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.
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.