It’s an age-old question in sports broadcasting. What do I put on my radio demo tape to get a job?
Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question. It depends on the sport you’re doing, the amount of actual broadcast tape you have and what job are you going for. Sounds complicated, but once you cut through it all, it will become a little clearer for you.
I find myself in this situation right now, sending out demo tapes for Major League Baseball jobs. For the first time in a few years, I am without a team to broadcast. It meant updating my website and putting together fresh tape from the 2020 season. I have a little bit of time to refine what I have on my tape and to try and understand what it is that PD’s and team broadcast directors are actually looking for.
The task of putting together a tape after a full-season of broadcasting, whatever sport you call, is a daunting one. You have so much material to work with, so how do you sift through it all? During the season, I find myself “starring” things in my scorebook during a game. I then will listen back to those innings I deemed “star worthy” and go from there. My star system doesn’t always include what I think might be my best stuff.
Let me explain.
I realize that big home runs and walk-off wins are a dime a dozen. I want to find other things that showcase my skills as a play-by-play announcer. Maybe something made us laugh, maybe I brought up a great piece of trivia and so on. Sometimes that “best inning” may not be the one to send.
How can we be certain what it is to send? Well, I enlisted a few expert decision makers in the industry, on the radio side and the team end of things to help share some insight on the process.
To illustrate my point, Mike Swanson, the Vice President of Communications & Broadcasting for the Kansas City Royals offers up what he wants you to send.
“For me personally? It’s not just sending what they think their best few innings of work was,” said Swanson. “Though time consuming, I really prefer entire games and a couple of them. I get a feel for entire game rhythm, the ups and downs of a team’s play,” he said.
Swanson says there are a variety of things that he’s listening for in a prospective broadcaster. “First and foremost an excitement in his voice that remains relatively constant throughout the game,” said Swanson. “If there is a dip in enthusiasm in a game, then how can I be convinced he can do it for 162 or more? Also, knowledge of the game and its lingo. Don’t go overboard with the cliches, try to have some originality and don’t impersonate other announcers, Lastly, let the game breathe a little. You’re not being paid by the word and you can allow the crowd or stadium ambient sound cover for some pauses in talking. Announcers that just go and go and go kind of wear me out.”
Mark Chernoff of WFAN in New York, who oversees the Yankees broadcasts on his own station and the Mets broadcast on sister station WCBS-AM has some specifics that he wants to hear too.
“Best to send an inning where something exciting happens but I also get to hear how the game is handled without exciting moments,” says Chernoff. “I’m also wanting to hear if the announcer has a sense of the field and situation (one out, two men on—first and third—score is tied, it’s the bottom of the fifth, etc.), Then want to hear if the announcer is able to follow the ball and what else is going on (ball rolls to the fence, one-man scores, one guy is on third, cut-off man throws to second, etc.). I will also look for some ‘banter’ either with the other announcer or how one handles things when solo.”
Makes sense doesn’t it?
The former Vice President for Communications with the Angels, Tim Mead, who now is the President of the Baseball Hall of Fame has heard countless tapes over the years.
“When I listen to the submissions, I think a good fan can, sans the radio or tv voice, call something exciting, and they may stumble a bit but you can get excited,” said Mead. “I wanted to listen to the 90 percent of the game where there wasn’t action. I didn’t just want to hear highlights, I wanted to hear an inning or two of that Tuesday night in the 3rd week in April, where it’s 10-0 and you just have to pull out your best stuff to entertain and get through the next seven innings because it’s 10-0 in the third. I really listen to that,”
He even told me, over the years, broadcasters have sent tapes with their team on the losing end to showcase what they can do in those situations.
So, the bottom line is this is a very subjective industry. Radio and TV in general are all about who is listening and what they might be listening for, right? How do you sift through it all? Chernoff has a bit of advice for you.
“When putting together a demo, always listen to it yourself and critique it. If you’re not happy with it, it’s doubtful who you’re sending it to will like it,” he said.
The other bit of advice is how the PD’s or broadcast directors want to receive your demo.
“In this world of links that’s how I prefer to receive the audio. Hell, I’ve got a computer that I’d have to get an adapter to use a CD or DVD,” Swanson told me. Chernoff agreed, “Send me a link that’s easy to receive so it doesn’t take up endless space on the computer.”
It’s a difficult task to produce your specific demo for your specific sport. That’s understood. Nobody said this was going to be easy. Mead says, it’s not easy for those listening either.
“What always popped out to me and I really believe this,” said Mead. “I don’t think anybody can anymore tell you why you didn’t get something as opposed to why you could or did. Especially when you listen to 130 (demos). When you make one decision over 130, I will tell you the baseball analytic guys will tell you that you missed a talented person in 129. You feel good about the hire, but there was somebody else out there.”
Hopefully armed with some new knowledge, you’ll head back to the drawing board and listen, really listen to what you’re putting out there. It could be the difference in getting that dream job or not.
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.