NBC turned some heads at the end of last week with the announcement that by year’s end, NBCSN will be just a memory. The company is putting major emphasis on adding more sports content, including live events, to its young streaming service Peacock. Heads turned again at the beginning of this week when it was announced that the streamer reached a billion dollar deal to be take over the WWE Network.
What does movement like this mean for sports radio? It means the future is digital. You don’t need me to tell you that though. That idea has been hammered into every programmer and broadcaster’s head for over a decade.
One thing that has become clear as ESPN3 has given way to ESPN+ and DAZN and Peacock has come on the scene is that every company wants more content options than anyone viewer can ever hope to get through. What can sports radio learn from that?
I asked a programmer and a host their views on the best way to present podcasts to listeners. Do we give them just the gold to make it more appealing for download? Do we put up everything in a variety of ways? What model do we follow – radio or streaming?
Jeff Rickard of 93.5 and 107.5 the Fan in Indianapolis is a fan of giving listeners everything. To him, that means posting shows in their entirety, although he will put the spotlight on individual segments when warranted.
“If there’s a really great segment, we’ll feature it on its own, but for the most part if there’s something you really want to hear you can find that segment and that day on the website,” the programmer told me.
Joe Ovies, host of The OG on Raleigh’s 99.9 the Fan, feels differently. He is adamant that stations get more response by offering listeners shorter, best of podcasts for each show.
“For starters, most podcasts are way too long in duration,” he says. “If we understand most of your listeners aren’t listening to every hour of your show, chances are they also don’t have the time to listen to every hour of the show in podcast form.”
I tend to agree more with Jeff’s approach more than Joe’s. Why are we trying to be in the business of telling listeners what they want to hear when there is no reason we can’t post entire shows? ESPN+ isn’t making judgements on what you should want to watch. That is why you can find a variety of Division III football games on the platform on Satrudays in the fall.
Joe Ovies and I have known each other for a long time. One thing I know for sure about him is that his opinions are backed up. He is an advocate for best-of podcasts because he doesn’t think radio should be giving everything away on a platform that doesn’t incentivize listeners to come to the show when it is on live.
“The pull of live radio is the spontaneity of whatever might happen in real time. By all means, give the listeners a bite-sized portion of what they might have missed on the show, but you still want them to come back for the main course on the radio. There’s a reason why podcasters make a big deal out of a ‘live podcast recording’. It’s what we do every day!”
It’s an interesting argument. I can’t say I totally disagree with it, but I do wonder if that is clinging to an antiquated or soon-to-be antiquated idea. Do we need listeners to come to the live show?
Certainly it is ideal, but as more stations figure out how to package their various ratings and downloads into a single number, is live radio unequivocally the most important part of the conversation anymore?
Dan Dakich, the mid day host at Rickard’s station is tremendously popular with his audience. The PD says he knows listeners consume that show all kinds of ways and he wants to make it easy for them to continue to do so.
“There are enough people that want to listen to Dan’s show in its entirety that will get mad if we don’t post the second hour. Now, I realize that is probably the minoroity of people, but in this day and age when you have the ability to turn it around so quickly and so effortlessly, why not? Why not put it all up there? I just don’t see it, in today’s world, as that big a deal of not being able to do that.”
Ovies is a believer in podcasts and digital content. He hosts podcasts about running and beer. He hosts digital video series for 99.9 the Fan and sister television station WRAL. He knows what good digital content is and what it isn’t.
To Joe, best-of podcasts aren’t about what the listeners miss. It is about trimming the fat and giving them more of what they want.
“Use the good radio habits of getting right to the story and opinion to combat what I find the worst aspects of podcasts, such as meandering intros and uninteresting tangents,” he says. “Get in, get out, don’t waste my time.”
I think the strategy of most companies in the streaming entertainment future is pretty easy to understand. More content options are better. Is everyone rushing to Disney+ to stream Dinosaurs? No, but it is there, so if you ever feel like you need to relive the adventures of the Sinclair family, you know where to turn.
Maybe it isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison with podcasts. But I’m not sure it is exactly apples-to-oranges either.
I might disagree with Ovies on a grand scale, but his point about cutting out set up and housekeeping is valid. Less time doesn’t necessarily have to mean less content.
Still, I’d rather not be constrained by the rules of PPM in a world where they don’t matter. We need to adjust our thinking to fit the on-demand world of media. To me, that means letting the listener have access and make them responsible for deciding how to consume it.
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.