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The Talent Vote: Sports Talk Morning Shows

Everyday a new Top 20 is released, I will turn to talents in those same categories with a simple question: If you had a vote, who would be #1 on your ballot?

Demetri Ravanos

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The BSM Top 20s are generators. They generate clicks, comments, and conversation in our industry. Every year, JB reaches out to dozens of PDs and executives to generate those lists.

I thought it might be fun this year to add a new twist and let talent get in on the conversation. Everyday a new Top 20 is released, I will turn to a few talents in those same categories with a simple question: If you had a vote, who would be #1 on your ballot?

This is day 2. BSM has unveiled the top 20 morning shows in the country with WFAN’s Boomer & Gio topping the major market list and the top spot in the mid markets going to Ken Carmen and Anthony Lima at The Fan in Cleveland.

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That is the perspective of the executives though. What about the talent? I asked four hosts from mid-size and major markets to weigh in. Here are the morning shows they say deserve to be recognized as the best in America.


BOB FESCOE – 610 SPORTS (KANSAS CITY)

The best Mid Market Morning show is CLEARLY Fescoe in the Morning with myself, Josh Klingler and Ryan Witkowski!  How can I not nominate our show? 

However, if I am picking from all other shows other than ours, I go with my guys in Pittsburgh on The Fan Morning Show. Love me some Chris Mack. He is passionate, brings great takes and often makes you think. I think Colin Dunlap and Chris Mack have great chemistry, they entertain, and they are clearly knowledgeable about the Pittsburgh sports scene. Even though I am not in Pittsburgh, I still tune in…especially when the Chiefs and Steelers are getting ready to play!

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The Fan Morning Show finished #3 in the BSM Top 20 of Mid Market Sports Morning Shows

SEAN SALISBURY – SPORTSTALK 790 (HOUSTON)

This category is loaded with great shows and fantastic hosts across the country. Choosing one is brutal considering there are quite a few I like for some different reasons. I first have to give love to the competition in my Houston market, two good shows with friends and good people. I also can’t vote for the shows I’m a guest of because well, that seems wrong but much respect to The Morning Roast at 95.7 The Game. I know I miss some really good shows due to the fact that my show is morning drive as well. Dallas has two shows I like! Shan and RJ at 105.3 The Fan do top shelf work and The Musers at The Ticket make me laugh and keep you interested with good sports talk daily too. Boomer and Gio is a hell of a listen and they are a must in New York or for anyone who wants hard core opinion with no let up.    

All that being said, I’m going to put Schlereth and Evans 104.3 The Fan in Denver as my favorite. I think they have the right mix of humor and sports talk. They don’t kiss the ass of the home team just to pander and they have a very good on air relationship. They are passionate but don’t take themselves too seriously, and always seem to find ways to do new things and get the listener involved. My boy Schlereth will battle the listener too. If a show makes me sit in my car and risk being late to a meeting then it’s good radio!

It’s the wow factor mixed with self deprecation and listener involvement and that equals a winner! There are more that are worthy of serious consideration who I really respect but I don’t get to hear enough. Keep doing your thing in the mornings. Great competition! 

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Schlereth & Evans finished #8 in the BSM Top 20 of Major Market Sports Morning Shows

TERRY FORD – 105.7 THE FAN (BALTIMORE)

Back in my early radio life I took a gig in Biloxi, Mississippi. While I was driving down to Biloxi, I was speeding illegally through Alabama and I was scanning the dial on my car stereo. I landed on WJOX in Birmingham. I loved it! I listened for as long as WJOX could survive between all of the static and crossover stations that were interfering with it. I not only enjoyed the content but the callers as well. It’s hard to find a more passionate sports fan than an SEC football sports fan.

To this day, I will still from time to time listen to WJOX on the digital platform during college football season. I always punch up the morning show, The Roundtable. When it comes to listening to a sports talk show, it has to give me opinions that make me think, entertain me and inform me. The Roundtable does all of those things.

One of the most important components that make a multi-person show listenable is the chemistry between the hosts. Lance, Ryan, Jim and Rockstar have excellent chemistry. There is a smooth chamaradie to the show. When listening, you can believe these guys would actually hang out together away from the show. 

The crew of The Roundtable are knowledgeable on sports outside of the SEC, they give solid takes about the sports world outside of Birmingham as well. Plus, the Trash on the Table segment always has something in it that makes me laugh. And of course, THOSE CALLERS ARE RADIO GOLD! 

To this day, WJOX is still a great sports radio station and The Roundtable one of my favorite morning sports talk shows. It’s a very compelling listen.

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The JOX Roundtable finished #2 in the BSM Top 20 of Mid Market Sports Morning Shows

JOHN MICHAELS – 680 THE FAN (ATLANTA)

People always ask what do I listen for when picking out different sports radio to listen to when I’m not on the air. Fun, relatability, quick wit, funny, entertaining, informative and the ability to create a show that makes the listener feel a part of it. Many people across the country do a great job of this with story telling, unbelievable interviews and the ability to breakdown games like no other. Mornings have what I like to call a captive audience. We have people stuck on their morning commute in the car for sometimes an hour or more. We have the ability to make them forget about bumper to bumper traffic and just sit back and enjoy the conversation.

Some of my favorites are The Joe Rose Show in Miami. Joe is a great story teller and his side kick Zach Krantz does a great job playing off of Joe. Rose played for the Dolphins and has so many entertaining stories that you get stuck sitting in your car even after you’ve reached your destination. Their show is fun and more than anything makes you feel like you are part of the family.

Another easy listen is The Mac Attack on WFNZ in Charlotte. These guys are the epitome of morning radio with preshow Panthers dance videos. Crazy arguments about which QB is better and just a general entertainment value that can’t be understated. I had a chance to fill in after them a few times and listening to them made it easy to have the audience right there for the taking. Mornings on WFNZ are a lot of fun and these guys should be proud.

My #1 morning show though is Shan and RJ at 105.3 The Fan in Dallas. We were lucky enough to sit next to them on radio row in Houston and let’s just say the laughs between the 2 shows lasted the entire week. From them making their producer Roy draw fake abs on his stomach and walk around radio row shirtless because he overslept to them pulling many stunts, everyone knew them by week’s end. We have had either of them on our show to talk Dallas sports, so their knowledge is second to none in their own market. The value of their show is complete entertainment. They hold no punches and even when interviewing guests like Jerry Jones they ask the questions that people want to hear.

My biggest compliment to any out of market host is to seek them out just to hear a sample of what they are doing daily. Shan and RJ are those guys and would be my number 1 morning show (outside of my own of course).

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Shan & RJ finished #6 in the BSM Top 20 of Major Market Sports Morning Shows

As the week rolls on, we will dive into every single list that JB puts out. That means next up is mid day shows. Stay tuned!

By the way, just because I didn’t reach out to you to contribute doesn’t mean you can’t have a say. Who do you think the best nationally syndicated host on sports talk radio is? Feel free to add your comment below.

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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