If you ask Elle Duncan how she feels about her NFL Draft assignment this week, she’ll likely respond with those two words. Sure, she already has her dream job at ESPN, but this week presents an opportunity that could be likened to a bucket list sports media assignment. She gets to co-host Get Up on Thursday and Friday and then co-host live NFL Draft coverage on ESPN Radio.
The best part about it? Duncan gets to anchor and co-host with Kevin Negandhi, who’s not only her partner on the 6 p.m. SportsCenter, but also one of her best friends.
“Kevin and I were approached about a geeked out opportunity to host the NFL Draft on the radio, which is so significant,” said Duncan. “Not many people know I did radio for eight years, so it was just a really cool opportunity to do radio with Kevin. We’ve done tons of TV shows together but we’ve only done a couple of radio shows together. It’s really cool and unique to do what we do on television and sort of put it in a radio environment with a great group of people around us.”
Negandhi views this opportunity to discuss and give live updates to the greatest reality show on TV. When you consider all the excitement, twists, turns and great stories that come from the NFL Draft, it’s hard to disagree.
Alongside Duncan and Negandhi will be NFL Front Office Insider Mike Tannenbaum, ESPN Radio’s Bart Scott and reporter Ian Fitzsimmons.
“We’re going to see it basically play out in front of us and Elle and I get a chance to react to it,” said Negandhi. “One of the things Elle and I love to do in the 6:00 pm SportsCenter show is react. We got into the business because we’re passionate fans and when we can, go back and forth providing information and knowledge. We can have our opinion but then we’re backed up with smart people like Mike Tannenbaum, Bart Scott and Ian Fitzsimmons. We’re not like the game managers, but at the same time, we want to make sure everyone jumps in and everything flows well.”
Duncan did radio in Atlanta from age 20 to age 32. She was at 790 The Zone in Atlanta, before transitioning to hip hop at V103, which has previously been voted as the No. 1 Urban Station in the Country. Duncan also did pre, post and halftime shows on the Atlanta Falcons Radio Network.
Negandhi did basketball play-by-play at his college radio station. He was also a sports producer at 610 WIP in Philadelphia, rounetly fielding angry calls from Eagles fans in the late 90’s. During his stint at ESPN, he filled in for Scott Van Pelt with Ryan Russillo.
So it’s not like the decision makers in Bristol are just throwing two SportsCenter anchors on the radio, giving them a former GM, a former player and a reporter and wishing them good luck, both Negandhi and Duncan know how to conduct a sports radio show.
But that’s not the biggest reason why they’ll be a success on Thursday and Friday night. The main reason why it’ll be compelling radio is the same reason that makes any great show – chemistry.
Negandhi and Duncan respect each other. More importantly, they really like each other and know how to feed off one another. Those factors make me strongly believe they’ll provide unbelievable commentary and entertainment during the NFL Draft.
“Oh yeah, especially when we don’t have a script and have no idea what’s going to happen next,” Negandhi said. ”She’s going through heartbreak with her Broncos and I’m going through heartbreak with my Eagles. So as that continues as a storyline entering the conversation in the Top 10, I can rely on Elle when it comes to anything with the Broncos and even her background with the Falcons, because she’s from there and knows the history. I think that’s the great thing about trusting each other, when we pepper each other, we all know the end goal, which is, what’s best for the audience? I think radio is the best of all those worlds coming together for something that’s a live event.”
If the duo were on the live set of SportsCenter, you could go off-cuff a little and complain about your team, but for the most part, it would be kept extremely short due to the structure of a television show. However on radio, Negandhi’s frustrations with the Eagles and Duncan’s frustrations with the Broncos will be on full display.
“Is that a nice way of saying, are you going to show your ass, now?” laughed Duncan. “Yes if we draft another tight end I’m going to lose it. Honestly, in my opinion as someone who’s done both, I think it’s a lot easier to have natural chemistry with someone on radio, because it’s much more conducive to having just a conversation with friends. Everyone that’s involved with this broadcast is just going to sit around and talk about football. You can do cues to each other on radio that you can’t get away with on television. The chemistry we have on television is going to be exponentially greater in a situation like radio, because it’s set up that way.”
It’s really easy to root for these two, because they’re both such likeable people. When you throw in the fact they genuinely care about each other’s success, you can see why so many people in Bristol are rooting for them on both Get Up and ESPN Radio this week. Regardless of what happens, ESPN knows what they have on the 6 p.m. SportsCenter show with Duncan and Negandhi. What they have is a team that could represent a generational TV show for many years to come.
But what exactly is happening to make it work so well?
“Because we’re good friends and we trust each other,” said Negandhi. “We know each other’s space and there’s no ego. The show is always the priority. I think we carry each other with the same respect, that I want to do well and I want you to do well. When you have that type of relationship and you can trust each other, you can take chances and risks because you know your partner has your back.”
“What I enjoy about Kevin is, first, he has my back,” said Duncan. “That’s the most important thing. You have to have each other’s back. I am only interested in what’s best for the show and we’re all like-minded in that we all have the common goal of putting on the best television. I really like Kevin as a person. He’s a great, family man and we’re both in very similar situations in that we’ve reached our dream job. We’ve worked hard to get here, we love what we do but it doesn’t define us as people. I love that we’re both in similar places in our life.”
You can catch Duncan and Negandhi, April 29th and 30th on Get Up, from 8-10 a.m. EST and ESPN Radio during all the action of the NFL Draft.
Media Noise – Episode 44
This week’s episode is all about the NFL. Demetri explains why the league embracing kids is long overdue, Andy Masur stops by to breakdown the first Manningcast, and Ryan Maguire explains why some sports radio stations are missing a golden opportunity to shine on Sundays.
Interviews Thrive On Podcasts In A Way They Can’t On Radio
“Opportunities that a podcast creates open doors to audio that is simply superior to live radio.”
Live radio vs. podcasts seems to be a heavyweight fight that isn’t ending anytime soon. Podcasts are growing so much that companies that do radio are also now offering podcasts. This column is hardly about that fight.
Instead, this is about how a podcast interview is a better way to get the best out of the guest than anything live on a radio station. This is not about downloads or clicks or sponsors. Solely about the content that is being produced.
A podcast makes the guest more comfortable and is more intimate than a live radio show. Especially in sports.
Since 2015, I have hosted and produced 656 podcasts (yes it was fun to count them) and hosted many radio shows. My current shows are called Sports with Friends, Hall of Justice, and Techstream. That last one I host with tech expert Shelly Palmer.
On radio, there is a myriad of things the host has to do besides focus on the guest.
First, there are the IDs. Program directors have always told me ID the guest every chance I get. “We are talking with Eli Manning on WFAN,” is heard 7 times during an eight-minute segment.
On a podcast, the name of the guest is on the player or app that is playing the podcast. “Episode 1. Eli Manning, New York Giants” scrolls across smartphones, car radios, or other devices constantly. Never interrupt the guest with an ID.
Then, there’s the fact that it is recorded and not live. I have a standard preamble that I say to any guest before any record light turns on.
“I will push,” I explain. “I will see where the conversation takes us, but I do tend to push. However, I’m on your side. This isn’t some expose’. If something comes up that you don’t like your answer, tell me. I’ll take it out. If there’s something that I say that is bad or wrong, tell me, I’ll take it out. This is a conversation, not an interview.”
In 656 podcasts, only one player, Bryce Harper (then of the Washington Nationals) asked me to take something out of a podcast.
We were doing Episode 54 of Sports with Friends when the subject of Dusty Baker came up. He had just been hired to manage the Nationals. I mentioned in passing that Dusty had given the eulogy at my best friend Darryl Hamilton’s funeral.
Bryce was so intrigued that he recalled the comments I had made and asked if we could pause. We then spoke for a good 10 minutes about the kind of person Dusty was. Why Darryl held him in such regard. It was a really inciteful chat. Never was on the podcast.
Still, guests do relax when told that the editing option exists. They let their guard down. The host of a podcast can ask deeper questions.
“Who was the first person you called when you found out you were traded?”
“Have you seen a life for you after football?”
“How much do you hate a certain player?”
All questions, that if asked live, could seriously backfire. So not only does the guest have a guard up, but the interviewer also has to play it relatively safe, when they are not IDing the guest for the umpteenth time.
Time constraints also don’t exist in a podcast where they are beholden on live radio. The guest is just about to tell you they did cocaine during the World Series, and you are up against the clock.
I have hosted shows over the years where the guest was phenomenal, but I screwed up the PPM clock. That was the takeaway. The clock is important on a live medium that needs to get that quarter-hour.
I try to keep my podcasts short. You wouldn’t see it from looking at the lengths of my episodes. Still, I feel that if someone wants to talk and dive into a topic and it goes a little long, I will never cut the guy off.
Ken Griffey Jr. spoke for 45 minutes with a cigar and his feet up on the phone by his pool. He was telling jokes and stories. I wouldn’t have stopped that if a train was coming. When I hosted Mariner content at KJR in Seattle, our interviews usually last 5 minutes.
Jon Morosi broke down the future of clubhouse access and how he traveled during Covid. Then he told an amazing story of his wife working in the medical field and how that impacted all of his family. Shannon Drayer of 710 KIRO got so in-depth in her arduous journey from being a coffee barista to the Mariners on-field reporter. It was split into two episodes.
Former porn star Lisa Ann talked about her decision to quit the business. Even Jason Barrett himself was Episode 173 of Sports with Friends.
(When in the past has Jason Barrett been in the same paragraph as a porn star? Note to Demetri: please leave it in.)
The radio industry is seen to be cutting costs wherever it can. Mid-market stations are not doing night shows anymore, instead offering nationally syndicated programming.
Weekends are another avenue that perplexes me. Talent that is not deemed good enough to be on during the week is often given weekend shifts. Also, some Monday-Friday hosts add a weekend shift to their duties. Here’s a theory: play podcasts. Format them to hit your PPM time marks.
They don’t have to be my podcasts, but in the crowded podcast space, surely there are sports talk podcasts that are intimate, deep, and fun. Since we live in a data-driven age, let’s see how a radio station fares playing high-quality podcasts or portions of them, vs. weekend hosts.
Program directors often worry about the outdated nature of a podcast. That sells the podcaster short. As someone who has been in the podcast space since 2003, I know how to make them timeless, and companies make shows often enough, that rarely would they be outdated.
Quality shines through the speakers. The spoken-word audio format is continually evolving. Opportunities that a podcast creates open doors to audio that is simply superior to live radio.
The podcast industry is continually evolving. Radio needs to evolve as well. Then, it can be a fair fight.
National Voices Can Work For Local Clients
“Distance, like absence, can make the heart grow fonder.”
Selling personalities is one of the hottest trends in media today. Sure, most of the buzz is around social media influencers, but radio has long had a relationship with its audience based on personal connections between host and listener. And nobody has a better relationship with their audience than a sports radio host.
I am sure you are leveraging your local hosts by now. Live spots, testimonials, remotes, and promotions are all great tricks of the trade, as well as sponsored social media posts. But does your station carry syndicated shows? I am sure you do either from 7 pm-12 am Monday-Friday or on weekends.
In 2018, The Ticket in Boise, Idaho brought CBS Sports Radio host Damon Amendolara and his co-host, Shaun Morash, to town for a Boise State football game. Damon had just switched to mornings from evenings, and his show aired in Boise from 4 am-8 am Monday – Friday. His ratings were decent, but nothing that stood out considering the daypart. It was thought to be risky to sell him into sandwich shops, pizza places, appearances at local legend hangouts, and so forth.
Boise State head football coach and QB Bryan Harsin and Brett Rypien did a live shot on the show from the on-campus bookstore. At dark thirty. It all worked. DA and Morash were hits! Everywhere they went, lines and crowds awaited them and they hit spots in a two-county area. The few days of appearances worked so well that DA is back in Boise three years later, this time for a week. Now, DA is doing his show from resort hotels 2.5 hours away, taking riverboat adventure fishing trips in Hell’s Canyon, craft beer tours for his sidekick Andrew Bogusch and hosting college football viewing parties at brewpubs. Every station that carries syndicated shows probably has a DA success story waiting to happen.
Start by listening to the shows, know the benchmarks and quirks of the national personalities or call the affiliate rep and ask. Does the talent discuss their love of beer, BBQ, pizza, whatever? If they do, then go ahead and sell them to a local client. The national talent can do the spot and endorse your client. If it’s a product, send one to them. Figure out how to get them a pizza. If it’s a service, do a zoom call with the client and let them start a relationship. Include some social media elements with video. The video can be used in social media and can sit on the client’s website. Yours too!
If you want to bring the talent to town, do it for a big game, local event, or 4th of July parade, and the sponsors will follow. Run a promo during the talent’s daypart asking local sponsors to text in to reserve their promotional spot. Have the talent cut liners asking the same thing. Take the NFL Sunday morning host and sell a promo to a sports bar where the host zooms in to a table or room full of listeners, and they watch a portion of a game together. Or sell the same idea to a national chain and do an on-air contest for a listener to have a home watch party with the zoomed-in host complete with food and beverages from your sponsors sent to both locations. How about sending your #1 BBQ joint that handles mail orders and sends some food for the talent? They can videotape themselves reheating the BBQ and make some great Facebook and Instagram videos.
Distance, like absence, can make the heart grow fonder. Try selling a nationally syndicated host inside your market. I promise you’ll like it.
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