When you love what you do, it shows. When you love the people you work with, it shows even more. Sports radio host Marc Hochman loves his job at Audacy Miami. He also enjoys being around his on-air partner so much, that he considers him to be family. Marc hosts afternoons on 560 The Joe and 790 The Ticket with former Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder. When I tell you that Marc speaks highly of Channing, it doesn’t do it justice. Marc says the radio pairing is a match made in heaven and the greatest experience he’s ever had. That’s quite the statement considering Marc’s resume.
Originally from the suburbs of Chicago in Highland Park, Illinois, Marc made his way to Florida in 1987 when he first attended the University of Miami. The town grew on him like a new variety of cottage cheese. (That’s foreshadowing.) He became buddies with Dan Le Batard while at school. The friendship helped pull Marc away from music radio and into the world of sports talk.
Marc talks about the most impactful rule that Le Batard broke, the mantra of his show, and the biggest reason why he’s bummed when he misses a day of work. Marc is highly entertaining and a great dude. The conversation below showcases both. Enjoy.
BN: Who are the teams you grew up rooting for and still root for?
MH: I grew up rooting for all the Chicago teams, not the Cubs though, the White Sox. I was a White Sox fan. I was the rare north suburbs White Sox fan. But Bears, Bulls; we had season tickets to the Bears, season tickets to the Bulls. My dad gave up the season tickets to the Bulls the year before MJ got there because he was tired of watching them lose. I was a Blackhawks fan.
After I’d been in Miami a while, I went to see the White Sox play the Marlins and I found myself rooting for the Marlins. I kind of realized like whoa, it just kind of happened. Over the course of time, I do not root for any Chicago teams. I’ve been in Miami so much longer than I was ever in Chicago that I am a Miami fan through and through — Heat, Dolphins, Hurricanes obviously, Panthers, Marlins.
BN: Did your dad ever complain through the years about ‘I never should’ve given up those season tickets’ before MJ got there?
MH: [Laughs] Yeah, we used to ride him pretty hard on that. Everybody has got some sports mistakes; leaving a game early before a miraculous comeback, skipping a game that they could have gone to that turned out to be a memorable game. Yeah, old Papa Hochman had a memorable sports mistake giving up his Bulls season tickets just before MJ was there.
Brian Noe: After you graduated college, how did you get your start in sports radio?
Marc Hochman: I worked at the University of Miami radio station all four years that I went to school there. I was a music DJ for the most part. That’s what I planned on going into. After I graduated in 1991, I sent out cassette tapes because that’s what we did back in 1991. I sent them to all the different radio stations that I could find in phone books and the library. I got a job offer at a tiny, little radio station in a tiny, little town on Lake Okeechobee. I went to be a music DJ from 6 to midnight at WBGF in Belle Glade, Florida. Gradually I made my way to the West Palm Beach radio market as a CHR DJ. I loved playing music and doing the nightclub appearances. That was my dream gig.
I didn’t get into sports radio until 2004 when one of my best friends from college, Dan Le Batard, took this afternoon drive job at a startup radio station in Miami. He called me and said I need an executive producer. I was a music DJ. I said to him I don’t do sports radio. I don’t do talk radio. I do music. He said I’m not going to do the typical sports show. I’m going to do the conversations you and I have been having on our phones since college. This is not going to be anything you’ll ever recognize. That was 17 years ago and I have worked in Miami sports radio for 17 years straight.
BN: Isn’t it funny how that idea is pretty simplistic, but it was groundbreaking to be like, I’m going to talk like a dude and talk how I normally talk on the air, instead of being the typical radio guy.
MH: What Dan did on the air in Miami changed all of sports radio forevermore. Sports radio in Miami was Hank Goldberg. Hank Goldberg was “I give you my opinion, and if you disagree with my opinion, you’re a jagoff”. He used to say that on the air all the time. If you’d call into Hank’s show — it was just callers — and you didn’t agree with him, you were a jagoff. Half the time he’d hang up on you. That’s where you got your information. You trusted the expert who was Hank Goldberg or Eddie K in Miami sports radio. Dan was so completely different. It was jarring to me when we started doing the show.
He would say on the air, wow sorry, listeners, that was a terrible interview. Off the air, I would say to him, you don’t acknowledge that you did a bad interview. He would say well why not? And I didn’t have an answer. I don’t know. You just don’t. And he said but do you think the interview went poorly? And I’d say yeah. And he goes, I think the interview went poorly too, and you know the listeners know that it went poorly. They’re listening. So why should we pretend that we’re great at everything? Why don’t we embrace just having fun and being human? It was so revelatory to me.
The most impactful rule that Dan broke was acknowledging on-air when something wasn’t very good. No host would every admit a segment, an interview, or a bit was bad because they thought that would chip away at their standing of being the expert voice on the radio who listeners went to for the correct opinion. Dan broke that rule from the first show. He let the audience in on what we were doing. The audience became an active participant in the show. Instead of, “I’m the expert host, and you’re the lowly listener,” it became, “I’m the guy with the mic, but we’re all gonna do this show together.”
Thank God the original owners of the station had patience because it was jarring for listeners. It was jarring for salespeople and anyone who had anything to do with talk radio. But because they had the patience to let us work the show out and find its footing, it literally launched him into superstardom and changed I think the course of sports talk radio.
BN: What is the most impactful rule that you break on your show?
MH: The most impactful rule we break on our show is we believe in fun first, then sports. Our four hours on the air are meant to be fun. So many people in radio love to throw the term “wacky morning show” around as if it’s an insult. We embrace that. Crowder and I love being your “wacky morning show in the afternoon.” I’d much prefer to make you laugh so hard that you cry, over breaking news about who the Dolphins are going to draft with their first pick. Entertain first is our mantra.
BN: I don’t know how I became a die-hard Dolphins fan, but I have been since I was a kid. So I’ve listened to you and Channing. You guys do a very entertaining show. It makes me think of Le Batard. What do you think your show might sound like if not for Dan?
MH: Oh my God, I wouldn’t be doing a sports talk show if it wasn’t for him. I really wouldn’t. I’d be playing Rihanna, or I guess at 51 years old I wouldn’t. I’d be on an oldies station playing the Eagles. But I really wouldn’t be doing it because I didn’t like sports radio. It didn’t appeal to me until he started doing it. I absolutely would not have been doing it. My show with Channing is very similar to the original incarnation of the Le Batard show because that was the show that he and I had done on our phones and in our off-campus apartment. He’s Cheesecake Factory and I’m Grand Lux. It’s very similar. You go in and you see a lot of the same entrees.
BN: What’s your reaction to a show that’s constructed to be serious?
MH: I don’t have a problem necessarily with people that do a serious sports talk show or a serious talk show in general because that’s their style. I don’t listen to it because I don’t like that. Channing and I, we always laugh when texts come in and they say, “I can’t listen to you guys anymore, all you do is laugh.” Channing and I will look at each other and we go, is that supposed to be an insult? Who doesn’t love laughing? I love laughing. I love cutting up for four hours a day. I love hanging out with people and insults fly, and stories are told, and laughs are constantly being had. I don’t understand the people that tune in to hear a radio show and want to hear serious takes and opinions that are hard-nosed — like no. That’s not what I want to do.
The show is not for everyone. Dan’s show isn’t for everyone. Howard Stern’s show is not for everyone. Pat McAfee’s show is not for everyone. I don’t listen to serious sports talkers. I don’t mind anyone who does a show — if you’re paid to do a show, you do the show that you want to do. If it works, you’ll do it for a long time. If it doesn’t work, you’ll have to figure out a new route. But I could never do a show like that. It’s just not my personality. I wouldn’t talk that way with my friends. I like to laugh. I like to be around people that like to laugh and so those are the people that we try to attract to the show.
BN: Sometimes athletes that get into sports radio are pretty serious. They’ve been serious about their sport and now they’re serious about their new job. Did Channing not have that vibe from the get-go?
MH: Channing loves trash talking, laughing, finding an offbeat route to take with a story. What I love about radio and what I love about our show, is taking up for something in a very serious fashion that doesn’t deserve serious talk. I love talking seriously about the Mount Rushmore of cheese. The passion that we bring to the Mount Rushmore of cheese is the passion that many sports talkers bring to Marino or Montana, Brady or Mahomes. That’s the fun part of our show. But Channing is like that. That’s his personality.
Our radio pairing was a match made in heaven. I can’t even begin to tell you how lucky I feel every day that Crowder is my radio partner. I don’t know how much you listen to the show but Alejandro Solana, who’s our executive producer, this is the greatest experience that I’ve ever had. And again I worked on Dan’s show. We had a lot of fun and great cast members; I’ve never had a better radio experience than me, Crowder and Solana. If I take a day off, I kind of feel bummed. I love spending the four hours with those guys.
BN: That’s awesome, man. I’m happy for you. Did you know it was going to be special like that from the beginning?
MH: No, I was a little trepidatious because Channing is a big dude, and he’s used to knocking people’s heads off. I am super sarcastic, and I get under people’s skin, and I can’t control my mouth. If he had reacted poorly in the first few weeks of the show and exerted his dominance over me, it would have been a disaster. But he let me know early on, you say whatever you want, insult me, joke about me, joke about my career, joke about anything. I’m going to do the same to you, but we’re going to be laughing the whole way through it. Over the five years, a genuine friendship has developed. He was at my son’s bar mitzvah. He’s just a big part of my life. He’s family.
BN: I see your Twitter header where you’re onstage at an improv night. Do you do stand-up at all?
MH: I did a couple nights of stand up. I used to have a character on the Le Batard show called Marc Hochman Sports Comic. It was just a super hacky comic that Dan and Stugotz would boo. It was just truly awful, awful jokes that really were only punched up by a rimshot. They were rimshot jokes that I would write. They were timely and topical for whatever was going on in sports. A stand-up comedian reached out to me and said I think you would do great on stage. And I’m a ham. I agreed to do a show at the Improv. He said he’d put it together.
I don’t ever like to embarrass myself. I do take a lot of pride in the content that I try to put out. So leading up to the show was so much angst and so many stomachaches and headaches because I really wanted it to go well.
It was the greatest night of my life. I killed on stage. I was supposed to do five minutes; I did 25 minutes. The audience came out, and I was afraid they were coming out to boo me, but they came out to embrace and laugh with me. It was the greatest night. But it had so much angst leading up to it, that I said I can never do this again. I’ve had a zillion offers to and I’ve never done it again.
BN: Going back to your time with Dan and knowing him so well, what are your thoughts on his fallout with ESPN, and what do you expect from him with Meadowlark?
MH: Dan has always marched to his own drum. He’s going to have phenomenal success would be my guess doing what he wants to do. I would say that over the course of the last 17 years has shown that he’s got a pretty good idea for what works and what doesn’t work on radio and in audio. I don’t think he’ll look back at all. I think he’s building a monster.
BN: Do you think this might ultimately be the best thing for him where things are headed?
MH: Oh, without question. His personality is — he wants to make decisions that he thinks are the right decisions creatively. He doesn’t want to worry about business ramifications. When you work for a major company like Disney, you’ve got to worry because they’re worried about ramifications. This is tailor-made for him to be able to create the content that he wants to create, when he wants to create it, with whom he wants to create it. He’s on the road to creating like I said a monster.
BN: Chicago is a hardcore sports town. When you linked up with Dan in Miami to do sports radio, did it feel like he was saying, hey man, I’m going to tell some jokes in church?
MH: Yeah, at the beginning of the show, that’s exactly what it was like because that’s all I knew. Growing up in Chicago, I did listen to some really big Chicago personalities that weren’t really sports talk. Steve Dahl was the guy that I listened to in Chicago. Then they had Kevin Matthews for a while. They liked sports but they were really talk shows more than anything. I didn’t get exposed to much sports talk really until I was in Miami and I listened to some Hank Goldberg and some Jim Mandich. It just wasn’t my cup of tea because it really wasn’t even my personality back then. But I know radio. And I knew what the rules were in radio.
When Dan started breaking every rule that I had ingrained in my head, I had interned at the CBS building in Chicago for B96. So I was around WBBM-AM, the most serious talk station that exists. I knew what the rules were supposed to be. When Dan started breaking every single rule, yeah I would break out into hives practically. I was like “Oh my God, we can’t do this! This is not how radio works!” That’s the story of most successful companies, right? The disruptors. Uber disrupted taxicabs. The disruptors are generally the ones that find the success when everyone has told them no, no, no, you can’t do it this way. Yeah, it was very jarring to me.
BN: What if management came to you guys and said we did all this research, we’ve got to be straight-laced and serious. How would you react to that?
MH: I don’t think I could do it. I just don’t think I could do it because it’s not my personality. If you try to force yourself to be serious on someone else, that’s not really going to work. I’ve had different program directors who have different likes and dislikes. I had a program director when Crowder and I first got together. We were on the topic that everyone has done over the last five years; is a hot dog a sandwich. This program director at the commercial break flung open the door and said are you done with that? Good. And slammed the door. I exploded. I ran down the hall and tore him a new one because first of all, I don’t want to be told that in the middle of a show. If you want to say that to me after the show or in an email, that’s fine. But he obviously had a very different idea of what radio could be or should be than I did. We coexisted for a couple of years. He’s not our program director anymore. But I can’t lose my sense of humor. That’s my personality. It’s just who I am.
BN: Do you have any specific goals going forward that you’d like to accomplish in the next few years?
MH: I marvel at the fun that we’re having on the air right now. We’ve had offers from other places. Bigger opportunities. I don’t think I want to do anything other than what I’m doing, for the rest of my time on radio. It’s been a 17-year run in Miami radio. I’m 51 years old and I love it. I love it every single day. I told you working with Crowder and Solana — I couldn’t have scripted a better radio existence than I have right now. There’s literally nothing that appeals to me other than doing what we’re doing right now.
Jimmy Pitaro Deserves Some Credit For Monday Night
“Pitaro and ESPN’s executive team had to sign off on a broadcast in which Peyton and Eli were in separate remote locations, without a host to play traffic cop and guide continuity between plays. This all could have blown up in ESPN’s face.”
Over the last several months, Jimmy Pitaro and ESPN got raked over the coals after the New York Times story on Rachel Nichols and Maria Taylor and the subsequent fallout that was effectively a mushroom cloud and the talk of the industry. Ultimately, the buck stops with the leader, but fairness should dictate that leaders also receive accolades for great accomplishments. After just one episode, we can confidently say that landing Peyton and Eli Manning for Monday Night Football qualifies in that regard.
Every TV network executive would have walked from Alaska to Omaha to land Peyton Manning. Andrew Marchand has accurately referred to him as the “white whale of sports TV”; he was so sought after that CBS, who has arguably the best color commentator in all of sports in Tony Romo, tried to lure Manning to the booth before ultimately reaching a new deal with Romo. Any way you slice it, getting the Manning brothers for 10 episodes of Monday Night Football on ESPN2 was a major coup for Pitaro, ESPN, and Disney.
Nonetheless, it was not without risk. Pitaro and ESPN’s executive team had to sign off on a broadcast in which Peyton and Eli were in separate remote locations, without a host to play traffic cop and guide continuity between plays. This all could have blown up in ESPN’s face. Imagine the chatter if the Manning broadcast was a dud, which it easily could have been given their format is unlike anything that has ever been tried before.
Instead, Peyton and Eli were a revelation. Peyton, with his combination of star-power, personality, and brain processing, is remarkably unique. During the fourth quarter of a close game between the Raiders and Ravens, he was somehow able to simultaneously interview Russell Wilson while immediately breaking down the film of all 22 players from key plays of a game he wasn’t even there for. Eli didn’t get as many words in, but when he did speak he had funny deadpan humor.
Full disclosure: I was traveling during the first half, which by many accounts was not as well executed as the second half, after they settled in.
There will undoubtedly be a number of attempts to replicate this announcing format, but it’s unlikely that any of them will work as well as this one, because none of them will have Peyton Manning. Remember how excruciating it was when TNT tried to do Players Only broadcasts for the NBA? Kevin Clark, speaking on The Ringer’s Press Box podcast with Bryan Curtis, called this a “Black Swan” event — it’ll never happen again because Peyton is one of one.
Anyways, back to Pitaro and ESPN: They’ve certainly taken their lumps and that’s life when you lead an organization that is the bellwether of the industry, facing myriad challenges, some of which are structural (cord-cutting eating into hefty subscriber fees) and some of which are self-inflicted (if you’ve read this far you already know what many of those are and there’s no need to re-hash).
However, it bears mentioning that in addition to making the content compromises — and opening up the checkbook for millions of dollars — to land Peyton Manning, Pitaro and ESPN have had a lot of big wins over the last several years. They locked up a monopoly on SEC football rights (in a deal so substantial the conference lured Oklahoma and Texas to join), expanded their NFL deal to get into the Super Bowl rotation, bought up all the UFC rights (which, more than anything else, has propelled the growth of ESPN+ to 15 million subscribers), and brought back the NHL. Sure, all of these wins probably came as a result of bidding the most money, but I’m old enough to remember when ESPN was supposed to be on a death spiral. Reports of ESPN’s demise — at least in live rights; talk programming and journalism have not remained the priorities they once were — were premature.
ESPN has been described as an ocean tanker, which turns very slowly. Jimmy Pitaro deserves some credit for his steering, in the macro, through some turbulent waters.
Did The Manningcast Work?
“The first show was great, but as is the case most of the time, there is room to grow.”
Is it a variety show? Is it a podcast? The first of 10 scheduled Manning MegaCasts, hosted by Peyton and Eli Manning, on ESPN2 proved it was a little bit all of the above. It was almost like Beavis and Butthead meets Statler and Waldorf. It was fun to watch the Manning brothers poke fun at each other and at the same time, criticize some of the action they saw on the field.
The show debuted as an alternative to the regular Monday Night Football broadcast and was met with rave reviews. To me, there was some great, some not so great, and definitely some room to grow.
I love the concept, providing an alternative for those that would rather be entertained than tune into a traditional broadcast. Now, as a play-by-play broadcaster, it makes me pause to think about what the future may hold. There will always be a spot for a traditional broadcast, especially with viewers that have a rooting interest in the game. I’m not sure that hardcore fans of the Ravens and Raiders were tuned in for more than a passing glance. Those folks want to see the game, not the fluff or interviews and the like, offered on the alternative broadcast. That fluff though is what will earn ESPN those fringe viewers that are curious and intrigued by what a “ManningCast” might have to offer them.
Sitting down to watch the game, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I know that Peyton has a personality that in some cases is larger than life. I was pleasantly surprised to see what Eli brought to the table as well. The guys played off each other well, each taking a turn to take a shot at the other. I’ll get into some of the best of those barbs a little later.
Peyton is comfortable in front of the camera and has no trouble talking. That was the issue I had early in the game. The elder Manning really dominated the conversation. There were no times in the first few minutes of the first quarter that I felt I could take a breath because so much was coming at me. They really didn’t allow the game to breathe at all. The constant conversation while entertaining at times just kept on coming. Peyton was talking fast and once in a while he was talking over Eli.
It didn’t help that the Manning’s were in different studios. I wondered if there was a “delay” in their feeds and if that was the reason for talking over one another at times. The delay was quite evident when Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson joined the brothers for the later stages of the game. Wilson seemingly couldn’t get a word in, because Peyton and Eli were talking over him.
Peyton has that quality to be able to teach the game in a way that it’s understandable. Some of his commentary was a look behind the curtain at how he played and viewed the game. Knowing what to expect when coming to the line of scrimmage, understanding the coverages and realizing what teams are trying to do to disguise things. It was fascinating to hear the brothers go through play calls and how it is relayed from the coordinator to the quarterback and finally to the team. You aren’t going to get that on a traditional game broadcast.
It was also impressive to hear the guys interview both former players, current players and Charles Barkley. It so often is the case that the current athletes are very guarded in what they say to a regular ole member of the media. That was not the case in the Manning Cast. From Travis Kelce not knowing who the Chiefs were playing next, to Russell Wilson calling out the NFL overtime rule. Ray Lewis was a fascinating guest, providing some great stories and terrific insight into the game he once played at such a high level. Charles Barkley, well, he’s Charles Barkley. In other words, he was as fantastic as you’d expect.
The guests added to the broadcast and made me realize that if this Manningcast actually had a host, it wouldn’t have worked as well. A broadcaster would have gotten in the way to me. Yeah, they could have used a professional at times. Maybe someone to get them into and out of the commercial breaks, because that was a little rough early in the game. But that’s the only a host could have fit in.
The first show was great, but as is the case most of the time, there is room to grow. I really think the Manning Cast would be so much better if the guys were actually in the same room. The dynamic between them, which was already great, would be that much better. Imagine them demonstrating plays on each other. Both putting on helmets and doing what they probably did as kids in their basement, roughing each other up.
Ok, so they’re a little older now, but I seriously think having them in the same place would make things much smoother. With all the technology out there, eliminating that dreaded delay between the Manning’s and their guests would improve the telecast as well.
This alternative broadcast would be a great place to teach some casual fans all about the great game of football. Not sure why this came to my mind, but like the old days of the NHL, when “Peter Puck” an animated hockey puck would teach you the game. “Peter” was part of the NBC game of the week broadcast. An animated Peyton and Eli teaching those that need to know the finer points of the game, would be spectacular.
I can’t wait to see how they improve from last week to this week and who the guests will be this time around. Hopefully, they iron out some of the small issues that plagued them in the first telecast and continue to improve. I realize that this show is unscripted and it’s supposed to be a little looser than a normal show might be, but there are some slight fixes as I’ve pointed out that will make it even better.
With all the success the Manningcast had, I can’t help but wonder how all of these accolades are being taken by the regular MNF booth. ESPN in effect has promoted and created competition for its own product. Perhaps the novelty will wear off? Maybe, but it almost seems like the Manning’s are being groomed for a possible move to the main booth. I’m not sure what the feeling is amongst all the parties, but it’s certainly a dynamic worth watching.
Here are some of my favorite moments from Manningcast show number one, in no particular order:
- Derek Carr with an overthrow on the Raiders first play from scrimmage, leading Peyton to say about the Raiders season, “Lookin’ at ah 6-11, 6-11 right now.”
- Raiders’ fans were loud during an offensive series leading to a bad snap and a few false start penalties, leading to this exchange:
“They aren’t used to it”, said Eli Manning. Then Peyton responded, “Drink your beer, quiet down and let [Derek] Carr play quarterback.”
- Peyton putting on a football helmet to demonstrate the calls at the line for the Ravens. The helmet was way too small. “Helmet doesn’t fit”, Peyton said. “Shocking that a helmet doesn’t fit you”, Eli commented. “They didn’t have a XXL helmet for that forehead.”
- With Charles Barkley as a guest, Peyton asked him what position Michael Jordan would play if he were in the NFL, “Tight End”. Then Barkley was asked about Larry Bird playing a position, “there’s no place for no slow 6’10” guys in the NFL”, said Barkley.
Charles: “that’s about it…”
- Also, with Barkley on the show…
Peyton: “Hey Charles, you ever get booed at home? Never happened to you, right?”
Barkley: “I played in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. That was a regularity.” “You were lucky, Peyton. Everybody liked you. Eli knows what it’s like to get booed at home.”
Eli: “He had that stadium trained. The fans would get fined if they talked when the Colts were on offense. If a guy was trying to order a beer, everyone would tell him to quiet down until the defense was on the field.”
Eli’s fire alarm goes off in the middle of the show.
Peyton: “Eli what’d you do?”
- With Ray Lewis on the show, the trio recalled a game where the Giants played the Ravens in Eli’s rookie season as the starting QB. The younger Manning leading the team to the line of scrimmage, calling out the defense…
Eli: “Hey #52 (Lewis) is the Mike (linebacker)”
Lewis: “No, I’m not the mike. He’s the Mike!”
Eli: “Yeah Ray’s right, the other guy’s the Mike”
It was also revealed in that game in 2004, Eli had a quarterback rating of 0.0 and of course Peyton pointed out, “the same GPA Belushi had in ‘Animal House.’”
- Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce on the Manningcast
Kelce: “[Watching this game] I’m not trying to get too technical because I think we’re playing the Chargers this week. Oh wait, maybe we’re playing Baltimore. I don’t even know — I’m getting lost in the season already.”
- Peyton about 5 minutes later: “Hey, Travis, just so you know, you do play the Ravens next week, so make sure you don’t fly to Los Angeles to play the Chargers.”
What Is The Next Advertising Money Cannon?
“In states where betting is legal, stations are having to squeeze live reads and segment sponsorships in wherever they can. Everyone is trying to make sure they aren’t leaving money on the table.”
If I could tell you that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I know there is another advertising revenue stream out there that can repeat what sportsbooks did for sports radio AND that I know exactly what it is, I could handpick my next employer and name my price.
A Supreme Court decision to make sports gambling a state issue and not a federal one completely changed the advertising landscape. In states where betting is legal, stations are having to squeeze live reads and segment sponsorships in wherever they can. Everyone is trying to make sure they aren’t leaving money on the table.
“There is no question about the significant impact sports betting has had on revenue, both from the station side as well as for our on-air personalities who have become brand ambassadors,” Dennis Gwiazdon, VP and Market Manager of Cromwell Broadcasting’s Nashville cluster told me.
Stations in states that are yet to legalize gambling can see the boom and know it is coming eventually. What about states where gambling is already legal? What about states like Alabama or Utah, which are routinely viewed as two that could realistically never legalize sports betting? Is there a boom on the horizon for them?
I spoke with managers in three different markets. I wanted to know where they saw reason for optimism. The answers were interesting.
Earlier this month, John Ourand of Sports Business Journal took a look at the deal FOX signed with crypto.com. The site is the title sponsor of the network’s College Football Extra. Ourand theorizes that could open the door for crypto companies eventually spending money on sports television the way sportsbooks do.
What is the outlook for radio? Jeff Tyler, iHeartMedia’s area president in Wisconsin, is intrigued by the idea, but he isn’t telling his sellers to go rushing out to make deals.
“There are a lot of variables around crypto,” he told me via email. “So as a company we have a plan to work within this category but not put the company at risk or do anything that could negatively affect our listeners and partners.”
Ken Brady, the sales manager at 1010XL in Jacksonville, knows that cryptocurrency has a buzz around it right now. He is not sure what the appetite for it is in terms of an ad market or what the industry’s appetite is for radio advertising.
“There is little chatter about cryptocurrency in our market or with partners,” he says. “This is something we need to understand and explore better.”
I asked all three men if there was a sector where they saw potential. Tyler had an interesting answer. He sees potential in eSports. He thinks teams and companies could benefit from connecting with stations with a dedicated listener base.
“Our brands could help them grow their fan base and activate them to attend more events in person and online.”
Gwiazdon has his eye on another vice. Just like gambling came out of the shadows and now functions under government regulation, it is only a matter of time he thinks before marijuana does the same.
“What immediately comes to mind is the legalization of marijuana at the state and, eventually, federal level,” he says. “There’s so much money in that industry – as evidenced where it has already become legal – that it could easily equal or surpass what’s happening with sports betting right now.”
What is interesting is that amongst this trio, Gwiazdon is the only one that lives in a state where there is absolutely no legal marijuana. What he sees as a potential boom for Tennessee is already legal in both Wisconsin and Florida, albeit exclusively for medical purposes.
A lot of sellers have big plans for pot and cannabis products where they are legal. Very few of them know all the answers though. That is why the RAB has a marijuana FAQ section on its website and advertising agencies specializing in marijuana have sprung up.
For 1010XL, the boom never really materialized according to Ken Brady.
“We have had little success with this category, the players who have come in seem to be interested in demos outside our strengths or have been flakey with no real appetite for a solid campaign that will work.”
Businesses built by someone following their passion for marijuana are flaky? Well, color me shocked!
Jeff Tyler told me iHeart is looking at this on a market by market basis. Wisconsin has made medical marijuana legal. Tyler can’t have his sellers approaching businesses the way sellers in neighboring states like Illinois or Michigan, where it has fully been decriminalized can.
“Until it’s fully legalized the advertiser revenue is very limited,” he said. “We have a team that leads this vertical for iHeartMedia and have states like Colorado that already have fully legalized marijuana so we have a solid plan and guidelines to follow with these advertisers. CBD is a small category with some hit spots in some markets.”
There may never be another category like sports betting. The money cannon that industry was ready to fire was unpresedented. You can’t bank on it happening again.
I asked Dennis Gwiazdon if it was possible that the radio industry will have to play a very proactive role in creating the next boom. He told me that may be the best way to think about it. What he is sure of is that no idea can be dismissed as the industry looks to find another stream of revenue that has the potential of the sportsbooks.
“We definitely have to get smarter at how we generate revenue. Relying on the old, tried and true ways won’t hold up forever. The good news is our business model is already undergoing a sea of change in terms of how we scale our radio/digital/entertainment assets for wider distribution and access. But some of us are further down the road than others. The audio industry is still the ultimate personal experience. How we continue to maximize – and monetize – our relationships with fans is the key to our survival.”
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