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This May Be Jason Martin’s Shot To Do Something Special

“In terms of giving up on the movies, television and all of that pro wrestling, which I worked in for 10 years, not going to happen. The reason I got the job It’s because I offered something unique.”

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Nashville hates you right now.

That was the sentiment Jason Martin heard from some listeners on what was supposed to be the most exciting week of his radio career. For eight, long years he worked tirelessly for the opportunity to host a daily show. Finally, Martin was given one of the most sought after shows in all of Nashville – mornings at 104.5 The Zone.

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Sports radio listeners seldom like change, especially if a show has been around for a long period of time. That was certainly the case in Nashville, after The Zone let Kevin Ingram and Mark Howard go after 16 years in morning drive. The duo had been a staple of the city’s morning commute for several years and the move was met, as it always is, with some resistance from the locals. Instead of being instantly accepted, Martin became the embodiment of change that nobody ever wants. 

“We’re replacing a show that was on the air for 16 years,” said Martin. “Very few shows get that kind of run and they were very beloved guys. They just became a part of people’s routine and both of them were great to me. It was bittersweet for me when I found out exactly what was happening. I knew they were going to be doing more with me but I didn’t know specifically what that was going to look like until the last second. It was kind of tough to deal with, because, those guys had become a routine for people… nobody likes change at the time and I was the embodiment of that change.”

Martin found the transition to be incredibly difficult in the infancy of the new show. He saw what people were saying, including a couple of fan articles that he didn’t read, but he was told expressed disappointment or anger. There was never a second to celebrate the moment he had worked so hard for. Instead, the position he had waited so long for, was sucking the life out of him. 

“Criticism always lasts in our minds. Affirmation doesn’t. Even if it’s a small amount of the former and a ton of the latter. It’s how humans are built unfortunately,” said Martin. “Sure, there’s always someone who’s not going to like your opinion, but not like this. It was just kind of like Nashville hates you. I’ve never thought that stuff bothered me until the last four weeks. It’s been a tough transition, especially, considering the first few weeks were just me doing solo radio for three hours. I’ve done solo radio for Fox and others, have my own show now for them… but it’s not where I think I’m best. I’ve always wanted a partner in crime. I was in a role where people already didn’t want to like me, and even if I was good, which I’m not saying I was, it really wasn’t going to matter.”

The old saying  is ‘tough times don’t last, but tough people do.’ Granted, hosting a morning radio show isn’t exactly suffering, but the negative attention was really starting to get to Martin, even to the point where he thought the industry might not be for him anymore. He was second guessing himself. But everything turned around once he started searching for his new co-host. 

Martin knew he wouldn’t have the final say on who his partner was going to be, but he confided in people he trusted in the market, hoping to at least point management in the direction of people he thought he’d work really well with. That’s when someone he trusted told him the name Ramon Foster. 

“Ramon’s name is the first one that came out from, probably, the guy I trust the most,” Martin said. “So I looked online and watched the 20 questions video (A Pittsburgh Steelers production) on him with my wife and as soon as it was over, she just looked at me and was like, you got to get him. It was so patently obvious so I went to our new program director the day after and said, hey, have you heard this guy? He had, because another person (the same one that had put him on Jason’s radar as a matter of fact) had mentioned it to him a few months before, but once I mentioned it, it really kind of made him say, ‘we really need to make this happen.’ He talked to him like a day later and revealed that he fell in love with him 30 seconds after they first started talking. That’s apparently the effect this guy has.”    

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Normally, it takes two hosts weeks or even months to find their groove with one another, But with Martin and Foster, it was found almost instantaneously. So much so, that Martin and his producer, Jonathan Shaffer, looked at each other after one of the first shows with Foster and said, wow, that’s one of the easiest shows we’ve ever done. 

“There’s just something about our flow,” Martin said. “Something about us in that room, where, today we sounded like we’ve been doing the show for months, not like we just started. I know when he’s going to stop talking, I know what his gesturing is and it’s just all about letting him be him and creating space to allow him to become a star. Him coming now, I mean, good Lord. Just in the last two days, yesterday, he was able to talk about his memories of playing against Von Miller and what Mike Tomlin said about him in the locker room. Then, Ryan Shazier retires. He played with him, so to open the third hour, I was like, hey, I don’t want to go into an emotional spot you don’t want to get into, but what do you wanna say about your teammate? He just let it all out over the microphone and I just sat back for about five minutes because I knew nobody was turning that off.”

To say Martin has a totally different feeling about the new show since Foster joined, is probably the understatement of the century. In fact, the talk now is more about the realization the show can turn into something truly special. 

“I just look at this and say, we have an opportunity,” Martin said. “Maybe the only opportunity that we may ever have, my producer said it this way, he goes, ‘this might be the only shot you and I ever have to do something special.’ During his 20+ years he said we have a chance to do something special. Ramon is a superstar in every way when it comes to preparation, caring about this job, being active and committed. He’s just awesome. I don’t know if I’ve ever met anyone more instantly likable. Guys and gals sometimes never find that magic partner. I think I hit a home run on our first swing. He’s a blessing.

“The Covid era means you’re getting 35-40% of the audience that you’re used to. People are just now starting to get back in their cars and the numbers might be starting to rise. We’re starting a show where the engagement level was down. That’s just how it’s been in a lot of local radio markets. We were able to get reps in without a full house. By the time people are really engaged and starting to come back, which, I’m starting to imagine is very near, we should be more polished. In our first two days together I felt more chemistry that I even thought possible, and we don’t even know each other yet.”

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Tyler McComas – You worked for Clay Travis at Outkick the Coverage for a while. What’s one thing you learned from him and implemented in your career?

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Jason Martin: One thing Clay does really well is there’s a lot of shows, especially on a national level, that feel they need 20 topics throughout the show. They’re going to run them down like it’s television and not going to let anything breathe. The beauty of radio is that you can let something breathe until it dies its own natural death. You can sense when it’s time to move on, but if people are reacting, whether it’s on social media, phone call or you just know that story matters, then you don’t get off of it.

What Clay will do is he would call me in the morning before each show and say, what’s important today? He would go over those two or three things and that would be our show. We would throw out a couple little things here and there, but instead of going 20 topics, we went three topics. One thing Clay does great, and always has, is he has a sense for what people want to hear. He knows what his audience wants and he feeds it to them and he’s articulate and unique in the way he presents it. He has a fearless nature to it, as well. That’s happened to me, in some regards, to just, I can’t try to please everybody, because if I start to do that, I’ll lose the people that do like me.

TM: You’ve done a lot of pop culture content in the past. Do you think you’ll do more of that on the radio show?

JM: In terms of giving up on the movies, television and all of that pro wrestling, which I worked in for 10 years, not going to happen. The reason I got the job It’s because I offered something unique. It’s like putting out a podcast, I’ve had people close to me say, how can I make my podcast work? I tell them that you just have to keep doing it. You have to outlast the other guys, because even if yours is the greatest television podcast anyone’s ever heard, there’s 7,000 other ones. How are they going to know who you are and how are they going to find you? It ends up being attrition. If I get away from pop-culture entirely, if I go away from something that gave me a different sounding voice, then why do they hire me? It’s like they drafted a running quarterback and told him not to run. But there has to be some balance.

TM: Was there a lightbulb that went off when you realized what the identity of the show was going to be?

JM: Jason Romano came on the show a couple of weeks ago with me, he’s got a new book, and one of the chapters talked about Pete Carroll coming in for the Bristol car wash. That day George Steinbrenner died. Everyone is having to change everything on the fly, there’s breaking news, and Romano is having to apologize to Carroll over and over again for getting bumped. Carroll just said, ‘Hey, hey, don’t worry about it. Don’t worry about it at all. I understand This is more important and if I don’t end up on the air today, it’s fine.’

The lesson Romano took away from that is the way to be a leader, and the way to be successful, is to realize you don’t have to be a thermometer, you can be the thermostat. Meaning you can set the temperature in the room. When we heard him say that on there, my producer comes in my ear, and I have the exact same thought, he said I think we just found the vision for the show.

TM: I’ve heard you talk about your producer a lot on this call. He sounds like he really knows what he’s doing. 

JM: It’s interesting, because I didn’t know him particularly well, his name is Jonathan Shaffer. He’s been a program director, I think four times and been in radio for over two decades. Throughout my radio career I’ve mostly worked with people, who have become, or been at the time, a close friend of mine. Two groomsman in my wedding were guys I worked in radio with. One of the things that presented was too much agreement on the radio. We got along and everything. We rarely disagreed and never really had any arguments, things like that. 

One of the things Shaffer told me very early was my job always is going to be to make you as comfortable as possible doing your job. Whatever that means, having audio ready, booking guests, keeping me aware of time, just taking as much off of my plate so I can focus on hosting the show. From there and I think the challenges of last month, dealing with audience, that either bailed and is coming back or had something to say that was mean behind their five Twitter followers, whatever it was that was bothersome, I’d go to him and say, hey man, I really hate Twitter. He’d say, don’t let them bother you.

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During the process of all this, as imperfect as it was, we discovered we can rely on each other. I realized I can trust this guy to know that he’s going to know exactly what I need and what the show needs to have success. Now we’re in a situation where, here comes the third piece, but the other two of us are already working in the right kind of tandem. He can play a piece of audio without telling me about it and I’ll know why he played it. Or why he’s coming back with this bumper music, or why he makes a certain suggestion, or why he puts out a certain poll on Twitter, and he’s like that. He’s just a guy that understands what radio is supposed to sound like, as well as how it supposed to be put together. I certainly feel incredibly blessed that he’s the guy that ends up producing the show, because Ramon will tell you the same thing, you can just tell this dude knows what he’s doing and he’s 1000% committed to making the show successful

BSM Writers

The Future Is Now, Embrace Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+

As annoying as streaming sports is and as much as I haven’t fully adapted to the habit yet, Amazon and Apple have done a magnificent job of trying to make the process as easy and simplified as possible.

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This week has been a reckoning for sports and its streaming future on Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+, ESPN+, and more.

Amazon announced that Thursday Night Football, which averaged 13 million viewers, generated the highest number of U.S. sign ups over a three hour period in the app’s history. More people in the United States subscribed to Prime during the September 15th broadcast than they did during Black Friday, Prime Day, and Cyber Monday. It was also “the most watched night of primetime in Prime Video’s history,” according to Amazon executive Jay Marine. The NFL and sports in general have the power to move mountains even for some of the nation’s biggest and most successful brands.

This leads us to the conversation happening surrounding Aaron Judge’s chase for history. Judge has been in pursuit of former major leaguer Roger Maris’ record for the most home runs hit during one season in American League history.

The sports world has turned its attention to the Yankees causing national rights holders such as ESPN, Fox, and TBS to pick up extra games in hopes that they capture the moment history is made. Apple TV+ also happened to have a Yankees game scheduled for Friday night against the Red Sox right in the middle of this chase for glory.

Baseball fans have been wildin’ out at the prospects of missing the grand moment when Judge passes Maris or even the moments afterwards as Judge chases home run number 70 and tries to truly create monumental history of his own. The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand has even reported there were talks between YES, MLB, and Apple to bring Michael Kay into Apple’s broadcast to call the game, allow YES Network to air its own production of the game, or allow YES Network to simulcast Apple TV+’s broadcast. In my opinion, all of this hysteria is extremely bogus.

As annoying as streaming sports is and as much as I haven’t fully adapted to the habit yet, Amazon and Apple have done a magnificent job of trying to make the process as easy and simplified as possible. Amazon brought in NBC to help with production of TNF and if you watch the flow of the broadcast, the graphics of the broadcast, NBC personalities like Michael Smith, Al Michaels, and Terry McAuliffe make appearances on the telecast – it is very clear that the network’s imprint is all over the show.

NBC’s experience in conducting the broadcast has made the viewing experience much more seamless. Apple has also used MLB Network and its personalities for assistance in ensuring there’s no major difference between what you see on air vs. what you’re streaming.

Amazon and Apple have also decided to not hide their games behind a paywall. Since the beginning of the season, all of Apple’s games have been available free of charge. No subscription has ever been required. As long as you have an Apple device and can download Apple TV+, you can watch their MLB package this season.

Guess what? Friday’s game against the Red Sox is also available for free on your iPhone, your laptop, or your TV simply by downloading the AppleTV app. Amazon will also simulcast all Thursday Night Football games on Twitch for free. It may be a little harder or confusing to find the free options, but they are out there and they are legal and, once again, they are free.

Apple has invested $85 million into baseball, money that will go towards your team becoming better hypothetically. They’ve invested money towards creating a new kind of streaming experience. Why in the hell would they offer YES Network this game for free? There’s no better way for them to drive subscriptions to their product than by offering fans a chance at watching history on their platform.

A moment like this are the main reason Apple paid for rights in the first place. When Apple sees what the NFL has done for Amazon in just one week and coincidentally has the ability to broadcast one of the biggest moments in baseball history – it would be a terrible business decision to let viewers watch it outside of the Apple ecosystem and lose the ability to gain new fans.

It’s time for sports fans to grow up and face reality. Streaming is here to stay. 

MLB Network is another option

If you don’t feel like going through the hassle of watching the Yankees take on the Red Sox for free on Apple TV+, MLB Network will also air all of Judge’s at bats live as they are happening. In case the moment doesn’t happen on Apple TV+ on Friday night, Judge’s next games will air in full on MLB Network (Saturday), ESPN (Sunday), MLB Network again (Monday), TBS (Tuesday) and MLB Network for a third time on Wednesday. All of MLB Network’s games will be simulcast of YES Network’s local New York broadcast. It wouldn’t shock me to see Fox pick up another game next Thursday if the pursuit still maintains national interest.

Quick bites

  • One of the weirdest things about the experience of streaming sports is that you lose the desire to channel surf. Is that a good thing or bad thing? Brandon Ross of LightShed Ventures wonders if the difficulty that comes with going from app to app will help Amazon keep viewers on TNF the entire time no matter what the score of the game is. If it does, Amazon needs to work on developing programming to surround the games or start replaying the games, pre and post shows so that when you fall asleep and wake up you’re still on the same stream on Prime Video or so that coming to Prime Video for sports becomes just as much of a habit for fans as tuning in to ESPN is.
  • CNN has announced the launch of a new morning show with Don Lemon, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlin Collins. Variety reports, “Two people familiar with plans for the show say it is likely to use big Warner Bros. properties — a visit from the cast of HBO’s Succession or sports analysis from TNT’s NBA crew — to lure eyeballs.” It’ll be interesting to see if Turner Sports becomes a cornerstone of this broadcast. Will the NBA start doing schedule releases during the show? Will a big Taylor Rooks interview debut on this show before it appears on B/R? Will the Stanley Cup or Final Four MVP do an interview on CNN’s show the morning after winning the title? Does the show do remote broadcasts from Turner’s biggest sports events throughout the year?
  • The Clippers are back on over the air television. They announced a deal with Nexstar to broadcast games on KTLA and other Nexstar owned affiliates in California. The team hasn’t reached a deal to air games on Bally Sports SoCal or Bally Sports Plus for the upcoming season. Could the Clippers pursue a solo route and start their own OTT service in time for the season? Are they talking to Apple, Amazon, or ESPN about a local streaming deal? Is Spectrum a possible destination? I think these are all possibilities but its likely that the Clippers end up back on Bally Sports since its the status quo. I just find it interesting that it has taken so long to solidify an agreement and that it wasn’t announced in conjunction with the KTLA deal. The Clippers are finally healthy this season, moving into a new arena soon, have the technology via Second Spectrum to produce immersive game casts. Maybe something is brewing?
  • ESPN’s Monday Night Football double box was a great concept. The execution sucked. Kudos to ESPN for adjusting on the fly once complaints began to lodge across social media. I think the double box works as a separate feed. ESPN2 should’ve been the home to the double box. SVP and Stanford Steve could’ve held a watch party from ESPN’s DC studio with special guests. The double box watch party on ESPN2 could’ve been interrupted whenever SVP was giving an update on games for ESPN and ABC. It would give ESPN2 a bit of a behind the scenes look at how the magic happens similarly to what MLB Tonight did last week. Credit to ESPN and the NFL for experimenting and continuing to try and give fans unique experiences.

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BSM Writers

ESPN Shows Foresight With Monday Night Football Doubleheader Timing

ESPN is obviously testing something, and it’s worth poking around at why the network wouldn’t follow the schedule it has used for the last 16 years, scheduling kickoffs at 7 and then 10 on their primary channel.

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The Monday Night Football doubleheader was a little bit different this time around for ESPN.

First, it came in Week 2 instead of Week 1. And then, the games were staggered 75 minutes apart on two different channels, the Titans and Bills beginning on ESPN at 7:15 PM ET and the Vikings at the Eagles starting at 8:30 PM on ABC and ESPN+. This was a departure from the usual schedule in which the games kicked off at 7:00 PM ET and then 10:00 PM ET with the latter game on the West Coast.

ESPN is obviously testing something, and it’s worth poking around at why the network wouldn’t follow the schedule it has used for the last 16 years, scheduling kickoffs at 7:00 PM and then 10:00 PM ET on their primary channel. That’s the typical approach, right? The NFL is the most valuable offering in all of sports and ESPN would have at least six consecutive hours of live programming without any other game to switch to.

Instead, they staggered the starts so the second game kicked off just before the first game reached halftime. They placed the games on two different channels, which risked cannibalizing their audience. Why? Well, it’s the same reason that ESPN was so excited about the last year’s Manningcast that it’s bringing it back for 10 weeks this season. ESPN is not just recognizing the reality of how their customers behave, but they’re embracing it.

Instead of hoping with everything they have that the customer stays in one place for the duration of the game, they’re recognizing the reality that they will leave and providing another product within their portfolio to be a destination when they do.

It’s the kind of experiment everyone in broadcasting should be investigating because, for all the talk about meeting the customer where they are, we still tend to be a little bit stubborn about adapting to what they do. 

Customers have more choices than ever when it comes to media consumption. First, cable networks softened the distribution advantages of broadcast networks, and now digital offerings have eroded the distribution advantages of cable networks. It’s not quite a free-for-all, but the battle for viewership is more intense, more wide open than ever because that viewer has so many options of not just when and where but how they will consume media.

Programmers have a choice in how to react to this. On the one hand, they can hold on tighter to the existing model and try to squeeze as much out of it as they can. If ESPN was thinking this way it would stack those two Monday night games one after the other just like it always has and hope like hell for a couple of close games to juice the ratings. Why would you make it impossible for your customer to watch both of these products you’ve paid so much to televise?

I’ve heard radio programmers and hosts recite take this same approach for more than 10 years now when it comes to making shows available on-demand. Why would you give your customers the option of consuming the product in a way that’s not as remunerative or in a way that is not measured?

That thinking is outdated and it is dangerous from an economic perspective because it means you’re trying to make the customer behave in your best interest by restricting their choices. And maybe that will work. Maybe they like that program enough that they’ll consume it in the way you’d prefer or maybe they decide that’s inconvenient or annoying or they decide to try something else and now this customer who would have listened to your product in an on-demand format is choosing to listen to someone else’s product entirely.

After all, you’re the only one that is restricting that customer’s choices because you’re the only one with a desire to keep your customer where he is. Everyone else is more than happy to give your customer something else. 

There’s a danger in holding on too tightly to the existing model because the tighter you squeeze, the more customers will slip through your fingers, and if you need a physical demonstration to complete this metaphor go grab a handful of sand and squeeze it hard.

Your business model is only as good as its ability to predict the behavior of your customers, and as soon as it stops doing that, you need to adjust that business model. Don’t just recognize the reality that customers today will exercise the freedom that all these media choices provide, embrace it.

Offer more products. Experiment with more ways to deliver those products. The more you attempt to dictate the terms of your customer’s engagement with your product, the more customers you’ll lose, and by accepting this you’ll open yourself to the reality that if your customer is going to leave your main offering, it’s better to have them hopping to another one of your products as opposed to leaving your network entirely.

Think in terms of depth of engagement, and breadth of experience. That’s clearly what ESPN is doing because conventional thinking would see the Manningcast as a program that competes with the main Monday Night Football broadcast, that cannibalizes it. ESPN sees it as a complimentary experience. An addition to the main broadcast, but it also has the benefit that if the customer feels compelled to jump away from the main broadcast – for whatever reason – it has another ESPN offering that they may land on.

I’ll be watching to see what ESPN decides going forward. The network will have three Monday Night Football doubleheaders beginning next year, and the game times have not been set. Will they line them up back-to-back as they had up until this year? If they do it will be a vote of confidence that its traditional programming approach that evening is still viable. But if they overlap those games going forward, it’s another sign that less is not more when it comes to giving your customers a choice in products.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: Sunday Ticket Has Problems, Marcellus Wiley Does Not

Demetri Ravanos

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On this episode of Media Noise, Demetri is joined by Brian Noe to talk about the wild year FS1’s Marcellus Wiley has had and by Garrett Searight to discuss the tumultuous present and bright future of NFL Sunday Ticket.

ITunes: https://buff.ly/3PjJWpO

Spotify: https://buff.ly/3AVwa90

iHeart: https://buff.ly/3cbINCp

Google: https://buff.ly/3PbgHWx

Amazon: https://buff.ly/3cbIOpX

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