Philly is in John Kincade’s blood. The sports radio host grew up in Broomall, Pennsylvania, which is around 12 miles from Philadelphia City Hall. As he puts it, the only team John ever allowed himself to just be a stupid fan for is the Eagles. He once told his daughter, “You can root for whoever you wish in sports, but you will be an Eagles fan.” Gotta love that. It was an unforeseen path back to Philly for John after a quarter-century in Atlanta, but home never felt so good.
It’s always interesting to hear about the events that lead a big-time host to their current gig. John’s path, which includes cancer and coaching hockey, stands out especially. John talks about his deep respect for Angelo Cataldi, the radio term that he despises the most, and how Philly has drastically changed since the mid-‘90s. We also touch on his first 100 days back in Philly and John’s greatest feeling in radio. Oh, and hair. We can’t forget about that. Enjoy.
Brian Noe: What’s your sports radio path that has led to where you are now?
John Kincade: While I was in college and after college I worked for the Philadelphia Flyers doing video and statistics with their coaching staff under Mike Keenan. I also was coaching ice hockey at the time and thought maybe I wanted to be a hockey coach. That’s craziness. But I was working in the business world. When I stopped working for the Flyers, I continued my coaching career but was working in sales and marketing.
Then when sports radio took off, I got involved with Tony Bruno. He was kind enough to have me as his Flyers correspondent when he was at WCAU. That took me to an internship with WIP. My first air shift was awarded to me by Tom Bigby, God rest his soul. The man was just an absolute legend. I was going down to Atlanta with my business, but I wanted to work in sports radio on the weekends. Tom Bigby was kind enough, Tony Bruno, Angelo Cataldi — I did bits on Angelo Cataldi’s show for over three years before I moved to Atlanta. They all spoke on my behalf with Mike Thompson who was at The Fan in Atlanta. They said put this guy on weekends. Mike Thompson put me on weekends because I had a full-time job during the week. I had my foot in both pools.
Eventually I ended up getting cancer twice. I got cancer in ‘95 and then I got cancer again in ‘97. I said in ‘97 when I got sick again, I told my mom, I said if I survive this, I’m going to go work in radio because I was convinced I was going to die. I was like enough of this part-time crap. I’m going to die. I’m not going to see 40. I’m not going to see 45, 50. So why not do what I want to do? I left and I did radio and TV with the Atlanta Thrashers their first year in ‘99. I worked with Steak Shapiro and their crew at 790 The Zone. Then when they relaunched The Fan in 2000, we started Buck and Kincade and I did that for 20 years.
BN: How would you judge your first 100 days in Philly now that you’re back?
JK: I’m extremely happy the way the show has premiered and the way the show has been received. You’re launching something new and we are doing something that is completely foreign to the market as far as the kind of show we do. Thankfully it appears the younger sports radio listeners are flocking to it and loving it. That’s what I love to hear. I’ve been in the business long enough to know what works.
It’s an intimidating thing to come home because you want to do your best. The difference is, instead of an audience listening to me every day, I’ve got at least 150 people that actually know my cell phone number that are listening to the show every day. I have a huge extended family. Within a 10-mile radius I probably have 15 to 20 cousins. I’m constantly getting that immediate feedback. Sort of like you guys at Barrett Sports Media, you have your little focus groups, well guess what, I’ve got a focus group every day on my cell phone.
I came in the door and I told Beasley Media we’re going to create this show and I said we’re going to break some eggs. We’re going to do things differently and we’re going to resist the urge to do exactly what has been done in Philly sports radio forever. And hopefully the audience will be attracted to it, stick with us, spend more time with us. We are very, very pleased with how we’ve premiered.
BN: What’s the biggest difference with your show compared to other shows in Philly?
JK: We probably take around 15 percent of the calls that any other show in the market takes. I’m going to say 15 percent, maybe 20. There are great, successful hosts in this market, some people who are really legends of the game. Guys I compete with like Angelo Cataldi, Mike Missanelli doing afternoon drive on our station, Anthony Gargano who I follow. These are guys who have been here forever and they do their thing. They do what has worked for them and what this community has fallen in love with them for.
I felt I had an opportunity to come in and do something that I had done on the national level for years where I did not take many calls. I did seven years at ESPN Radio with The John Kincade Show and then eight years on CBS Sports Radio. For 15 years I did it and I said okay, I know this works. I didn’t have to be caller driven. I hate the term caller-driven radio. It is the number one pet peeve to me.
When I talk to young people about getting into the business I say look, the world is going toward podcasting. What do we all want to do? We all want to binge watch. We all want to watch a show on our schedule. My wife wants to watch three episodes of one show in one night. I do not. That’s not how I consume media. My wife loves that. I said, well radio is moving in that direction. And guess what you’re not going to have?
What you need to do is you need to entertain. You need to catch people’s attention and entertain. I think relying on caller-driven radio to me is an idea of saying, well I’ve got a show, and I’m asking people to come and listen to my show, but I have no idea what the content is going to be. It’s going to be provided by random people who pick up the phone and call. To me, and just for me, it’s sort of what sports radio was 20 years ago. I don’t believe it’s what young listeners want and I think the numbers are bearing that out.
BN: What’s it like for you to compete against your mentor, Angelo Cataldi?
JK: The respect, admiration, and flat-out love that I have for Angelo Cataldi will never change, has never changed. He was involved every step of the way when I left Atlanta unceremoniously, and was looking for a job. He flat out told me and I’ll quote, he goes, ‘If these people are dumb enough not to hire you, you go and do whatever you gotta do.’ I had other opportunities including satellite radio. Angelo flat out said it to me, he said whatever you got to do, you take care of your family in the way I took care of mine. You worry about your family. You worry about finding a job that works for you.
What I didn’t expect and I’ll be very honest with you, I did not expect that if you had told me the day I found out I was leaving Atlanta, that I was going to be on 97.5 The Fanatic, I wouldn’t have expected it. But I was blown away by their absolute commitment to wanting to shake things up and do some things differently. To feel wanted? Especially when anyone gets told you make too much money, we can’t afford you, so your contract is not being renewed. That was painful to me because I didn’t understand the concept. Buck and Kincade in the South, we had just celebrated our 20-year anniversary on the air in Atlanta. When you get told well we’re going to move on, we’re just going to put an unceremonious end to it, it’s a hit to the ego. It was like I can’t believe this is happening to me.
But to have people with Beasley Media, and Joe Bell who’s the market manager, and Chuck Damico who is the program director, they literally had the most low-key, highly effective sales pitch I’ve ever heard. What do you want to do? What do you want to create here? How do you see this happening? Everything was directed at me. And honestly every single other place I talked to was saying more along the lines of well here’s what we do, and we think you’d be a good fit for what we do. The blank slate is what drew me to The Fanatic. I give them a lot of credit for taking that chance of wanting to do things differently.
BN: Now that you ended up in Philly at a rival station, what impact has that had on your relationship with Angelo?
JK: It has not had any impact on it at all. From the moment that I began the job search, three different times during the process of deciding what I was going to do, he was one of my first calls. He counseled me along the way. I bounced some ideas off of him about who was talking to me. He was extremely supportive. The day that I decided to take the job with The Fanatic, my first call was to Angelo Cataldi. I picked up the phone and called him because I owed him that respect.
This is a man who helped me launch my career. He’s a guy who taught me and let me see the bag of tricks. David Copperfield let me backstage and I watched this man. I got to see how he performed some of his magic. I do things a lot differently than Angelo, but one thing I learned from him is that you have to have your vision, create loyalty, create connections with your audience, and nobody’s done that better in this market than Angelo Cataldi, period. Ang and I still talk at times in the five months I’ve been home. We were going to make plans to try to have lunch soon. Hopefully that’s going to happen now that all the COVID stuff has lifted.
I couldn’t be more proud to call him a mentor. I’ve had a few. Howard Eskin was a guy I interned under. Tony Bruno was a huge influencer on me, all these guys. I’m so honored that I ever just got to see them do their craft. But in a weird way, I don’t want to be any of them. I want to be my own way, my own image, my own portrayal of what I want to do and it’s because of seeing guys like that do it their way for so long that I have the ability to say, hey here’s what I want to do. Let’s go do it.
Ang couldn’t be any more gracious, any more of a class act. It’s a mutual admiration. I know he continues to kick ass. He knows I’m coming for him and he’s like okay bring it on, dude. [Laughs] I’m ready for it. It’s great because we refuse to play — Philly loves to play up a thing called radio wars. It’s because there have been personalities who’ve worked in this town who tried to create the radio war. It’s not the ‘90s. It’s not the era of Howard Stern. That’s trite. And more importantly, I don’t believe the audience cares if you like a host at another station or anything like that. That’s like high school lunch table crap to me. It’s something that never attracted me as a listener.
BN: What’s your reaction to Spike Eskin going to WFAN?
JK: Well Spike’s taking over a very prominent office; I’ll tell you that much. I had the pleasure with my network show to get to know Mark Chernoff a bit. Over the past two years, to have Mark Chernoff in my cell phone, and a few times to just be able to say, can I talk to you about something? He’d say, 2 o’clock work? 2:30 work? He always had time for me. Great kindness, great insight into the industry. He’s a freakin’ legend. To have the opportunity to have worked under him for a few years was my honor. He helped me also during the whole job search. ‘That situation might not be the best one for you. You want to work under this kind of management.’ I picked his brain. The guy is a treasure trove of information.
I’ve known Spike a long time. What I know about Spike Eskin is he’s a competitor. I think he’s going to bring a new juice to the network. He’s a guy that I think understands there’s different ways for different guys to approach things and to do their job. I think that CBS Sports Radio will be lucky to have him.
BN: Has Philly changed at all since the first time you did radio there?
JK: I know this town like the back of my hand, and I’ve got to tell you, it’s changed. That’s something that has been one of those fun parts of the first 100 days of the show, is learning that this fan base has changed since I left. It’s different than when I left in the ‘90s. I believe it’s a kinder, gentler fan base. I know anybody hearing that about Philadelphia; they’ll laugh at me. But I would completely disagree having grown up here, and having been a part of these fan bases my entire life. It’s a kinder, gentler fan base.
It’s a fan base where people really get up in their feelings about defending the athlete they love, defending the athlete from criticism. It’s interesting. I think it’s a more introspective fan base than when I left.
Conversations are different. The visceral reaction to things seems more civilized from what I remember in my youth. That has been the wildest part of the journey of getting back home here, has been getting to know my fellow fans again, and getting to know what they think, and how they feel, and how they react. I think it’s a much more relaxed fan base than it was when I left. And I never would have said anything about Philly sports was relaxed when I was growing up. It’s completely different.
BN: What do you think is the best and the worst part of Philly sports radio?
JK: The best part is I believe this market has had some of the greatest long-tenured figures sit behind microphones that have helped to shape narratives, discussions, and fan bases for generations. When you’re talking a Mike Missanelli, and a Howard Eskin, and an Angelo Cataldi; these are icons of the industry that are known countrywide. These are guys that have had major, major success. This is a hotbed of sports radio.
What I think is the worst part about it, I don’t believe there is enough reinvention of the wheel. I hear a lot of the same. I think that younger listeners want different, want to try something different, try different approaches. I think that’s what I would tend to say.
BN: What do you think is the best and worst part of Atlanta sports radio?
JK: [Laughs] Boy, I have a perfect chance there. I think the worst part of it is, in Philadelphia almost every single person turning on their radio is an Eagles fan, Sixers fan, a Phillies fan. I tell the story when I moved to Atlanta in 1995, there were 2.7 million people. When I packed up to come up to Philadelphia, Christmas vacation of this year, there were 6.8 million people in Atlanta; 4.1 million people over a quarter of a century. That’s huge. But what happened is, they didn’t just give birth to four million Falcon fans. It’s Bears fans. It’s Eagles fans. It’s Giants fans. It’s Dolphin fans that come to Atlanta.
Atlanta is a melting pot. It’s a much more difficult place to do a radio show in sports. I can tell you that. People love college football in the South. That’s great. Unfortunately the audience has six or seven different teams that have fan bases in your market. So if you go too specific, it’s a tune out for the other fan bases. And if you go too broad, people don’t hear enough about their team or enough detail, they’re not into it. It’s a very difficult tightrope to walk with the fan bases. Whereas in Philly, a Monday after an Eagles game, the show programs itself.
BN: Are you a guy where scripting teases or parts of the show helps you relax and have fun?
JK: No question. Preparation is what makes me relax and have fun. My wife and daughter call me Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. They call me Sheldon. And they say it lovingly. But those who have ever worked with me know that there’s a hell of a lot of Sheldon Cooper in me.
I speak my mind. I don’t have a filter. I tell you exactly what I thought about a call, a segment, preparation, whatever; I’m not very good at political correctness or mincing words. It’s probably what has helped me have a good career, but it also makes it hard because everybody that I work with has to work the way I want to work. Because it’s the only way it’s going to work. If I’m going to do the show, we have to prepare the same and we have to have a routine and a regimented approach to things.
BN: What has been one of your favorite all-time memories in your sports radio career?
JK: Oh gosh. I would tell you that I don’t believe anybody in the business has my resume of fill-in hosting. I filled in for Mike Greenberg, Scott Van Pelt, Dan Patrick, Mike Tirico; I filled in four and a half years for Colin Cowherd. I don’t do Mount Rushmore shows, but if you were doing one on national sports radio, you’ve got it right there. And I filled in for all of them.
To sit in their chairs, in front of their mics, do their shows, that will forever be to me the greatest ‘oh my gosh’ feeling of the entire thing. I didn’t start full time in a media career until I was 33. To have accomplished that is truly incredible and absolutely a blessing. Just to think of all those people, and I didn’t mention a bunch of others, I’ve been very, very fortunate to do that.
BN: With as much as you’ve accomplished, is there anything else you’d like to experience?
JK: I want to have just a share of the great success that my mentors have had. Honestly I have missed my national radio audience. For 15 years doing my own show, getting to fill in for all those other great hosts over the years, I’ve missed it. It’s only been five months but I’ve missed it. I think at some point I will venture back into doing a national radio show. That is something I would like to do. But I’ve got a job to do right now. Beasley Media and The Fanatic gave me the keys to a great vehicle and they expect me to drive. They expect me to drive ratings, they expect me to drive revenue, and they expect me to make the entire radio station better. That has to be my focus and that’s my desire. I’m going to teach too. Now that I’m back in Philadelphia, I would love to teach a radio broadcasting class to college kids at my alma mater Temple University. That’s something on my list of things that I want to do.
BN: Before you go, you’ve got great hair, John. I need any hair advice you have to share.
JK: Redken products. I like the Redken products. When you use a moisturizer, what you’ve got to do, guys, you don’t wash your hair that day. Don’t use shampoo and then use conditioner. Just rinse your hair and use conditioner. You don’t need to shampoo your hair every day. And I would tell guys, embrace your hair color. One thing I will never do is have my fingernails fall off from clinging to my youth.
Jimmy Pitaro Deserves Some Credit For Monday Night
“Pitaro and ESPN’s executive team had to sign off on a broadcast in which Peyton and Eli were in separate remote locations, without a host to play traffic cop and guide continuity between plays. This all could have blown up in ESPN’s face.”
Over the last several months, Jimmy Pitaro and ESPN got raked over the coals after the New York Times story on Rachel Nichols and Maria Taylor and the subsequent fallout that was effectively a mushroom cloud and the talk of the industry. Ultimately, the buck stops with the leader, but fairness should dictate that leaders also receive accolades for great accomplishments. After just one episode, we can confidently say that landing Peyton and Eli Manning for Monday Night Football qualifies in that regard.
Every TV network executive would have walked from Alaska to Omaha to land Peyton Manning. Andrew Marchand has accurately referred to him as the “white whale of sports TV”; he was so sought after that CBS, who has arguably the best color commentator in all of sports in Tony Romo, tried to lure Manning to the booth before ultimately reaching a new deal with Romo. Any way you slice it, getting the Manning brothers for 10 episodes of Monday Night Football on ESPN2 was a major coup for Pitaro, ESPN, and Disney.
Nonetheless, it was not without risk. Pitaro and ESPN’s executive team had to sign off on a broadcast in which Peyton and Eli were in separate remote locations, without a host to play traffic cop and guide continuity between plays. This all could have blown up in ESPN’s face. Imagine the chatter if the Manning broadcast was a dud, which it easily could have been given their format is unlike anything that has ever been tried before.
Instead, Peyton and Eli were a revelation. Peyton, with his combination of star-power, personality, and brain processing, is remarkably unique. During the fourth quarter of a close game between the Raiders and Ravens, he was somehow able to simultaneously interview Russell Wilson while immediately breaking down the film of all 22 players from key plays of a game he wasn’t even there for. Eli didn’t get as many words in, but when he did speak he had funny deadpan humor.
Full disclosure: I was traveling during the first half, which by many accounts was not as well executed as the second half, after they settled in.
There will undoubtedly be a number of attempts to replicate this announcing format, but it’s unlikely that any of them will work as well as this one, because none of them will have Peyton Manning. Remember how excruciating it was when TNT tried to do Players Only broadcasts for the NBA? Kevin Clark, speaking on The Ringer’s Press Box podcast with Bryan Curtis, called this a “Black Swan” event — it’ll never happen again because Peyton is one of one.
Anyways, back to Pitaro and ESPN: They’ve certainly taken their lumps and that’s life when you lead an organization that is the bellwether of the industry, facing myriad challenges, some of which are structural (cord-cutting eating into hefty subscriber fees) and some of which are self-inflicted (if you’ve read this far you already know what many of those are and there’s no need to re-hash).
However, it bears mentioning that in addition to making the content compromises — and opening up the checkbook for millions of dollars — to land Peyton Manning, Pitaro and ESPN have had a lot of big wins over the last several years. They locked up a monopoly on SEC football rights (in a deal so substantial the conference lured Oklahoma and Texas to join), expanded their NFL deal to get into the Super Bowl rotation, bought up all the UFC rights (which, more than anything else, has propelled the growth of ESPN+ to 15 million subscribers), and brought back the NHL. Sure, all of these wins probably came as a result of bidding the most money, but I’m old enough to remember when ESPN was supposed to be on a death spiral. Reports of ESPN’s demise — at least in live rights; talk programming and journalism have not remained the priorities they once were — were premature.
ESPN has been described as an ocean tanker, which turns very slowly. Jimmy Pitaro deserves some credit for his steering, in the macro, through some turbulent waters.
Did The Manningcast Work?
“The first show was great, but as is the case most of the time, there is room to grow.”
Is it a variety show? Is it a podcast? The first of 10 scheduled Manning MegaCasts, hosted by Peyton and Eli Manning, on ESPN2 proved it was a little bit all of the above. It was almost like Beavis and Butthead meets Statler and Waldorf. It was fun to watch the Manning brothers poke fun at each other and at the same time, criticize some of the action they saw on the field.
The show debuted as an alternative to the regular Monday Night Football broadcast and was met with rave reviews. To me, there was some great, some not so great, and definitely some room to grow.
I love the concept, providing an alternative for those that would rather be entertained than tune into a traditional broadcast. Now, as a play-by-play broadcaster, it makes me pause to think about what the future may hold. There will always be a spot for a traditional broadcast, especially with viewers that have a rooting interest in the game. I’m not sure that hardcore fans of the Ravens and Raiders were tuned in for more than a passing glance. Those folks want to see the game, not the fluff or interviews and the like, offered on the alternative broadcast. That fluff though is what will earn ESPN those fringe viewers that are curious and intrigued by what a “ManningCast” might have to offer them.
Sitting down to watch the game, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I know that Peyton has a personality that in some cases is larger than life. I was pleasantly surprised to see what Eli brought to the table as well. The guys played off each other well, each taking a turn to take a shot at the other. I’ll get into some of the best of those barbs a little later.
Peyton is comfortable in front of the camera and has no trouble talking. That was the issue I had early in the game. The elder Manning really dominated the conversation. There were no times in the first few minutes of the first quarter that I felt I could take a breath because so much was coming at me. They really didn’t allow the game to breathe at all. The constant conversation while entertaining at times just kept on coming. Peyton was talking fast and once in a while he was talking over Eli.
It didn’t help that the Manning’s were in different studios. I wondered if there was a “delay” in their feeds and if that was the reason for talking over one another at times. The delay was quite evident when Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson joined the brothers for the later stages of the game. Wilson seemingly couldn’t get a word in, because Peyton and Eli were talking over him.
Peyton has that quality to be able to teach the game in a way that it’s understandable. Some of his commentary was a look behind the curtain at how he played and viewed the game. Knowing what to expect when coming to the line of scrimmage, understanding the coverages and realizing what teams are trying to do to disguise things. It was fascinating to hear the brothers go through play calls and how it is relayed from the coordinator to the quarterback and finally to the team. You aren’t going to get that on a traditional game broadcast.
It was also impressive to hear the guys interview both former players, current players and Charles Barkley. It so often is the case that the current athletes are very guarded in what they say to a regular ole member of the media. That was not the case in the Manning Cast. From Travis Kelce not knowing who the Chiefs were playing next, to Russell Wilson calling out the NFL overtime rule. Ray Lewis was a fascinating guest, providing some great stories and terrific insight into the game he once played at such a high level. Charles Barkley, well, he’s Charles Barkley. In other words, he was as fantastic as you’d expect.
The guests added to the broadcast and made me realize that if this Manningcast actually had a host, it wouldn’t have worked as well. A broadcaster would have gotten in the way to me. Yeah, they could have used a professional at times. Maybe someone to get them into and out of the commercial breaks, because that was a little rough early in the game. But that’s the only a host could have fit in.
The first show was great, but as is the case most of the time, there is room to grow. I really think the Manning Cast would be so much better if the guys were actually in the same room. The dynamic between them, which was already great, would be that much better. Imagine them demonstrating plays on each other. Both putting on helmets and doing what they probably did as kids in their basement, roughing each other up.
Ok, so they’re a little older now, but I seriously think having them in the same place would make things much smoother. With all the technology out there, eliminating that dreaded delay between the Manning’s and their guests would improve the telecast as well.
This alternative broadcast would be a great place to teach some casual fans all about the great game of football. Not sure why this came to my mind, but like the old days of the NHL, when “Peter Puck” an animated hockey puck would teach you the game. “Peter” was part of the NBC game of the week broadcast. An animated Peyton and Eli teaching those that need to know the finer points of the game, would be spectacular.
I can’t wait to see how they improve from last week to this week and who the guests will be this time around. Hopefully, they iron out some of the small issues that plagued them in the first telecast and continue to improve. I realize that this show is unscripted and it’s supposed to be a little looser than a normal show might be, but there are some slight fixes as I’ve pointed out that will make it even better.
With all the success the Manningcast had, I can’t help but wonder how all of these accolades are being taken by the regular MNF booth. ESPN in effect has promoted and created competition for its own product. Perhaps the novelty will wear off? Maybe, but it almost seems like the Manning’s are being groomed for a possible move to the main booth. I’m not sure what the feeling is amongst all the parties, but it’s certainly a dynamic worth watching.
Here are some of my favorite moments from Manningcast show number one, in no particular order:
- Derek Carr with an overthrow on the Raiders first play from scrimmage, leading Peyton to say about the Raiders season, “Lookin’ at ah 6-11, 6-11 right now.”
- Raiders’ fans were loud during an offensive series leading to a bad snap and a few false start penalties, leading to this exchange:
“They aren’t used to it”, said Eli Manning. Then Peyton responded, “Drink your beer, quiet down and let [Derek] Carr play quarterback.”
- Peyton putting on a football helmet to demonstrate the calls at the line for the Ravens. The helmet was way too small. “Helmet doesn’t fit”, Peyton said. “Shocking that a helmet doesn’t fit you”, Eli commented. “They didn’t have a XXL helmet for that forehead.”
- With Charles Barkley as a guest, Peyton asked him what position Michael Jordan would play if he were in the NFL, “Tight End”. Then Barkley was asked about Larry Bird playing a position, “there’s no place for no slow 6’10” guys in the NFL”, said Barkley.
Charles: “that’s about it…”
- Also, with Barkley on the show…
Peyton: “Hey Charles, you ever get booed at home? Never happened to you, right?”
Barkley: “I played in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. That was a regularity.” “You were lucky, Peyton. Everybody liked you. Eli knows what it’s like to get booed at home.”
Eli: “He had that stadium trained. The fans would get fined if they talked when the Colts were on offense. If a guy was trying to order a beer, everyone would tell him to quiet down until the defense was on the field.”
Eli’s fire alarm goes off in the middle of the show.
Peyton: “Eli what’d you do?”
- With Ray Lewis on the show, the trio recalled a game where the Giants played the Ravens in Eli’s rookie season as the starting QB. The younger Manning leading the team to the line of scrimmage, calling out the defense…
Eli: “Hey #52 (Lewis) is the Mike (linebacker)”
Lewis: “No, I’m not the mike. He’s the Mike!”
Eli: “Yeah Ray’s right, the other guy’s the Mike”
It was also revealed in that game in 2004, Eli had a quarterback rating of 0.0 and of course Peyton pointed out, “the same GPA Belushi had in ‘Animal House.’”
- Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce on the Manningcast
Kelce: “[Watching this game] I’m not trying to get too technical because I think we’re playing the Chargers this week. Oh wait, maybe we’re playing Baltimore. I don’t even know — I’m getting lost in the season already.”
- Peyton about 5 minutes later: “Hey, Travis, just so you know, you do play the Ravens next week, so make sure you don’t fly to Los Angeles to play the Chargers.”
What Is The Next Advertising Money Cannon?
“In states where betting is legal, stations are having to squeeze live reads and segment sponsorships in wherever they can. Everyone is trying to make sure they aren’t leaving money on the table.”
If I could tell you that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I know there is another advertising revenue stream out there that can repeat what sportsbooks did for sports radio AND that I know exactly what it is, I could handpick my next employer and name my price.
A Supreme Court decision to make sports gambling a state issue and not a federal one completely changed the advertising landscape. In states where betting is legal, stations are having to squeeze live reads and segment sponsorships in wherever they can. Everyone is trying to make sure they aren’t leaving money on the table.
“There is no question about the significant impact sports betting has had on revenue, both from the station side as well as for our on-air personalities who have become brand ambassadors,” Dennis Gwiazdon, VP and Market Manager of Cromwell Broadcasting’s Nashville cluster told me.
Stations in states that are yet to legalize gambling can see the boom and know it is coming eventually. What about states where gambling is already legal? What about states like Alabama or Utah, which are routinely viewed as two that could realistically never legalize sports betting? Is there a boom on the horizon for them?
I spoke with managers in three different markets. I wanted to know where they saw reason for optimism. The answers were interesting.
Earlier this month, John Ourand of Sports Business Journal took a look at the deal FOX signed with crypto.com. The site is the title sponsor of the network’s College Football Extra. Ourand theorizes that could open the door for crypto companies eventually spending money on sports television the way sportsbooks do.
What is the outlook for radio? Jeff Tyler, iHeartMedia’s area president in Wisconsin, is intrigued by the idea, but he isn’t telling his sellers to go rushing out to make deals.
“There are a lot of variables around crypto,” he told me via email. “So as a company we have a plan to work within this category but not put the company at risk or do anything that could negatively affect our listeners and partners.”
Ken Brady, the sales manager at 1010XL in Jacksonville, knows that cryptocurrency has a buzz around it right now. He is not sure what the appetite for it is in terms of an ad market or what the industry’s appetite is for radio advertising.
“There is little chatter about cryptocurrency in our market or with partners,” he says. “This is something we need to understand and explore better.”
I asked all three men if there was a sector where they saw potential. Tyler had an interesting answer. He sees potential in eSports. He thinks teams and companies could benefit from connecting with stations with a dedicated listener base.
“Our brands could help them grow their fan base and activate them to attend more events in person and online.”
Gwiazdon has his eye on another vice. Just like gambling came out of the shadows and now functions under government regulation, it is only a matter of time he thinks before marijuana does the same.
“What immediately comes to mind is the legalization of marijuana at the state and, eventually, federal level,” he says. “There’s so much money in that industry – as evidenced where it has already become legal – that it could easily equal or surpass what’s happening with sports betting right now.”
What is interesting is that amongst this trio, Gwiazdon is the only one that lives in a state where there is absolutely no legal marijuana. What he sees as a potential boom for Tennessee is already legal in both Wisconsin and Florida, albeit exclusively for medical purposes.
A lot of sellers have big plans for pot and cannabis products where they are legal. Very few of them know all the answers though. That is why the RAB has a marijuana FAQ section on its website and advertising agencies specializing in marijuana have sprung up.
For 1010XL, the boom never really materialized according to Ken Brady.
“We have had little success with this category, the players who have come in seem to be interested in demos outside our strengths or have been flakey with no real appetite for a solid campaign that will work.”
Businesses built by someone following their passion for marijuana are flaky? Well, color me shocked!
Jeff Tyler told me iHeart is looking at this on a market by market basis. Wisconsin has made medical marijuana legal. Tyler can’t have his sellers approaching businesses the way sellers in neighboring states like Illinois or Michigan, where it has fully been decriminalized can.
“Until it’s fully legalized the advertiser revenue is very limited,” he said. “We have a team that leads this vertical for iHeartMedia and have states like Colorado that already have fully legalized marijuana so we have a solid plan and guidelines to follow with these advertisers. CBD is a small category with some hit spots in some markets.”
There may never be another category like sports betting. The money cannon that industry was ready to fire was unpresedented. You can’t bank on it happening again.
I asked Dennis Gwiazdon if it was possible that the radio industry will have to play a very proactive role in creating the next boom. He told me that may be the best way to think about it. What he is sure of is that no idea can be dismissed as the industry looks to find another stream of revenue that has the potential of the sportsbooks.
“We definitely have to get smarter at how we generate revenue. Relying on the old, tried and true ways won’t hold up forever. The good news is our business model is already undergoing a sea of change in terms of how we scale our radio/digital/entertainment assets for wider distribution and access. But some of us are further down the road than others. The audio industry is still the ultimate personal experience. How we continue to maximize – and monetize – our relationships with fans is the key to our survival.”
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