Nine 2 Noon with Kuhn is a nuts and bolts sports radio show where listeners know what they’re going to get on a daily basis. While some of the country’s most successful shows try to modernize, there’s certainly still room in the industry for a sports radio show that keeps its focus on sports.
I was surprised and concerned during my first day of listening to the late morning show on Milwaukee’s 97.3 The Game. With former Packers fullback John Kuhn being featured in the title, I expected his voice to dominate the show. But after being greeted by the voice of station program director Tim Scott, followed by former University of Wisconsin basketball player Brian Butch, listeners quickly realize this show is a collaboration and not a game plan designed on only handing the ball to Kuhn.
The concern came early on in my month of eavesdropping when Scott lauded Kuhn for coming up with the idea of creating a weekly fantasy sports segment during the previous commercial break. It might have been an innovative idea 15 years ago, but fantasy is not a new revelation for sports fans. If a fantasy sports segment is as creative as the show gets, then I’d be in for a long month of listening as a dude from New York lacking affection for the intricacies of the Milwaukee sports scene.
But the show provides plenty of entertainment value, finding the right amount of fluidity, organization and listener interaction. Scott brings the traditional radio voice and inflection while playing the role of moderator, with John Kuhn and Brian Butch delivering heavy opinions and debate. The lesser organized segments feature the most interaction, breaking away from the feel of a roundtable discussion to include opinions from each host. All three voices sound very different, making it easy for a new listener to distinguish who’s talking.
The show itself might not feature diversity among its three hosts, but the content still includes diversity of thought. Personally, I’m a sucker for sports debates between one person focused on stats or analytics, and the other who prefers to let their eye be the judge. Butch and Kuhn regularly offered that dynamic in the last month, especially when it comes to judging Aaron Rodgers.
The crosstalk segments were solid, I enjoy the depiction of camaraderie between a station and its various shows. But if I had my own show, there would be days I’d prefer skipping the segment, not to risk having it take away from my opening monologue. An audience tunes into a show to hear opinion, with the best radio hosts containing appointment listening qualities. If Kuhn has a particularly hot sports take to share from last night’s Packers game, does he want to risk softening his opening monologue by first broaching the topic with Steve Czaban?
In general, crosstalk can be entertaining on an average sports day. Czaban usually picked unique questions to ask and didn’t demand the Nine 2 Noon hosts offer their thoughts on the day’s biggest story. But as a listener, if a host is passionate about a particularly polarizing topic, I want it to fester and build into a great open, not be lessened by crosstalk banter.
There are a fair number of interviews on Nine 2 Noon. The concept of bringing an additional voice to the show wasn’t overused, but the content of the interviews felt outdated, which is common in sports radio. Few fans learn anything from sports radio interviews in the age of instant information. 15 years ago they provided a service, but now every piece of information and even opinion from a sports journalist is shared on Twitter immediately. Going on the radio to rehash their previous 24 hours of tweets is mostly unnecessary, especially for a show that already has three hosts.
An interview with someone of a unique perspective or story-telling ability can still be of benefit to the listener. Personally, I prefer conversations, not interviews intending to be informative because it’s rare that each host taking a turn to ask a journalist a question actually teaches anything, but good conversation and narration will always entertain.
While Nine 2 Noon is sports heavy, they still dive into outside topics and those never felt forced, a great sign for a less than six-month old show working to build chemistry. Whether it’s discussing Butch’s bad haircut (which I didn’t think looked that bad in the pictures), apartment stories, or the Fullback Dive Bar Review, Nine 2 Noon sounded genuine whenever they pushed the sports crutch aside for a segment.
The Fullback Dive Bar Review began as a monthly segment, but Nine 2 Noon has since bumped it to a weekly spot based on listener popularity. A play off Guy Fieri’s immensely successful Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, the segment on Nine 2 Noon is great promotion for local bars, but it also helps the hosts to connect with the listeners. As the audience chimes in with their opinions of the dive bar being reviewed, or suggestions of other places to try, it’s a small way of increasing the communal aspect to a new show.
Most listener interaction comes from the text half of their “talk and text line,” but I know Milwaukee has plenty of radio callers, because I’ve heard them on rival station The Fan. Usually I advocate for callers, but I didn’t find myself missing them on Nine 2 Noon. With three hosts, a producer, Armen Saryan who regularly chimes in, crosstalk and interviews – finding additional voices and contributors didn’t seem necessary.
Using the iHeartRadio app for the Nine 2 Noon podcast and staring at a show labeled with a one-liner, followed by “127 min,” the duration and commitment can seem daunting. But they do mix in at least one short podcast each day as downloadable content to highlight a particularly good conversation or segment. Credit to the producer for posting some of those shorts while Nine 2 Noon is still on-air which acted as a draw, because if the 15 minute podcast caught my eye and ear, I’d tune in to the live show.
My own preconceived notion of Milwaukee radio is that it’s all Packers all the time. Add the show title featuring the name of a near 10-year Packers veteran and my expectation for this being a football dominant show only grew. And while the Packers are certainly topic 1 and 1A in September, the Milwaukee sports fan’s appetite for the Bucks, Brewers and other local points of interest still gets served. With Kuhn’s football knowledge, Butch having a great eye for basketball, and all three hosts featuring extensive radio experience, listeners receive a very balanced attack from Nine 2 Noon.
Gary Bettman Wants You To Have More Access
“Both of these partnerships we have are outstanding examples of being extraordinarily fan-friendly.”
In the wake of the NHL’s latest national television contract, Commissioner Gary Bettman has solidified the league’s broadcast future. Recent contracts dictate that the league will be appearing on ESPN and TNT/TBS next season after its relationship with NBC concludes after 10 years. Still, the key to both deals is streaming and Bettman explained how there is more work to be done.
“First and foremost whatever media package you’re going to do, particularly on a national basis, you want to make sure you’re getting the most exposure, the best possible production, the best possible promotion that you want to be able to give your fans as much access to the game as possible,” Bettman said on Episode 299 of my Sports with Friends podcast.
The deal with Turner is for seven years worth a reported $225 million. ESPN’s contract is also for seven years for more games than Turner and is reported to be more than $400 million.
The keys to these deals are the streaming apps. Both ESPN+ and HBO Max are key components to each deal that are making out-of-market games as well as exclusives available to subscribers. Still, the controversial decision made by the Regional Sports Networks to require cable subscriptions to stream the local teams is impacting cord-cutters across the US.
“Media distribution and the platforms are going to continue to evolve,” Bettman explained. “Frankly with new technology also represents improved camera coverage. The productions are better than they’ve ever been. You have HDTV, which didn’t exist decades ago. We use more technology, whether it’s player tracking or any of the other statistics that we use. With SAP and Amazon and Apple, the opportunities to get within the game, because there are more distribution platforms have never been greater.”
My takeaway from Bettman’s statements on the subject is that both he and the broadcast people in his office are well aware of the facts presented. While some fans are expecting a quick fix, these deals are complicated. Each team has its own contract with an RSN. Bettman can’t legislate a new way to circumvent those contracts. Plus, he still believes in linear television.
“There is some cord-cutting going on, but linear television still predominates, and more people are watching on a big screen TV in a large room with a couple of other family members or friends,” Bettman said. “Or when you go to a bar sports bar, you see what’s on in the background.”
Because I’ve known Bettman for over a decade, I take him at his word. We did discuss him coming back on the podcast for episode 399 (which would be in June 2023). I’d love to see progress made on the issue then.
“I think there is an evolution going on, but I think it’s easy to over-generalize,” Bettman said.”
The deal with NBC was profitable in many ways over the 10 years. Originally, games were aired on the Outdoor Life Network (OLN), and now to NBC and NBC Sports Network, which be shutting down by the end of 2021.
The ESPN deal was signed in March. The Turner contract was made public in late April.
“Both of these partnerships we have are outstanding examples of being extraordinarily fan-friendly,” the commissioner said. “Giving more content than ever before in more places than ever before. We couldn’t be more excited to have the Walt Disney Company (ESPN) and Warner Media (Turner) working with us and the game. Our organization is excited and thrilled, and we know both of their organizations are thrilled as well. This is an exciting time for us.”
Other highlights from the 45-minute conversation had to do with competitive balance. Unlike the NBA, the NHL regularly has quality teams with records above .500 that don’t make the playoffs.
We talked about the impact that Covid-19 has had on the league. Bettman addressed the decision to create the “playoff bubble” in Toronto and Edmonton as opposed to an American city.
He also discussed the fact that the NHL and NHLPA extended their collective bargaining agreement by four years while negotiating the return to play in the summer of 2020. That’s with former MLBPA head Donald Fehr at the helm. My memories of the canceled World Series made the NHL extension seemingly impossible.
Finally, Bettman addressed his legacy. He takes being the first commissioner in modern sports to be openly booed as a badge of honor, noting that nowadays all commissioners get booed. “(NFL Commissioner) Roger Goodell got booed at the draft last week,” Bettman said.
Still, he knows his legacy will always be connecting to canceling the 2004-2005 season. Yet, the growth of the league is unprecedented, and he has been the architect of that.
Bettman sees no end to his tenure, or at least wouldn’t admit it to me. Maybe we can address that in two years for episode 399.
Media Noise Podcast – Episode 27
Demetri Ravanos begins this week’s episode by looking at Thursday Night Football moving to Amazon exclusively in 2022 and what it means for future business deals with the NFL. Russ Heltman drops by next to offer his thoughts on Rob Parker and Chris Broussard’s heated discussion over Tim Tebow being the beneficiary of white privilege and his value to ESPN as a college football analyst. Seth Everett closes things out by weighing in on Gary Bettman’s legacy and the NHL’s recent deals with broadcast groups.
News & Sports Is A Perfect Marriage For Sales
“Plenty of sellers have a news talk/sports talk combo to sell especially if they are in AM-heavy clusters.”
There are a lot of similarities in sports talk and news talk radio sales. And there are some differences, some of which are actually complementary and work to the sellers’ advantage. I was fortunate to sell news and sports talk as a combo for years.
As Jason Barrett recently announced, the Barrett Sports Media and News Media web sites have merged. Plenty of sellers have a news talk/sports talk combo to sell especially if they are in AM-heavy clusters. One of my 2021 resolutions was to seek out the positive in most situations so let’s look at the similarities the two formats offer to a salesperson.
- Both are foreground formats. For the most part, spoken word radio listeners are seeking to focus on what is being said. They don’t listen to podcasts or talk shows so they can free their mind up to think about other things. Plenty of music listeners have their minds completely elsewhere and don’t even hear what the air person has to say. In fact, most music jocks are told to shut up and play the music. Great selling point for live liners, spots and why our commercials are worth more money.
- We have very loyal customers. The best results for any advertiser comes from the heaviest users of a station- their “P1’s”. Most news/sports talk tsl comes from a much smaller % of the cume. Listeners to Sean Hannity, Jim Rome, Ben Shapiro, and Colin Cowherd stay put. Music listeners tend to chase the hottest song or diary responders to music stations will flip to the station with the contest to win concert tickets. Often this can lead to fewer spots needed in a schedule to achieve a better frequency.
- We got the dough. Nothing sells luxury goods and services like a news/sports talk radio station. Look at any consumer index survey and these two formats will always score near the top. Make sure you load up on luxury car dealers, independent import car repair, jewelers, stockbrokers, realtors and home services companies.
- Sports formats can skew younger especially with stations that have guy talk driven hosts. Some sports stations have local play by play and that can cume in a younger audience. News talk radio is heavy 55+ and especially 65+. Younger buyers will carry a bias at times vs news radio and the age of the listener.
- The news talk format is conservative and mostly anti-liberal/Democrat in general. Some national advertisers would not allow their commercials to fall into the Rush Limbaugh show for example. Sometimes, buyers will not place ads on a conservative station for personal reasons. In sports, at least traditionally, that doesn’t happen as often. Historically sports have steered away from conservative or liberal positions on any politics. We have a chance to change that. See below.
- Sports talk typically has 80/20 Male to Female audience. News talk skews much more female and can be a 60/40 split Male to Female. That opens the door to what a 45–64-year-old woman may be more interested in home services, jewelry and more!
A Happy Couple
- A sports and news talk combo buy provides a great one stop shop for anything with a male skew. And, make sure you point out the earning power differences. We used to have fun with a graphic that pointed out with our combo you get customers and with the rock stations you got convicts. Get it? Customers or Convicts?
- If you are selling to male store owner and he is over 40 years old there is a good chance he listens to one of your shows. Just ask him.
- It may be time to start talking politics. If you have a conservative news talk station loaded with local news and political talk in the morning and Shapiro, Savage, and Hannity at other times, you got a conservative station. If you have a local show or two on the sports station, why not encourage them to speak up? Occasionally, the talent will not be conservative Republicans and certainly most athletes who speak out on political matters and command attention are not republican conservatives. Seems like a perfect balance for buyers who object to one lean over the other.