In 1981, the first music video to be shown on MTV was the Buggles hit “Video Killed The Radio Star”. In the book ‘I Want My MTV’ Trevor Horn said about the song, “It came from this idea that technology was on the verge of changing everything. Video recorders had just come along, which changed people’s lives. We saw people start making videos as well, and were excited by it. It felt like radio was the past and video was the future. There was a shift coming.”
The video and the song served as an accurate prediction of the future. MTV was born, and videos became a way music was consumed. The same can be said of talk radio. Nowadays, radio shows are simulcast on TV and internet streams, and a large part of the audience watches, rather than listens on traditional radio. But the idea of technology changing something that has been around for generations is nothing new. It’s happening every day.
Online wagering started in the mid 90’s with operations based out of the Caribbean. Within a few years, more and more outlets starting popping up, with major bookmakers like William Hill getting involved. There was the online poker boom of the early 2000s too, but it wasn’t until recent legislation, that the online sports betting boom really began. Some can argue, it’s still going on.
There are 17 states currently with some form of online betting. 9 have full mobile betting with no in-person sign up required. Look at New Jersey, which has surpassed Las Vegas in terms of handle, mobile wagering accounts for the majority of the sports betting revenue. The revenue from retail Sportsbooks actually went down from 2019-2020, surely due to the pandemic, but mostly due to online success. With mobile betting numbers expected to grow even further, the question becomes, is a physical space even necessary? Has the traditional brick and mortar Sportsbook become irrelevant?
We’ve seen a combination of things when it comes to mobile betting. Traditional retail outlets trying to get into the mobile space, and online providers trying to gain physical locations. Yaniv Sherman, Head of U.S. and SVP at 888 Holdings, which operates 888 Sport, says that its easier for digital companies to capitalize on retail opportunities rather than retail books attempting to digitize. He thinks if you want an in person location, it needs to become more than just a Sportsbook.
“The reality is once mobile or online is approved in a state, then it sort of changes the balance because everybody’s carrying their sports book in their pocket. So there, I think you have an opportunity to create something which is more of an entertainment destination that has a betting component to it, rather than a full fledged sports book. The reason why I’m approaching it that way is that we’re trying to position ourselves as a recreational destination, as an entertainment destination, as opposed to a hardcore betting or gambling outfit.”
We’ve seen this already, to an extent. Circa built “Stadium Swim”, with its multiple pools and large video screen. It’s an attraction, rather than just a place to bet. Even the Sportsbook inside Circa offers a variety of experiences separating itself from traditional retail outlets. But if Nevada, which has mobile restrictions such as in person set up, went full mobile wagering, would retail suffer? Probably not so much because Las Vegas is still a destination. But elsewhere? Absolutely.
“Once you can bet on your mobile device or online, there’s no real reason to get in a car and go elsewhere, unless it gives you other added value. Watch a game and bet if you’re going to hang out and have a social experience and do that as part of a betting experience.”
Sherman continued talking about retail locations for digital outlets and vice versa.
“It will become another marketing channel. It will be part of your strategy, but by no means will it be the core of your strategy. Any state that has only done retail, the effect is minor. Traditionally the existing brick and mortar casinos and gaming facilities took sort of a crawl walk, run approach. They’ve invested in infrastructure. Now, someone comes along with mobile and harvesting all the upside, I can understand why they want to make sure they’re part of that process.”
Sherman expanded on the subject, adding “Most of the large land-based venues or brands now have a digital strategy. I think they’re more inclined to move forward. But retail or brick and mortar is not a necessity. You can run pure online states and see the growth. Look at Tennessee. Look at Colorado where the venues are very, very small. Growth comes from online. This is how you reach. You have to come to terms that if you’re a successful digital operator, anywhere between 80 and 95% of the people playing with you, have never been to your property.”
So why invest in a physical location? Well, the answer comes down to your business strategy.
“You have to think about what would be the most effective way to deploy capital. Setting up something like Circa is amazing, but it is a very expensive exercise. If you have a physical venue today, that could be part of your strategy and also a point of differentiation. But when you set up something like Circa, you need to think if I had a full-blown online strategy, where should I put my capital? Should I spend these millions of dollars on these huge screens and this amazing experience, or do I put them online and acquire more customers? That’s your balance or tradeoff between what you can or should do if you’re publicly traded or generally we want to value your company. You get a better multiple running an online or putting your money into digital than you do on physical venues right now. But again, two different angles.”
“I think the answer is physical venues need to keep partnering with online ones to create that experience. Speaking from our end and even the bigger operators, we don’t know how to set up something like Circa. This is something that’s not our core business. They are much better at it than we are. I think the key is how do you connect the two when you get the brand awareness, the experience, and they get more foot traffic through the door than your online channels? So you get the word out there, and when people arrive in Vegas, they go into it to bet with their recognizable brand, which happens to be at those venues.”
With Covid restrictions easing, and summer months coming up, retail sportsbooks could see a rise in revenue. However, unless they provide more than just a means to place a bet, and become an entertainment destination, they won’t even come close to the amount of money mobile wagering brings in. Even if they attract more in person betting, it still won’t come close to mobile. With more and more online outlets entering markets, it’s only a matter of time before Video Kills the Radio Star.
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.