ESPN Radio acknowledged on Friday that Will Cain is on his way out. While there has been no official comment on his future plans, Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports reported that Cain was working on a deal with Fox News all the way back in early April.
How Cain, an outspoken conservative, fits in at Fox News is clear. Where he fits in is a little less clear, but this is a sports media site, so who cares, right? Let’s put Will on the shelf and look at this from ESPN Radio’s point of view.
A lot of names have been thrown around to fill the hole Cain leaves behind. Every name mentioned is from ESPN’s current roster of talent, and that is absolutely the wrong approach. It’s not that Mina Kimes, who has been mentioned as a candidate for a show on ESPN Radio, isn’t talented, but choosing someone in house would be playing it safe and missing a golden opportunity.
The time is right for ESPN Radio to follow the playbook it did in 2004 when it replaced Tony Kornheiser in its late morning slot with Colin Cowherd. The company didn’t ask “Which SportsCenter anchor can also host a radio show?”. It went outside of Bristol and found a great local host that was ready for a national platform.
If ESPN wants to go down that path again, there are plenty of great candidates. Here are five people, in alphabetical order, that have what it takes to make the leap to a national platform and create something truly unique for ESPN Radio.
CHAD DUKES (106.7 the Fan in Washington, DC)
If ESPN Radio wanted to replace one conservative voice with another, Dukes would be an ideal choice. He’s a strong candidate even if ESPN Radio didn’t take politics into account. Howard Stern once said that Dukes is “the kind of sports radio I would listen to.” You don’t get a chance to hire someone like that everyday. With influences like The Sports Junkies and Opie & Anthony, Dukes would bring a unique perspective to the lineup.
MIKE FELGER (98.5 the Sports Hub in Boston)
The powers that be in Bristol are almost certainly familiar with Felger. His show has dominant ratings and is the reigning Major Market Personality of the Year at the Marconi Awards. The only move to make for Felger to take the next step is going national. Plus, his TV and reporting experience could make him a valuable multi-platform asset for ESPN’s NFL coverage.
CARRINGTON HARRISON (610 Sports in Kansas City)
Carrington is one of the most creative local hosts in the business today and knows how to engage listeners of all ages. Case in point, his Kanye Madness Bracket took the Internet by storm two years ago. It would be easy to dismiss comparisons to Bomani Jones and Nick Wright as conveniently about the commonalities of race and geography, but Carrington Harrison comes from the same school of intelligent discourse and measured takes. Sports radio needs more of that.
DANNY PARKINS (670 the Score in Chicago)
Danny Parkins has stood out and been a winner everywhere he has been. ESPN Radio has certainly taken notice, given that he and Dan McNeil have overtaken Waddle and Silvy in the ratings. Plus, he’s a young dude that could be a long term investment for ESPN just like Colin Cowherd was 16 years ago.
MIKE VALENTI (97.1 the Ticket in Detroit)
Let’s be clear. While I think Mike Valenti would be a home run hire, I know it is the longest of long shots. Entercom has a lot invested in Valenti, and would probably find a way to give him a prime spot on CBS Sports Radio if he ever said being on a national platform is his only priority. There is a reason for that. The guy is outspoken and unapologetic in his opinions. He has absolutely perfected channeling the frustrations of Detroit sports fans into content and if he could do that on a national level, he could become the cornerstone ESPN Radio is missing right now.
ESPN is always looking for new stars, and radio is the perfect place to develop that star. It’s a platform that relies on personality. Look at what ESPN did with Cowherd and Dan Le Batard. Look what FOX did with Nick Wright.
Look, this is also a chance to re-establish ESPN Radio’s identity separate from ESPN. Right now, every show that airs from 6 am until 9 pm features someone that also has a TV presence with the company. Maybe that is good for name recognition, but is it always good for content? Radio and television are two totally different skill sets.
Finally, it is worth thinking about Andrew Marchand’s report in the New York Post from last month. According to Marchand, there is a major shakeup coming that might include new shows in every prime day part.
If that is true, ESPN Radio is going to need some really strong shows to soften the blow for affiliates. If the network were to hire one of the five above talents right now and put him in the 3-6 pm window, it would give the show time to develop and find direction so that it is ready to be put in a day part with higher clearance when the full overhaul comes to fruition.
It takes time to build a star, which is probably why we are hearing so many names already established on TV as candidates to fill radio roles. Once you get past name recognition, I struggle to see the benefit of that strategy. ESPN took a chance once before on a host that walked through the door with a ton of talent and no fame and it turned out to be a home run. There’s no reason the network couldn’t do it again.
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.