I can’t imagine the celebration that took place last week inside sports radio stations in Louisiana, Maryland and South Dakota.
Two words: Dollar. Signs.
Amidst all the political drama that has taken over the headlines, those three states have legalized sports betting, which has hosts, program directors and sales staff chomping at the bit to take advantage of the new opportunity.
In a COVID world that has limited the ability to sell advertising, the added benefit of pitching to a booming business, such as sports books in casinos, comes at the right time for stations in Louisiana, Maryland and South Dakota.
“Frankly, it’s been long overdue,” said Jerry Coleman of 105.7 The Game in Baltimore. “Maryland seems to be traditionally behind a lot of states, especially the neighboring ones. All the neighboring states had legalized sports wagering, such as Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia and even New Jersey. These are places just around the corner, where people are crossing state lines and bringing their Maryland money to other states. This is long overdue and something we’ve been talking about at our station for two weeks leading up to the election. We did not think it was going to be turned down and it was overwhelmingly approved.”
“It’s been going on for multiple years now,” said Jeff Thurn of ESPN 99.1 in Sioux Falls. “It probably ramped up the most when Iowa passed their laws, because where we’re located, on the east side of Sioux Falls, you are literally seven minutes away from a casino in Iowa that takes sports betting. For a community that probably has over 250,000 to 300,000 people in it’s metro area, those people can drive anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes, depending on where they live in the city, to place bets. That’s been the case over the past couple years. Iowa’s numbers in October were actually even a record number.
“On the show, I bet you three or four years now we’ve been talking about it. It really ramped up when that measure was going to be put on the voting ballot. I probably say from the beginning of the year where we had some guest on it at Super Bowl weekend at Radio Row that was talking about legalization across the country all the way through Election Day. We probably had a handful of folks throughout the country giving us insight on what it might look like and how it might play out.”
What’s funny is that each of these hosts have consistently used sports gambling as content on their show, well before it was legalized in their state just a week ago, They see the appetite that’s out there for sports gambling with their listeners and have routinely mixed in betting lines and over/unders to discuss games. Will that ramp up even more now, seeing a listener, therooticaly, will soon be able to drive 10 minutes to a local casino to place a bet?
“We’ll probably keep the content the same way,” said Jordy Culotta of 104.5 ESPN in Baton Rouge. “We have a gambling segment every Thursday during football season, where we get a six pack of picks. We talk about the local games, LSU, Saints, we always talk about the point spreads and the total numbers. I do that for a radio standpoint, because I understand the popularity of gambling and how much it means to the fans. A lot of people put interest into what Vegas thinks about a matchup. We embrace that as a radio show because that’s real life sports. People look at those elements of the action.
“We’ve made fun of our own state for the past couple of years, as long as sports betting has been on the docket to be voted on, the fact that it has failed and been denied has been comical. We know who we are. We gamble on just about everything and we look for excuses to party. The fact that we didn’t have sports gambling legalized was pretty laughable.”
“We already do a weekly sports wagering segment with Chad Millman from the Action Sports Network,” said Coleman. “We’ll also talk about what’s going on with the Ravens point spread, or what else is going on locally, but also nationally with some of the other point spreads. We also do an over-under segment every week, regarding the Ravens. We do a lot of tie-ins and I think that will only increase now that’s going to be legal moving into the new year.”
This is a huge decision for sports radio because of their ability to turn a profit from it. Think about it, where could a sports book inside a casino find a better place to advertise than the very place it’s betters flock to on a daily basis? Print and TV will find advertising dollars with sports books, sure, but nobody in the media has the advantage sports radio does when it comes to pitching sales to sports books.
“I think from the casino standpoint, you’ll start to see sports books start to pop up within the state of Louisiana, which can be sponsored,” said Culotta. “That’ll open up buying opportunities for advertisers, so I think that’ll change immediately from a sales standpoint. As far as the lingo in the language goes on the radio station I don’t think that will change. We’ve talked a lot of gambling on our show for a while and our station has embraced that angle. So that won’t really change.”
In all, counting Louisiana, Maryland and South Dakota, 27 states have launched some sort of sports betting, or have voted yes on it, which means it’s coming soon. That’s more than half of the country.
Sports radio stations that are in states without the legalization of sports gambling need to take note of the stations that are in states where it’s legal. Why? Because before you know it, it’ll be happening in your state, too. The momentum of sports gambling is strong. So much so, that it seems an inevitability that every state, at some point, will legalize it. In times like this, you don’t want ad dollars to pass by. Make sure capitalizing on the legalization of sports gambling is in your gameplan.
“Even before it became mainstream a few years ago, there was such an appetite for it in our state, that we would always talk about it,” said Thurn. “Also it just became more and more less taboo. From corporate restraints to local restraints, in regards to the content that you put on, you just saw the needle moving in one direction, where it was kind of laughable that we hadn’t passed something in the state.”
Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing
…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.
In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.
“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.
“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”
Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.
The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?
That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.
You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.
“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”
Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.
Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”
Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”
Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”
Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”
It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.
My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.
My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.
After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.
Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.
Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”
My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.
My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.
Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.
And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.
Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.
A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours.
But is that why you sell sports radio?
In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.
A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family.
Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.
I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.
Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important.
So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.