This is not about you, me or the millions who watch sports in America. At its core, the resumption of games is about powerful and wealthy men, accustomed to winning in life, knowing their legacies depend on how they manage the coronavirus. Nothing much is at stake, only the future survival of leagues and the scrutiny of history: which commissioners and owners pivoted successfully in a health crisis, and which lost the swab war.
In this athletic Game of Thrones, Adam Silver is best positioned to win the pandemic. And it should be said, here and now, that he’d better win, as a shutdown of the NBA’s celebrated bio-Bubble would throw the league into financial chaos and bring more attention to its troubles in China. An ESPN investigation — shocker, I know, the broadcast partner reporting dirt on its business bedfellow — revealed human rights concerns at the NBA’s China-based youth academies, raising questions about a league that rushed too quickly to tap the vast sports economy of a Communist country.
All of which adds even more urgency to the most audacious undertaking in league history, a controlled basketball environment at Walt Disney World. No sports organization has embraced the technical explosion and social complexity of the 21st century like the NBA, and if any commissioner has a chance of conquering a fraught mission — completing a season while keeping 1,500 human beings safe from COVID-19 — it is Silver.
“The world `anxious’ would describe how I feel,’’ he said.
Frightened would work, too.
As sure as Charles Barkley is round, the NBA restarts its season with only minimal talk about the virus. That’s because Silver, in collaboration with Disney Company chief executive Bob Iger, hatched a grand design that made medical sense from its infancy: Protect 22 teams and more than 350 players from the world’s infectious ravages by placing them in isolation, in a community of hotels and glammed-up gyms, and having them test for the virus daily with rapid results from a private laboratory. In basketball, an 0-for-344 percentage sounds like another bad week for the Knicks, but inside the Silverdome, it’s the most recent sign that the experiment is working so far: zero positives among players for the second consecutive testing period.
Juxtaposed against the life-threatening chaos of Major League Baseball, which already is losing a Whack-a-mole game of outbreaks and frantic re-scheduling, the NBA again presents itself as a forward-thinking trailblazer. While MLB irresponsibly paints the Miami Marlins as a rogue, protocol-breaking team and refuses to stop its season amid virus hell, Silver was typically practical when asked on ABC’s “Good Morning America’’ how he’d respond if 17 members of an NBA franchise were infected like the Marlins.
“If we had any significant spread at all, we’d immediately stop — and what we’d try to do is track and determine where they’re coming from,’’ Silver said. “I would say, ultimately, we would cease completely if we saw this was spreading around the campus and something more than an isolated case was happening.’’
As so-called MLB commissioner Rob Manfred is now painfully aware, a season is not sustainable in 2020 without an NBA-like Bubble. The almighty NFL and college football soon will reach that conclusion, with likely dire consequences, while the NHL, WNBA and Major League Soccer remain optimistic — all after adopting the NBA’s isolationist lead. If Manfred is the predictable early misfit in the swab war, Silver looks like the visionary.
“From my standpoint, it’s going very well, and I’m cautiously optimistic that we’re on the right track,” Silver told the New York Times this week. “But I also recognize what we’re doing has not been done before, and the competition is just beginning. The real test will come when players are commingling, playing basketball without masks and without physical distancing.”
Never lose sight of that: So much still could go wrong, even when so much has gone right — especially when COVID-19 remains out of control beyond the Bubble in Florida. We should avoid calling it a Bubble, Silver warns, because it isn’t “hermetically sealed.’’ It’s his way of saying the controlled environment is neither fool-proof nor Lou-proof, as shown by the protocol violations of three players, including Lou Williams of the title-contending Clippers, who was excused by the league for a family funeral but also strayed to an Atlanta strip club for dinner. I don’t care if Magic City is known for its chicken wings; did Williams ever think about the Magic Kingdom, the potential virus exposure throughout a league? He has been confined to quarantine — the new NBA term for jail — for 10 days, missing two games that could cost his team in the playoff seeding race. But in the bigger scope, Williams’ pit stop is what keeps Silver up at night. It’s the blueprint for disaster: players tiring of being confined to life with each other, in a season that won’t end until October, and sneaking off to who-knows-where at the risk of contracting the virus and sabotaging the plan.
No doubt the attention to detail in this vast undertaking is staggering. But one fluky quest for chicken wings is exactly the foolishness that could burst the Bubble. “The league does such a good job of being hypercautious when they bring them back to the bubble, that I don’t really feel like that’s where our jeopardy is. I don’t think we have any kind of real opportunity to sort of pop the bubble,” said David Griffin, basketball operations boss of the Pelicans, on a Zoom call with reporters. “I think the real issue is going to be, as this goes along further and further: Is there more and more pull to sort of break rank and just walk off campus? That’s when you’re really going to see how well this is insulated.”
A collapse of the Silverdome would be devastating to a league that has its own existential issues. The NBA is investing more than $180 million in Orlando with hopes of finishing a postseason and recouping lost broadcast revenues. If not? With no vaccine or cure in immediate sight, chances are slim of inviting fans into arenas during a 2020-21 season scheduled to tip off — ready? — on Dec. 1. With ticket sales and corporate sponsorships amounting to 40 percent of total revenues, the league is facing a financial crisis. Even the most well-heeled team owners, such as Golden State’s Joe Lacob, are raising capital with a murky future in mind. Houston’s Tilman Fertitta (restaurants), Miami’s Micky Arison (cruise lines) and Indiana’s Herb Simon (malls) have taken massive hits in accompanying businesses. Put it this way: The Timberwolves won’t be the only franchise up for sale if fans can’t return next season. Meaning, as National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts said, the NBA might be back in the Bubble mere weeks after a champion is crowned.
Unless, of course, the players don’t want to return, which is possible.
Then, you have no NBA.
But for now, Silver can consider it a small victory that the virus is not front and center on Opening Night. We’ll be watching to see how many, if not all players, decide to kneel during the national anthem, a gesture Silver will support despite a longstanding NBA rule requiring players to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner.’’ Said the commissioner: “I respect peaceful protest. … I understand these are unusual times.’’ And unlike MLB, where an immature meathead such as Joe Kelly prioritized purpose-pitch revenge on the trash-can-beating Astros during a pandemic, the NBA is talking … story lines!
Will LeBron James win his fourth championship, the most daunting ever attempted by a superstar, while advancing his social justice platform like never before? Is it Giannis Antetokounmpo’s turn to rule the sport and sign long-term in Milwaukee? Are the smallball Rockets a sleeper pick with a rested James Harden and Russell Westbrook? Are the Clippers deep enough to deal with a revolving door of players coming in and out of the Bubble?
Yes, the NBA has its own loons, such as Denver’s Michael Porter Jr., who thinks COVID-19 is a conspiracy to control the global population. “I think the coronavirus is being used obviously for a bigger agenda,” he said. “I mean, because of the virus, the whole world is being controlled. You’re required to wear masks. And who knows what will happen when this vaccine comes out? You might have to have the vaccine in order to travel. Like, that would be crazy.”
Like, shut up, dude. And wear a damned mask.
Adam Silver can’t do anything about free speech, even the weird stuff, when he heartily endorses such liberties. What he can do is try to steer his basketball league through a raging, unprecedented storm without risking lives. None of this should be happening, of course, and sports should not have resumed in America until next year. But if you’re going to try, at least be smart about it.
Rob Manfred is letting the coronavirus control him. Adam Silver, a wiser man, will try to control the coronavirus.
Until he can’t.
Jay Mariotti, called “the most impacting Chicago sportswriter of the past quarter-century,’’ writes a weekly media column for Barrett Sports Media and regular sports columns for Substack while appearing on some of the 1,678,498 podcasts in production today. He’s an accomplished columnist, TV panelist and radio talk host. Living in Los Angeles, he gravitated by osmosis to film projects. Compensation for this column is donated to the Chicago Sun-Times Charity Trust.
Ian Eagle Showed Every Broadcaster the Value of Knowing Pop Culture
“Clearly it pays to be a Swiftie.”
The internet was abuzz last Sunday when CBS NFL play-by-play guy Ian Eagle dropped a tremendous pop culture reference on air. During the Kansas City/Jacksonville game, Travis Kelce of the Chiefs caught a touchdown pass like he normally does. You’ve probably heard by now that Kelce and Taylor Swift have been linked romantically and Eagle took full advantage after calling the touchdown.
“Kelce finds a blank space for the score,” Eagle said referencing the song “Blank Space” from Swift’s 2014 album 1989.
A timely reference in the sense that the possible relationship is fresh in people’s minds and Swift has been top of mind recently with her ERAS Tour. It was a mention of something that many, many people would understand. Oh, and Kelce catches a lot of touchdown passes too.
“Clearly it pays to be a Swiftie.” Eagle told me via email. “My phone blew up after the Kelce touchdown grab, and the last thing I wanted to be was the ‘Anti-Hero.’” clearly Eagle can’t help himself.
I asked Eagle if that was something he specifically prepared for that moment?
“After all of the Swift/Kelce gossip last week, I knew going into the Chiefs/Jaguars game antennas were up.” Eagle said. “I don’t plan on anything specific but I do come prepared if situations arise, and when Patrick Mahomes hit his TE in the endzone it felt like an opportunity to tag the call.”
For those that watch Eagle on a regular basis, be it on a basketball or football telecast, this isn’t something new.
“I’ve always tried to sprinkle in some pop culture references when appropriate and have learned to trust my instincts. Of course, you run the risk of alienating a segment of your audience if you go the esoteric route, but this felt like the right line and the right time.” said Eagle.
Every play-by-play announcer tries them, to varying degrees of success. If it’s a good reference, the internet will explode. Conversely if it is not, you guessed it, the internet will also explode. The professionals know when the time is right and clearly Eagle was spot on.
“When I heard from my sister (who is not a big sports fan) I realized it had crossed over into the mainstream, a reminder that you never really know what’s going to resonate with viewers,” he said. “At this particular moment you can’t go wrong with Taylor Swift.”
That is very true. So, when should you try it and when shouldn’t you “go for it?” It’s not a cut and dry case. I like it when I hear a really good reference,. There is always room in a broadcast for a little levity, but don’t let the comedy overrun your broadcast. Pick and choose the moments carefully.
It’s also different when you’re broadcasting a game than it is during say, a television or radio sportscast. There is no script when it comes to play-by-play.
I’ve tried it in both roles. In 2015, I was doing television games for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Before the game the crew and I were talking about the movie, The Big Lebowski, a cult classic.
They dared me to work in as many lines of the movie as I could in the broadcast. I thought, “yeah, this is going to be easy.” It really wasn’t, I worked in 8 lines and to tell you the truth, I’m not sure how many landed.
It’s hard to really know. The crew laughing in your headset is not a true indication, because they were in on it. Viewer feedback was non-existent. Would I try that again? Probably not.
Every year for the last 4, on Oscar Sunday, I do an “Oscars themed” sportscast at 11am. I work in the titles of all the movies up for Best Picture into the framework of my sports. For example:
- “The Madness of March continues today with more automatic bids going out with EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE on the line to get to the NCAA Tournament.”
- “Cubs faced the Dodgers and beat them 5-2…the win helped Chicago sports fans avoid a TRIANGLE OF SADNESS after the Hawks and White Sox lost their games.”
I do this ONCE a year and the feedback from listeners has been great. It’s a nice challenge and change of pace for me. It entertains the audience as well. It’s current references tied to an event that is watched by many, many people.
Eagle, in his CBS broadcast, didn’t force the reference in there. He picked a spot, knew the relevance and went for it. That’s another key. Make sure the reference fits the moment. Don’t just go using pop culture just to use it. We’ve talked a lot about that in previous columns, regarding other things as well. Make sure the reference isn’t coming at a critical time in the game.
Some broadcasters make pop culture part of their play-by-play calls. Randy Moller did it with the Florida Panthers several years ago. He spent 8 seasons with the Panthers and would yell out references to movies and television shows on some goal calls.
- “Mommmmm! The meatloaf! Panthers with a power play goal they get a 1-0 lead!”
- “Another shot by Moore! He shoots he scores! Time to make the donuts!”
Moller is now the team’s television analyst, but he would delight fans with those radio calls. But Moller was also careful. He wouldn’t fire off a Wedding Crashers line on every goal. No, the pop culture references were uttered after a goal when the Panthers were out of a game. Makes sense.
Don’t overload a broadcast with the things not everyone in your audience will understand or appreciate. Don’t overload the broadcast if it overshadows the game you’re broadcasting.
I mentioned earlier about it being a little easier to work in movie lines, television show lines and song lyrics into a scripted sportscast on radio or television. Some local tv anchors have had ‘theme’ nights over the years. Where they try to work in references to a movie or a show, in the flow of that day’s sports news. In scouring the internet, there was one example that I had forgotten about but is worth remembering.
In 2016, then Louisville sports anchor Adam Lefkoe (now of TNT) worked in 41 “Seinfeld” classic lines in a 5-minute sportscast. He used Twitter to crowd source the lines and he wove them in as easily as George double-dipped his chip. It worked. It was funny and made sense even within the framework of the cast. It was a bunch of ‘mainstream’ mentions. “Seinfeld” was one of the most popular sitcoms of all-time. Pretty much everybody, young, old and in between saw the show in first run or reruns. All of the references landed because it was familiar and known, not stuff buried in a ‘cult classic’ that only a handful of people would understand.
Comic references can be a great thing, but as I’ve pointed out, in the wrong hands, can flop in a big way. You have to know your audience. You have to make sure the reference is clear and known by a large amount of people, otherwise it’s useless. Don’t drop lines to amuse yourself or your crew, the game is not there for only your entertainment. Make sure the viewers will find it funny too. There is room in a sports broadcast for comedy. Just don’t go overboard. Have a feel for the game and the situation. Understand your audience as well. If comedy is your thing, remember just like in stand-up, timing is everything.
Andy Masur is a columnist for BSM and works for WGN Radio as an anchor and play-by-play announcer. He also teaches broadcasting at the Illinois Media School. During his career he has called games for the Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres and Chicago White Sox. He can be found on Twitter @Andy_Masur1 or you can reach him by email at [email protected].
Meet the Podcasters – Mike Golic, DraftKings
“I’m sixty years old, I’ve seen the change, but in all honesty, to me, you turn the microphone on and I’m just doing a show.”
You won’t find Mike Golic on the radio anymore. That may be a little hard to believe for some of us. He was one of the constants of ESPN Radio through so many different eras and iterations of the lineup.
The new platform means Golic had to learn some new tricks. It also means that some of what he was doing all along worked well enough that someone wanted to pay him to keep doing it as the sports media industry changed.
The key to his success has been recognizing which mindset is the right one for each situation.
Demetri Ravanos: In the podcast world, we talk a lot about the power of niches, right? It’s a crowded space. Everybody has a podcast, so you’ve got to find your way in. But you and your son are doing a big, broad show. So what efforts are you guys making to make sure you stand out in that crowded field?
Mike Golic: I don’t know if we particularly sit there and say ‘we need to do something to stand out.’ Let’s be honest. When I was on the radio years ago, there wasn’t a lot going on in talk radio, and then as we went on, a lot more, different talk radio came out. Now, as you just mentioned, we’ve got podcasts and streaming and every which way you can you can get shows out there. The way I’ve always done it is I’m always just doing it like a show. The microphone hasn’t changed in front of me. The show Mike and I did when we were at ESPN, it’s and the way Mike does the show when he was doing it on his own and the way I do a show that hasn’t changed. We’re not reinventing the wheel.
I know when new shows come out, they say ‘we’re going to do this’ or ‘we’re going to do that.’ We’re just doing the show. We’re just doing the show that we’ve done and it’s getting distributed in different ways now. To me, that’s the only difference. It’s not changing the way I do a show.
I was used to 23 years of 6-10 doing morning radio in Phoenix before I got to ESPN. Mic goes on at six and mic goes off at ten. Now, Mike and I are back. Our show is a podcast, but it’s also live from 8 to 10 Eastern every morning on Samsung TV Plus and DraftKings’ YouTube, DraftKings Network, and it’s going to now start to be broader, I think, starting next week with more outlets. So we’re back to doing it’s kind of a live show, but obviously, it still gets turned into a podcast.
DR: You know, you, you do bring up something though, that I wonder about because you were in radio for a long, long time, local before national. A lot of us that came from a more traditional media world, it took a while to see that podcasting or digital media was this viable space. Maybe it is less glamorous, but the ability to find an audience is just as strong. Do you remember the moment that you started to realize that like, “Hey, this digital thing isn’t the future. It is right now”?
MG: Oh, yeah. Not only from the digital side but doing Mike and Mike all of a sudden getting into Twitter and getting instant feedback. You start talking about a topic on air and you get instant feedback on Twitter.
For me, I keep goofing around and saying it. You know, I’m sixty years old, I’ve seen the change, but in all honesty, to me, you turn the microphone on and I’m just doing a show. I’m not when I go on to do Gojo & Golic, when I go on God Bless Football with Stu and Billy and Mikey, and when I go on with Golic and Smetty for DraftKings, I’m just doing what I did since I started doing shows. It’s just different time segments for me. Mike (Jr.) Is probably better to talk to about this than me. I and I’m probably not giving you great stuff of what you want, but I don’t really view it differently. I still a mike goes on. I’m doing a show and then the show ends.
Probably one of the biggest differences for me is, I did a four-hour show. I think the average listener was like 22 minutes in the car or they were at home getting ready, watching on TV. Then they jumped in the car to listen on radio was 22 minutes. So we would have to repeat the headlines. Here, on streaming or podcasts, you don’t really do that. You don’t really repeat the lines and keep re-introducing the guests. So there are some technical differences in doing podcasts and the live streaming now as opposed to the radio show, but those are stuff you just kind of pick up quick.
DR: Do you think not having to re-set the headlines is the strength of digital content for the audience? Particularly with the NFL, there is such an appetite for content out there that there has to be things that the digital space can do that traditional media cannot. I wonder if it is that ability to say over the course of 2 hours, we aren’t going to repeat ourselves. We’re going to have a two-hour discussion of this one topic.
MG: That’s probably the biggest thing out there. When you go from a headline where we talk about Aaron Rodgers getting hurt – we talked about it once off the top and we may have sprinkled it in there in a different way on some other parts of the show, but it’s not completely resetting the whole Aaron Rodgers story at the top of an hour and then the top of the next hour, starting again with the whole Aaron Rodgers story. We don’t do that. That is definitely a big difference of how people take this in. I always I still sit there and wonder, “Should we be hit the Aaron Rodgers injury again?” or whatever the big story is.
Our show is two one-hour podcasts. You know it’s not a two-hour podcast. So it’s all split up differently. Minds a lot smarter and more current than mine know the best ways of how to divvy up the conversation. That’s why I do lean heavily on Mike (Jr.) as far as kind of the make up and way we run his show. That’s something that has definitely changed over time.
Content is still content. We’re going to talk about we’re going to give our opinions, we’re going to take people inside. We’re going to talk about things going on. Now it’s just how it gets dispersed has changed from my years in radio.
DR: Well, let’s talk about that content, because you are working under the DraftKings heading and the goal of any show is to be a compelling personality that people want to come back to over and over again, right? But being attached to a sportsbook, how much of Gojo & Golic feels like just the two of you talking versus having to come in with an education on things that may move the line in a game one way or the other? Not hardcore betting talk, but at least you can’t get that stuff wrong.
MG: Basically, how we’ve approached this because yeah, that was a thought process when I signed. I told them, “Listen, I don’t know the in-depth parts of gambling” and they said, “We don’t care. We want to become a sports media outlet as well.” They have vision and others who could talk.
I know how to talk lines. I can give my opinion on whether I think one team’s going to beat another team by five and a half points or score over 50. I mean, that’s that’s been around forever. But anything more in-depth than that we’re not expected to do that.
I think that’s the biggest thing in getting that out with DraftKings is, yes, it’s a sportsbook like FanDuel, but DraftKings is also trying to get in the sports media market as well and eventually have a 24-hour network that will have shows like Mike and I and more traditional gambling shows as well that will come from VSiN, where they’re stationed in Vegas or from DraftKings in Boston. In all honesty, that’s just about repetition and just letting people know that our show is out there every day and that every day, this is a sports show just like we did together at ESPN. That’s what it is.
Way back in the day we just picked games, Greeny and I would simply answer who was going to win or lose. We didn’t really do the line. It was almost like gambling, it was coded amongst the old-time play-by-play guys. “There’s a reason to keep watching this game late in the fourth quarter” and everybody knew what they were talking about. Now it’s all out in the open.
It’s kind of like NIL. You took the bag of money under the table and you put it on top of the table. The NFL finally learned how much money you can make in gambling. It’s exploded becoming legal in state after state after state now. So that’s one of the things Mike and I we’re real happy with DraftKings is they want it to obviously be a big part of the market in that. But also they don’t want to just be that. They want to be where sports fans are. Sports fans do gamble, but sports fans like sports talk and they like sports stories, so why not try and give them both? So that gave DraftKings the idea to say. “Just do a sports show! If every now and then you have a gambling segment, we’ll get you a guest to talk about that, to dive in deep to it!.” Just like, back in the day, you’d have to get a guest to dive into fantasy football to break it down. We definitely are not a gambling show. It’s just going to be a matter of getting that out of the minds of people that just will just naturally think, “Oh, if it’s DraftKings, it’s got to be a gambling show.”
DR: You were part of one of the shows, maybe the show that pioneered putting radio on television. Now we’re in a world where, in the digital media space, having video is almost a necessity for a podcast to really reach its maximum audience. Are you, even this many years later, still surprised that people want to watch audio on TV or the Internet?
MG: Oh, without a doubt. We learned that when we started over on ESPN News and ESPN2. Greeny and I, a couple of years into the show, it was different. Now it’s not different anymore. It’s the norm. You have to do it. Nobody just wants audio. They want something to look at and then it becomes “what can you put with it? What graphics, what video, what pictures can you put with it to make it entertaining?”
The biggest thing we wanted to do, and I still think it kind of needed to be that way, when we were going from radio to TV, I personally had NFL Tonight, I was like, “Oh my God, You know, every studio, TV show at ESPN, you had to put on a tie.” When they said, your radio show is going on TV. I’m like, “Oh God, do I got to put on a coat and tie?” And they were like, “No, this is a radio show on TV. So treat it like that.”
I was happy about that. It’s a little more loosey-goosey. It’s not the traditional studio show where a host comes to you and you have 45 seconds to make your one-shot point to the camera. This is free flowing conversation that just had video around it.
That’s the way I’ll always look at it, that we are still telling stories, giving opinions. It’s still a talk show, but with video around it, but don’t turn it into a segmented type of a TV show where you talk then I talk. The best show is a conversation, even studio shows. Make it a conversation. Bring people into your conversation. That’s never going to change.
DR: You guys had a great moment of that I thought. It might have been earlier this week where you and Junior were arguing about whether or not you had the right to claim a shirt he left at your house as your own. I thought that was a very relatable moment.
MG: And that’s never going to change, you know? Like I said, I still treat it like radio. I have always, always said, especially in the morning, you’re getting people that are that are on their way to work however they’re digesting. It could be at work, could be at home getting ready to go to work. My thought has always been take them somewhere they can’t go. The mind of an athlete on the field, of an athlete in the locker room, of an athlete in any sport, and make them laugh a little bit, make them smile a little bit, or talk about something that’s relatable to them. You know, taking shirts or taking clothes or food or things like that. That has not changed since day one.
All my gigs have basically been in the morning since I started doing this. People are starting their day. Let them smile or laugh about something, Don’t be blue. I never cross that R-rated line because I know people are driving their kids to work. That’s still one of the greatest responses I got over the years. A guy would say, “Me and my dad or me and my mom were with you on the way to school. We didn’t have to turn the station.” That doesn’t change. The idea of what you’re going to do doesn’t change. Entertain people, give them information, make them smile a little bit. It’s just the way they’re delivered may change a bit.
DR: So I want to wrap up with you on a question about your podcasting history in general, because the Golic family has been really quick to embrace the format, even back at ESPN when you guys were doing your family show. I wonder how you look back at that because from the outside, it was a very interesting thing. Here were two guys, you and Junior, that I know from this network that I watch all the time talking about sports, but you found this weird way to cross podcasting with reality TV in a way that I don’t know that I’ve seen anyone else do on a grand scale even since.
MG: That and the Sorry In Advance podcast, our family podcast, was all my wife’s idea. We’re a very close family anyway, but it was kind of a fun thing to do every couple of weeks to actually all be together just to talk about life. You get the stories of my daughter-in-law, Jenny, thinking rotating tires, is just putting the car on a jack and spinning the tires or, other stories that just kind of kind of make you laugh but are relatable. It’s not talking down to anybody. We had fun doing that. It just got hard. My daughter is married. She’s pregnant. Her husband, who used to play in the NFL, was in med school. Jake and Jenny are running two businesses and they now have a baby. It’s just it’s tough to get everybody together again. We ran into issues doing that.
I would love to have some help from somebody on how to go about the business part of it, because this was truly from scratch, and doing it on our own. We started to get very little help toward the end of it. It would really be a lot of fun if we had backing in this and a little more professionalism around us because God knows we’re not professional in helping and guiding us to this and because we’d like to keep doing it.
To learn more about Point-To-Point Marketing’s Podcast and Broadcast Audience Development Marketing strategies, contact Tim Bronsil at [email protected] or 513-702-5072.
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at [email protected].
Is ESPN New York Giving Up or Getting Stronger?
I go back to the same question: Is giving up your FM signal a waving-the-white-flag moment, or is it putting your resources elsewhere?
A massive sports radio story dropped on Tuesday. 98.7 ESPN New York is dropping the 98.7 next year.
It seems like curious timing, no? At a time when AM radio is fighting for its life, it’s rare for a station to drop its FM signal instead of its AM.
On the surface, to be frank, it appears to be a cheapskate move. Good Karma Brands making a decision to pocket a reported $12.5 million every year to not have an FM signal sounds like half-assing a radio station in the nation’s largest market.
But then, when you look at the decision through a different prism, I keep going back to the same question: Is giving up your FM signal a waving-the-white-flag moment, or is it putting your resources elsewhere?
If the 98.7 ESPN New York actually does put those resources elsewhere, then yes, it makes sense. If the move becomes something other than just a way to pocket a couple million bucks each year, then I’m all for it. Investing in more local talent, bigger on-air promotions, stronger play-by-play rights, or better video channels/equipment all make sense with newfound millions in the budget. But I’m skeptical that it isn’t simply a cost-saving measure.
However, the reasoning put forth does make sense. The station claims more than half of its audience doesn’t listen on the 98.7 FM signal. That, in and of itself, should be reason enough to at least examine what you’re doing as a company.
I’ve long been a proponent that sports radio has long needed a digital revolution. I also strongly believe in recognizing that in today’s media landscape, you need to put your content on as many distribution channels as possible. AM/FM Radio, websites, mobile apps, social media, Twitch/Rumble/YouTube/linear or cable television, are all must-have outlets in 2023. I just never imagined that FM radio would be the first one to go.
Obviously, Good Karma Brands believes it can make this work. The company operates stations in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Cleveland strictly on the AM band and digital platforms. And in an ever-increasing on-demand world, maybe making your content primarily available through digital channels is a smart bet.
I just can’t help but wonder if it isn’t a decision five years too early. There are still millions of listeners in the New York market that utilize FM radio. That number isn’t likely to experience a steep decline in the coming years. But AM radio will, in my opinion.
The station is likely to lose or see significant alterations to its play-by-play rights with the New York Knicks and New York Rangers. Who knows what will happen to the rights of the New York Jets? One could imagine that if those franchises wanted to be on AM radio, they would go with one of the many other, more widely listened to, options in the market like 880 WCBS, 1010 WINS, 77 WABC, or 710 WOR.
Make no mistake about it, the move is a gamble. And it feels like a gamble with no middle ground. Either this move works wonders and Good Karma Brands ends up looking like radio visionaries, or they’re making a decision that will ultimately lead to killing a strong brand. There’s no in-between. Let’s see how it plays out. I’ll be watching. Closely.
Garrett Searight is the Editor of Barrett Sports Media and Barrett News Media. He previously was the Program Director and Afternoon Co-Host on 93.1 The Fan in Lima, OH. He is also a play-by-play announcer for TV and Radio broadcasts in Western Ohio. Reach him at [email protected].