You don’t have to be a fan of Dan Le Batard to celebrate Tuesday’s news that DraftKings is investing $50 million in The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz and Meadowlark Media. Another company chose to get into the interesting business. That is good news for any content creator.
As a fan of the show, I was elated to read the news when it first dropped. A little over 24 hours later, I am still happy the Le Batard crew’s gamble to leave ESPN paid off. My elation has turned to optimism with a side of “wait and see” though.
Companies getting involved in the content business is good news. Companies investing in established products and then changing the content to fit their message? That’s not so great.
I wouldn’t say that is what I think DraftKings will do to Dan Le Batard, Stugotz, and the Shipping Container. It is a worry that lives in the front of my mind though. I get the show, but the second the show becomes more picks than actual conversation, I’m out.
Gambling is a trend sports radio has to embrace if the format is going to continue to thrive. My question has always been ‘is sports radio embracing gambling at a rate considerably faster than the population actually is’? Are shows more into gambling content than the actual audience is?
Jeremiah Crowe, program director of KNBR in San Francisco told me that the embrace of gambling by sports radio reminded him of his days in Bristol. While with ESPN Radio, the staff was told to treat fantasy sports in the exact opposite way. It was a fad. Niche talk was reserved for weekend shows and podcasts and that was good enough.
Crowe says gambling is different though, because laws had to change for sports gambling to enjoy its current boom. It means plenty of these companies are now in the market for the very first time.
“This time around with sports gambling, everyone is diving in head-first because of the huge advertising blitz,” he told me in an email. “You have the likes of DraftKings, FanDuel, Caesars Ent, MGM, etc (not to mention hundreds of local/regional casino resorts) all battling for impressions, ad inventory and the all-important ‘install base’ for their apps. Specifically DraftKings & FanDuel are masters of the universe, as millions of people installed those two apps BEFORE the major states began to legalize sports gambling. That’s an insane head start to have on everyone, especially the casino operators limited to Nevada for the better part of a century.”
Forgive the pun, but Crowe doesn’t see embracing this money and these advertisers as a gamble. It is just good business in his mind.
“Sports radio talent with a national brand are smart to push their proverbial chips to the middle here, because the big advertising/endorsement money is likely already inside their buildings (as opposed to smaller fantasy & podcasting opportunities), not to mention the much younger audience that is engaging with these gaming operators on a daily basis. We’re not betting on sports gambling content at that point, it’s a no-lose proposition.”
I am not saying that I know better, nor am I saying that Jeremiah is wrong. His points make a lot of sense. But are the financial numbers blinding the industry to the potential for the bottom to fall out? It’s easy to draw a parallel between gambling and drugs. Sure, there are people that are passionate about them, but a much larger part of the audience has never done them and many never will. If Dan Le Batard or any other talent who’s built their reputation and fanbase on something other than gambling starts working in talk about spreads and money lines, doesn’t that alienate the people that made them popular enough to invest in in the first place?
Gavin Spittle of 105.3 in Dallas told me I am focusing on the wrong word in the phrase “sports betting content.” The numbers don’t have to be the content.
“We can use this information to our advantage,” the Dallas PD told me. “I think sports betting has the stigma of just reading spreads and making predictions. The evolution is tremendous as far as various information. It’s an amazing show prep tool when used correctly. Once again, the focus is on good content and analytics if used right can help fuel that content.”
Gavin also says that any concern about DraftKings trying to change what Dan Le Batard does is overblown.
“[DraftKings] are partnering with the show for a reason. They want to be a part of quality content. I think DraftKings is really smart in their partnerships. As is FanDuel, who we have a partnership with. They are highly visible and much of their content becomes organic.”
Crowe agrees. He doesn’t think DraftKings has to be shy about shoehorning its message in LeBatard’s show, but he also thinks the company is smart enough to know it doesn’t need to do business that way.
“Dan’s the perfect talent to try new advertising models with because he’s great at making ad integrations funny & entertaining. In a way, if the copy comes across corny or over-the-top, he’ll be brutally honest and crush the script live on the air…but in a good way that will create a memorable moment that ADDS value to the client and agency. Advertisers want on-air talent to buy into the ‘ad-lib’ mentality where their message seamlessly fits into the flow of a show. He’s the perfect fit for DraftKings in every regard, mainly because he doesn’t fit the formulaic and decades-old ‘dive-in, reset, tease, hit the clock’ approach preached by all big box corporate operators. I’d think Dan and his crew will thrive in the DraftKings ecosystem where pushing the boundaries IS the mission statement.”
When the new partnership was announced, Dan Le Batard told The Miami Herald “The thing that I chose was freedom. Every time I’ve negotiated anywhere was for freedom, not money.”
That sets my mind at ease, as do the points made by both Gavin Spittle and Jeremiah Crowe. Still, I don’t think it is unfair to wonder if at some point, DraftKings will flex its monetary muscle.
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.