documentaries, docuseries [and] episodic podcasts – mostly unscripted – …will be kind of our wheelhouse,” Silver said. “….There’s about four big things that are [hopefully] close to being announced. One’s football; one’s boxing; one is basketball; and one is kind of a blend of some things. I feel like we have a pretty diverse set of interests.”
Joining The San Francisco Chronicle as a football reporter has been indicative of a full-circle moment for Silver, as he is once again around the San Francisco 49ers and writing columns about the team and other sports around the Bay Area at large. Today, he is working with Scott Ostler and Ann Kllion, and directly with Eric Branch on the outlet’s 49ers coverage. Through it all, he seeks to continue gaining access to places that the ordinary person would only be able to dream about in order to tell compelling and informative stories, no matter how they may be delivered or on what platform(s) to which it may be distributed.
“I’m old school in a lot of my mentality in terms of journalism and storytelling and all of that,” Silver said. “I think those things don’t go away. I think it’s journalism first; relationship first; access first; storytelling first; and you figure out the rest.”
As for the future of the profession which has ostensibly become less defined because of the evolution of social media and communication, relationships and storytelling have truly become the differentiators. Silver aims to continue practicing what has allowed him to gain exclusive scoops in the industry and tell stories that would otherwise, perhaps, fly under the radar, but do so in a way that does not jeopardize his sources.
“I’m going to try to develop relationships and cultivate relationships where people trust me and give me a sense of what’s going on,” he said. “I’m going to try to get into places that you, as the consumer, couldn’t otherwise go and take you there, and I’m going to err on the side of the relationship as opposed to finding out one thing that could cause a splash that day on Twitter.”
Some athletes are hosting podcasts or writing columns to directly communicate with their fans, including Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green on The Volume, intensifying the quest for engagement and attraction. Yet Silver advises journalists looking to break into the industry not to get distracted in meeting certain metrics, instead adhering to best practices and reporting truthful information without ambiguity.
“Just don’t get undone by the noise,” Silver said. “Put your head down; hyperfocus; grind; tell good stories; do journalism and hopefully over the course of time, that will stand out. I’d still like to believe that.”
Covering professional sports, specifically football, generates a large amount of potential storylines on which journalists can report – and today, digital platforms give them the ability to cover them in different ways. While some scoops may requit a large article, others may be able to be told in 280 characters or less, such as a trade rumor or injury. The amount of information Silver and his colleagues uncovered working for a print publication and then had to omit because of space limitations underscores a key journalistic principle of efficient and truthful storytelling. In today’s media landscape, he hopes to be able to do that regardless of its means of dissemination.
“If you went back and just looked at our normal… feature or story off a game [and] the level we reported on a Wednesday and translated that to a Twitter generation, people would lose their minds about how much we found out and how much we reported with on-the-record quotes usually, and they’d be like, ‘He said what!?,” Silver said. “That’s all we knew and that’s [how] we did it…. I don’t think people understand how much the threshold has changed. It’s all good. The most important things hopefully haven’t changed.”
Derek Futterman is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. In addition, he serves as the production manager for the New York Islanders Radio Network and lead sports producer at NY2C. He has also worked on live game broadcasts for the Long Island Nets and New York Riptide. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks and wrote for The Long Island Herald. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.
Video Simulcasts Are Now A Must Have For Sports Radio
All of these shows have done an amazing job of constantly communicating with their audiences to make sure they’re aware of changes coming their way.
Video simulcasts of sports talk radio and podcasts have gone up extraordinarily in quality as of late. The craft started as a novelty that very few participated in. ESPN and YES Network dominated the genre with their simulcasts of Mike and Mike in the Morning and Mike and the Mad Dog respectively. Slowly but surely other sports networks and RSN’s picked up the genre over time and it has now become a major component within sports coverage in the streaming world.
The most popular and prominent shows in the medium right now include The Dan Patrick Show, The Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz, The Pat McAfee Show, and The Rich Eisen Show. These four shows in particular have done an excellent job of independently producing and building out their video content to look visually appealing while also engage with the audience through graphics, pictures, stats on screen. In McAfee’s case, his company even entered into a rights agreement with the NFL for highlights.
Finding their shows can be difficult at times. Eisen’s show has moved from television to Peacock and to Roku Channel all within the span of a couple years. When LeBatard’s shipping container first began their live video voyage they didn’t have a consistent schedule. Patrick’s show has also leapt between RSNs, national networks, YouTube and its current home on Peacock. But all of these shows have done an amazing job of constantly communicating with their audiences to make sure they’re aware of changes coming their way.
The video simulcasts have become so lucrative for these shows that they’ve found sponsors to advertise against what they’re offering and they ensure that they pay attention to the look of the show. Commercials that feel like television play during Patrick and Eisen’s shows. Logos are displayed during LeBatard’s broadcast and NFL Films vignettes that you would find on NFL Network air in the middle of McAfee’s broadcast.
McAfee’s show recently moved into a new studio in Indianapolis specifically built for them by FanDuel and just yesterday LeBatard announced they would be moving into their own state of the art studio in Miami that will help expand their creativity. Patrick’s show doesn’t even have guests call into their show anymore – most join via Zoom. Eisen’s guests are more often than not in studio. All of these shows also upload highlights relatively quickly to YouTube. They’re still audio-first but video is no longer secondary. It is 1A in terms of importance.
As much as these simulcasts feel close to real TV, there are still some hijinks that fans have to get used to that aren’t the same as a regular TV broadcast. During LeBatard’s broadcast, a rolling loop of their own self produced album plays during breaks. While the songs are hilarious in nature, if you’re a weekly viewer of their simulcast it might get tiresome to hear every time there is a break.
A loop of some of the show’s greatest moments and some of the side projects Meadowlark Media produces might be more engaging and help reduce drop off rate. McAfee’s show also struggles with white balancing their cameras almost every telecast. At times in the middle of a conversation during the show, discoloration occurs before changing back to normal skin tones.
Patrick’s show has used the same set of graphics since it began simulcasting on NBC’s linear sports network years ago which could be a turnoff for younger viewers of the internet era who always want change in order to grab their attention. Eisen’s show has awkward interruptions happen in the middle of conversations because commercial breaks are different in length on terrestrial radio vs. streaming.
At the end of the day though, these shows are the epitome of what it means to have grit and guts to achieve your American dream. Although their productions are subsidized and/or licensed by big media platforms and sports books, their social media presence and the actual production of these shows was built on their own. During the first couple of weeks after LeBatard’s show left ESPN, the former columnist could often be heard teasing listeners that they were working on building a video enterprise and how difficult it was.
It’s hard to stand on your own in sports talk media without the backing of superpowers like ESPN, Fox, NBC, CBS and Turner who have been producing live broadcasts for decades. But these shows have found a way to do so in a new world that is tailored towards doing everything on your own.
Jessie Karangu is a columnist for BSM and graduate of the University of Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland but comes from Kenyan roots. Jessie has had a passion for sports media and the world of television since he was a child. His career has included stints with USA Today, Tegna, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Sightline Media. He can be found on Twitter @JMKTVShow.
5 Ideas For December Sales Success
How much better will you enjoy Christmas and New Year knowing you have some presentations to make to prospects who want to roll into 2023 with a new idea?
Now is the time to put your foot on the gas for a great start to 2023-not waiting til January. With Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day all falling on weekends, you can’t count on who will be at work the Friday or Monday around those holidays in December.
So, looking forward from here, you only have 15 or so days that you can count on your clients and prospects to be at work before the end of 2022. And, if they are at work, consider their motivation or lack of it before approaching them. But here are five ways to attack December.
Cutting a year-end deal
Make sure you go back from the potential start date of the schedule and allow for production, proposal, and acceptance. That usually means you need a week from when you present a year-end idea to when the schedule starts. So, aim to have all appointments booked by 12/9, so you can sell 2-week packages that begin Monday, 12/19. That will give you a sense of urgency and gives you five solid business days to sell your ass off starting Monday.
Make all your pricing and payment terms expire by Friday, 12/9. You can always extend if need be once they give a partial commitment. You want anybody involved in the decision to sign off and let you cut this deal! The idea here is to create urgency and work ahead.
Beat the bushes
Do you want to wake up on 1/2/23 with an empty pipeline? How much better will you enjoy Christmas and New Year knowing you have some presentations to make to prospects who want to roll into 2023 with a new idea? Don’t try to qualify these prospects over the phone. Do it in January when both of you are fresh but get that commitment NOW. Look for your new client avatar.
From now til the end of the year is also an excellent time to meet with your sales assistant, traffic manager, production person, or anybody who helps you at the station. Sit down with them face to face and see what you can do better to make their job easier. Give them some ideas on how they can help you as well. Mend some fences or make new friends; the reason tis the season. Surprise them with a Cheetos popcorn tin for less than $10. Please do it. You will be surprised by what you hear because this is a popular time of year for layoffs, transfers, and people taking new jobs.
Practice a new pitch
December is also a great time to record yourself doing a webinar and start planning to let your content do the talking. Wouldn’t it be nice if your 10-minute talk on how to make live reads work, how to buy radio, or why your audience buys the most widgets produced some warm leads? Practice and get going!
Jeff Caves is a sales columnist for BSM working in radio, digital, hyper-local magazine, and sports sponsorship sales in DFW. He is credited with helping launch, build, and develop SPORTS RADIO The Ticket in Boise, Idaho, into the market’s top sports radio station. During his 26 year stay at KTIK, Caves hosted drive time, programmed the station, and excelled as a top seller. You can reach him by email at email@example.com or find him on Twitter @jeffcaves.