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Chris King’s Side of the Radio Keeps Hockey Fans Listening

“My philosophy is that it has to be fun on our side of the radio for it to be fun on the other side of the radio”

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Photo Credit: Richard T. Slattery

Chris King has been on the radio for New York Islanders broadcasts since 1998. In that time, King has brought thrilling moments for fans of the orange and blue to life. However, it wasn’t until 2020 that the man they call “Kinger” had to transition to calling home games in an arena without a crowd, and road games in a small studio in Hempstead, NY. While the Islanders radio voice is finally back on the road for the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, albeit independently (due to NHL COVID-19 protocols), he hopes that next season will be a restoration of normalcy in terms of fans being in arenas and broadcasters traveling with the team.

“Just from an emotional and energy standpoint as a broadcaster, I do hockey and baseball, and the crowd is a big part of [the game],” said King. “The difficulty of calling the game off of a monitor [is that] you are limited to what the [television] director shows you, as opposed to being at the event. In hockey, things happen away from the puck all the time, and I need to look there to see what plays are being set up, especially late in close games.”

With the Islanders making a run to the Eastern Conference Finals last season, and securing another playoff trip this year, King’s preparatory process centers around learning about the opponent. He says it’s something that can be especially difficult during a regular season filled with traveling.

“During the regular season, it’s a little more difficult than the playoffs,” described King. “Let’s say the Islanders are playing the Rangers on Tuesday. All the way leading up to that, I’m trying to learn about the Rangers for 48 hours leading up to the game. As soon as that game ends, I have to learn the next visiting team.”

King said preparing for the playoffs is less strenuous than doing so in the regular season, comparing it to baseball, a sport he has called for the Atlantic League’s Long Island Ducks over the last 20 seasons, where teams play series against one another.

“[In the playoffs], you ramp-up [and learn the opponent], then you get 3-4 broadcasts out of it,” said King. “I had a tremendous ramp-up to get up to speed on the Penguins, but once [the series] begins, it’s that same opponent [for the whole series]. In that aspect, it’s much easier than the regular season where you’re constantly changing opponents and, during a normal regular season, location as well.”

Another part of King’s job that he credits as being an integral part of the broadcast is his collection of sound from the coaching staff and the players to intersperse throughout the broadcast. Using a device for audio playback, King provides the listener with insight from the team on their matchup, and what they need to do to win the game.

“A large portion [of my job] is recording and editing audio,” King explained. “On our broadcasts, I drop in a ton of sound because I think it adds to the broadcast. Instead of hearing just myself and my broadcast partner Greg Picker, you’re also hearing 5-6 players, head coach Barry Trotz, etc..”

88.7 WRHU-FM Radio Hofstra University has been the flagship station of the New York Islanders since 2010. The station produces and distributes the radio broadcast to several other prominent commercial stations which comprise the New York Islanders Radio Network, including 98.7 WEPN-FM and 1050 WEPN-AM and 103.9 WRCN-FM. While WRHU-FM is in fact a non-commercial, student-run college radio station, it operates as a professional outlet worthy of airing NHL games, winning numerous prestigious awards from the National Association of Broadcasters and the Academy of Radio Arts and Sciences of America. King says the large quantity of aspiring media professionals working on the broadcast throughout the season has helped augment its quality, aligning more with the law of increasing returns than its polar opposite; that is, with the key cogs in the system remaining constant.

“At WRHU, we have a producer, an engineer, someone cutting highlights and someone doing updates,” said King. “On any given night, I’d say our team [consists of] between 6-10 people. I’ve done so many broadcasts where it’s one person operating the board back at the radio station, and you can’t get that much more help. The fact that we’ve been on [WRHU] for 11 years now is one of the reasons we have one of the best broadcasts in the NHL.”

The National Hockey League recently agreed to broadcast deals with both ESPN and TNT that gives both networks rights to air league games through the 2028-29 season. Both deals are centered around distribution of hockey onto various multimedia platforms, and aspire to further grow the game of hockey around the world, something King is enthusiastic about.

“I think [the deal] will be great for the league because ESPN is the number one brand name in the world as far as sports are concerned,” said King. “For all the students doing broadcasts on WRHU, being broadcast on ESPN Radio lets them know that their work is worthy of being carried on a monstrous sports radio station with the name behind it.”

As sports broadcasts evolve with changing consumption trends, King sees the impact sports betting has had over the airwaves. The voice of the Islanders doesn’t enjoy its implementation into the broadcast, but he recognizes the foothold it has rapidly taken before, during and after the game.

“I tape every game and watch it back the next day… and MSG Networks is taking a pretty good portion of their pregame show talking about sports betting,” said King. “It’s not my favorite thing, but the bottom line is money, and if the money is coming from those companies, they’ll [talk about it].”

King, a seasoned broadcaster in his own right, says that radio, however it is disseminated, is a unique platform for sports broadcasting because of its absence of video, requiring the announcers to provide that feed to the mind of the listener.

“The broadcast can be whatever I want it to be because I’m the one in charge — and I hardly ever get recognized because they don’t see my face,” explained King. “The broadcast is what I want it to be every single night. On television, it is good to be a part of a team, [but] because you are a small pawn of a larger operation… the broadcaster is being told what to do from the director and producer [based on their vision].”

With commanding the broadcast comes criticism, and for King, most of it is derived from listening back to how he did his job each game, another part of his preparation that keeps him ready and helps him improve his on-air skills every time the Islanders are on the ice. For himself, he says, though, the act of judging his performance is difficult to quantify or qualify; he just “kind of knows.”

“My philosophy is that it has to be fun on our side of the radio for it to be fun on the other side of the radio,” said King. “I judge it more on if we brought the excitement and the energy, and if we conveyed what was going on in the building. The people who are not there need to be able to follow the game based on my words. The other side of the game is letting them know how crazy the building is.”

As the New York Islanders look to advance far into the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, King is excited to be back in the arena with the roar of the crowd behind his signature goal calls. As for his takeaways from calling the game from a remote site away from the team, his answer, much like the Islanders fans’ signature chant, came in the form of “Yes. Yes. Yes.”

“Was it difficult at first? Yes. Did it get better? Yes. Do I hope to never do it again? Yes.”

BSM Writers

Keeping Premier League Games Shouldn’t Be A Hard Call For NBC

“Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans.”

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NBC Sports is facing some tough, costly decisions that will define its sports brand for the rest of this decade.  A chance to connect with viewers in a changing climate and grow Peacock’s audience as well.  However, making the right choice is paramount to not losing to apps like Paramount+ (pun intended).

NBC is currently in the business of negotiating to continue airing the Premier League as their current deal ends after this 2021-2022 season.  NASCAR is contracted to NBC (and FOX) through the 2024 season.

NBC’s tentpole sports are the NFL and the Olympics.  

Negotiations for the EPL are expected to go down to the wire. Rather than re-up with NBC, the league is meeting with other networks to drive up the price. NBC has to then make a decision if the rights go north of $2 billion.

Should NBC spend that much on a sport that is not played in the United States? It’s not my money, but that sport continues to grow in the US.

If NBC re-ups with the Premier League, will that leave any coins in the cupboard to re-up with NASCAR? Comcast CEO Brian Roberts hinted that there might be some penny pinching as the prices continue to soar. This may have been one of the reasons that NBC did not fight to keep the National Hockey League, whose rights will be with Disney and WarnerMedia through ESPN and TNT, respectively.

“These are really hard calls,” Roberts said. “You don’t always want to prevail, and sometimes you’re right and sometimes you’re wrong, but I think the sustainability of sports is a critical part of what our company does well.”

Roberts was speaking virtually at the recent Goldman Sachs 30th Annual Communacopia Conference. He told the audience that between NBC and European network Sky, that Comcast has allocated approximately $20 billion towards these sports properties.

Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh spoke virtually at the Bank of America Securities 2021 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference and echoed that the company is in a good position to make some strong choices in the sports realm. 

“The bar is really high for us to pursue outright acquisitions of any material size,” Cavanagh added. “We got a great hand to play with what we have.”

While the European investments involve a partnership with American rival Viacom, the US market seems to have apparent limits.

Last Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series at Bristol Motor Speedway was seen by around 2.19 million people. It was the most-watched motorsports event of the weekend. That same week eight different Premier League matches saw over 1 million viewers. More than half of those matches were on subscription-based Peacock. 

Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans. A game of typical soccer fan is used to a sport that is less than two hours long. The investment in a team is one or two games a week. 

My connection to the Premier League began before the pandemic.  When I cut the cord in late 2017, I purchase Apple TV.  Setting it up, it asks you to name your favorite teams.  After clicking on the Syracuse Orange and the New Jersey Devils, I recalled that my wife has family based in London, England.  They are season ticket holders for Arsenal, and that family redefined the word “die-hard” fans.

I’ve long been a believer that sports allegiances are best when handed down by family. I love hearing stories of people loving the New York Giants because their parents liked them, and they pass it down to their children.

I’ve successfully given my allegiance to the Devils to my young daughters. 

By telling Apple TV that I liked Arsenal, I get alerts from three different apps when the “Gunners” are playing. The $4.99 is totally worth it to see Arsenal.

Whenever I told this story, I was amazed to see how many other American sports fans had a Premier League team. Students of mine at Seton Hall University rooted for Tottenham Hotspurs, while an old colleague cheers on Chelsea.

Global Is Cool': The Growing Appeal of Premier League Soccer in America
Courtesy: Morning Consult

This is not meant to say that NBC should sign the EPL on my account. The key for any US-based soccer fan is that between Bundesliga, Serie A, and other leagues, there will be no shortage of soccer available on both linear television and streaming services.

Besides, Dani Rojas did say that “Football is life.”  NBC, originator of the Ted Lasso character, should make keeping its Premier League US connection a priority.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 45

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Today, Demetri is joined by Tyler McComas and Russ Heltman. Tyler pops on to talk about the big start to the college football season on TV. Russ talks about Barstool’s upfront presentation and how the business community may not see any problems in working with the brand. Plus, Demetri is optimistic about FOX Sports Radio’s new morning show.

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BSM Writers

6 Ad Categories Hotter Than Gambling For Sports Radio

“Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life.”

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For years sports radio stations pushed sports gambling advertisers to early Saturday and Sunday morning. The 1-800 ads, shouting, and false claims were seedy, and some stations wouldn’t even accept the business at 5 am on Sunday.

Now, with all but ten states ready to go all in on sports gambling, sports radio stations can’t get enough of that green. Demetri Ravanos wrote about the money cannon that sports gambling has become for stations. Well, what if you are in one of those ten states where it isn’t likely to ever be legal like California or Texas? Where is your pot of gold?

A Pot of Gold Articles - Analyzing Metals
Courtesy: iStockphoto

Or, let’s face it, the more gambling ads you run, the more risk you take on that the ads will not all work as you cannibalize the audience and chase other listeners away who ARE NOT online gambling service users and never will be. So, what about you? Where is your pot of gold?

Well, let’s go Digging for Gold. 

The RAB produces the MRI-Simmons Gold Digger PROSPECTING REPORT for several radio formats. In it, they index sports radio listeners’ habits against an average of 18+ Adult. The Gold Digger report looks at areas where the index is higher than the norm – meaning the sports radio audience is more likely to use the product or service than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. The report, generated in 2020, indicates that sports radio listeners are 106% more likely to have used an online gambling site in the last thirty days. That’s impressive because the report only lists 32 activities or purchases a sports radio listener indexes higher than an average adult. I looked at those 32 higher indexes, and I think we can start looking for some gold.

Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life. The gambling companies who commit significant money to get results will continue advertising and chase the others away. So, the future of sports radio needs to include other cash cows.

If it is evident to online sports gambling services that sports radio stations are a must-buy, who else should feel that way?  I looked at the Top 32 and eliminated the media companies. ESPN, MLB/NHL/NFL networks, and others aren’t spending cash on sports radio stations they don’t own in general. But Joseph A Bank clothing, Fidelity, and Hotwire should! Here’s your PICK-6 list I pulled together that’s hotter than sports gambling:

  • Sportscard collectors, Dapper Labs, Open Sea- read about Sports NFT $.
  • Online brokerage firms-Fidelity, Charles Schwab, Robinhood, Webull, TD Ameritrade
  • Golf courses, resorts, equipment, etc.- we play golf at home and vacation
  • Hotwire.com, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Airbnb, Carnival Corporation, and Priceline.com- we’ve used Hotwire in the last year.
  • FedEx, UPS, U.S. Postal Service, Venmo, PayPal, Zelle-we wired or overnighted $ 
  • Jos. A. Bank, shein.com, macys.com, nordstroms.com- we went to Jos. A. Bank in last three months

The sports card/NFT market is 32% hotter than the sports betting market for sports radio listeners. Everything on the PICK-6 is at least 100% more likely to purchase than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. All listed are at or above indexing strength compared to sports betting. The individual companies I added are industry leaders. Bet on it! Email me for details. 

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