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Adam Delevitt: There Is Life After Sports Radio

“There are times when you think as a PD that what is coming out of your speakers is the most important piece of content that’s out there, and what you sometimes forget is how small that bubble is that you’re in.”

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It is a little hard to believe Adam Delevitt isn’t with ESPN 1000 anymore. After more than 21 years with the station, he left the building in November 2019.

The Athletic, December 2019
The Athletic, December 2019

So what is he up to today? Delevitt just started a new position with Rush Street Interactive (RSI), which you probably know better as BetRivers. He serves as the Director of Broadcast and Streaming Media. It is the kind of role and company he knew he wanted even before he left ESPN 1000.

“When the Pro and Amateur Sports Protection Act was struck down by the Supreme Court in May of 2018, I knew that I wanted to be involved in this business,” Adam Delevitt told me via email. “I always tried to push sports betting content on air at ESPN1000, even to the chagrin of some hosts. It always ‘moved the needle’ in ratings and I always thought it was important for talent to know the lingo,  at the very least. This role will allow me to manage, create, and direct broadcast and streaming content for Rush Street Interactive. I also will be part of the marketing group, and fill needs where they appear when it relates to broadcast and streaming content. I’m thrilled to get to work with such an extremely talented group of people who all share the same vision on the bright future of the gaming industry, especially bright at RSI.”

I wanted to get his perspective on the broadcast industry and a number of things surrounding it, now that he is outside of the business and can still offer more than two decades of inside perspective. But this is an extra ordinarily busy time for Adam Delevitt. He just started this new chapter last month.

To accommodate the new reality and schedule, I emailed Adam a series of questions. Here

DEMETRI RAVANOS: What kind of audio content have you been consuming since exiting ESPN 1000?

ADAM DELEVITT: I love listening, always have and hopefully always will. I always have something to listen to and there is so much content out there. I’ve been consuming tons of sports betting content from so many great sources. General interest content, The Howard Stern Show, and I’ve been sampling lots of podcasts, from a variety of different industries. Also, I love listening to music and The Grateful Dead channel on Sirius is my go-to!

DR: How are you consuming it? Are you able to enjoy audio/radio as just entertainment, or is programmer’s brain hard to turn off?

AD: It’ll always be part of my routine, and yes, I enjoy it just as entertainment! Harder at first, but that came and went faster than expected! I am enjoying listening, but still take notes and do airchecks in my head but that’s where it ends.

DR: Now that you are outside the business, what advice would you give PDs about how their products fit into the audience’s world?

AD: I’d say don’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole. There are times when you think as a PD that what is coming out of your speakers is the most important piece of content that’s out there, and what you sometimes forget is how small that bubble is that you’re in. If PDs could step away from that everyday circus every now and again, it would be beneficial to them and their staff. Issues always seem so much larger than they really are behind those walls of a station.

PDs should try to take more listening days getting out of the station a day or two/month. Driving around and consuming content, like your everyday listeners, helps a lot.  It’s easy to get stuck in the office with the latest sales or marketing fire that you’ve been asked to deal with, but at the end of the day PDs are tasked with driving ratings and that should always stay top of mind. Shows and stations can only get better if feedback is provided in a timely manner. Also, it helps you adjust to your entire audience.

DR: How do you see the industry treating the PD role? Will we have more Mark Chernoff’s in the future or does it seem like the days of 20-25 year runs at a single station are over?

AD: Since I still have many friends who are still trying to be like Mitch Rosen or Mark Chernoff, I hope they all make it that long. What those two guys have done for NY and Chicago sports talk will have long lasting effects and is an amazing accomplishment. With media companies showing less patience than ever to produce, the industry could look like a mix of the old school and new school in the next few years.

Since I was fortunate to spend 21 years with ESPN Radio, I’m hoping the future of the industry still has room for long time station runs!

DR: How do you view the two Chicago stations’ lineups right now? We’ve seen a lot of change in the last 6-12 months.

AD: Some changes take time, but it looks like baseball will continue to give lifts to both stations.  Cubs obviously draw more attention than the Sox, and this coming from a die-hard White Sox fan. But it’s just the reality of it. I will say it is nice to see both teams playing on both sports stations currently.

I don’t listen as much as I thought I would, but I still like to hear what my former guys like Waddle, Silvy, Carmen, Jurko, and Kap have to say when it’s a big local sports news day.

DR: How much has your sports radio prepared you for this position with BetRivers? What is wildly different about the gig from programming?

AD: I think my overall time with ESPN prepared me tremendously for this type of role. My knowledge runs deep from the other side of media deals and can help assess value with current media partnerships as well as future strategic partnerships.  I also was part of the ESPN radio local push with our affiliates and making sure the network content and local O&O content all got funneled to the right people and in doing that, I was able to build many relationships around the country, and in the ESPN circle of networks.

The difference is with regular sports news cycle content, you really must serve many broad areas in terms of topics, especially when thinking local. Talking about sports betting and casino gaming comes easy to us because we know the audience here and we know how to serve them properly without veering into other areas of content. Being able to focus on this area and see all the growth potential is exciting and this company (RSI) has an amazing vision lead by President Richard Schwartz, COO Mattias Stetz, and Marketing Director, Terry Dugan!

DR: As sports betting spreads across states and the content becomes more widely available on broadcast platforms, what is the minimum knowledge that you feel programmers and talent need?

AD: The talent should at the very least know the lingo and ins and outs of sports betting. I believe the programmers need to know so much more, and even make it part of their daily routine. If their audience is thinking about it daily, why shouldn’t that station serve that up daily?

The United States of sports betting - Where all 50 states stand on  legalization
ESPN.com, April 2021

They also should familiarize themselves of their state’s gambling and sports betting laws. They need to be experts because they will get questions internally from everyone including salespeople to show producers, to listeners reaching out looking for advice, or help with a parlay. Programmers should make sure that they treat this market with smart, experienced staffs because this is the future and it’s here!

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Jim Cutler

    May 3, 2021 at 3:24 pm

    Adam is a damn good guy. Well deserved.

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BSM Writers

Gary Bettman Wants You To Have More Access

“Both of these partnerships we have are outstanding examples of being extraordinarily fan-friendly.”

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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.

Bettman says NHL must be ready to adapt, adjust in shortened season | CBC  Sports

“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.

AK Other | Oln X Nhl Hockey Sewn Jersey Versus | Poshmark

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.

NHL lockout: League cancels entire preseason schedule | The Star

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.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise Podcast – Episode 27

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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.

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BSM Writers

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.”

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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.

Twins

  • 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.  

Opposites

  • 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. 

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