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It’s Time For Broadcasters To Hit The Road Again

“How is this logical or allowed? Is there a plan in place? Are the players or teams holding up the process?”

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Sports Broadcast Journal

Remote broadcasting is not ideal. It’s not easy for the broadcasters and it’s not fair to the fans. With the Country coming out of the COVID pandemic, it’s time for the announcing teams to get back on the road where they belong. For a number of reasons, some not based solely on health and safety, many local broadcast teams are stuck at home. Shortchanging their viewers and listeners. 

I know why we had to call games from one location last year. There was a virus infecting and killing people all over the world. So, while it wasn’t ideal, it was necessary. I always felt like the listeners weren’t getting the complete feel when the game was in one location and I was in another. We all chalked it up to “Well, at least we’re playing and working.”

MLB Draft 2020: ESPN Continues Run of Virtual Drafts With First MLB Edition  Since 2008
Courtesy:  Joe Faraoni / ESPN Images

Truth. No complaints. Now?

It’s time to get back on the road. 

It was reported this week that the national broadcasters, like Joe Buck, will be on site for some games in the weeks to come. Fox, ESPN and Turner are all planning to have their people on-site for at least some broadcasts, per the report. But the same accommodations are not being made for many of the local television broadcasts. The decision on the local TV folks is being made by the individual RSN’s.  

What makes no sense, is that only some radio broadcasts are traveling. Why radio and not TV? I’m sure some of it is money. Many of the RSN’s took it on the chin last season with a shortened schedule and uncertainty with advertising money coming in. It’s not a great look for any of these companies, especially since baseball is allowing more and more fans to attend games. Now just some of the broadcast booths will be empty.

How is this logical or allowed? Is there a plan in place? Are the players or teams holding up the process? Dodgers TV broadcaster Joe Davis spoke to the Athletic, saying he’s heard many things about why some broadcast teams aren’t traveling. 

“I’ve heard, ‘Well, the players don’t want the rights holders back on the plane,’” he said. “Of course, they don’t, I wouldn’t either. But is that their decision? Or is it team by team? Or is it Major League Baseball? I don’t know the answers to those things. So honestly, it’s been so up and down and all over the place on what has to happen for us to travel, I’ve just kind of stopped thinking about it because it feels like wasted energy at this point.”

There is a lot to digest here. Can teams or radio/tv stations say no? For some the answer is yes. One radio company that has many play-by-play rights across the league has a travel ban in place. Audacy stations are preventing their radio broadcasters from traveling. It’s to the point where the company won’t reimburse announcers if they want to travel on their own. Very interesting. There’s no word on how long this “ban” will be in effect, leaving broadcasters to wonder if they’ll get to a road game this season. 

As far as the teams, I wouldn’t think an individual club would say no to their broadcasters traveling if the organization meets the 85 percent vaccination threshold. More and more teams are meeting the criteria, once again eliminating another excuse for not sending the announcers along with the team to road games. Especially if the announcer himself/herself is fully vaccinated. 

Now in conjunction with that point, the opposing team, the home team in this case may object to visiting broadcasters being in their park. With social distancing, some organizations reconfigured their broadcast booths to allow for the use of multiple monitors in the space. So actual room could be a problem. I say, if the opposing team fit in your press box before the pandemic, they’ll fit in there now. 

Baseball broadcasting is not as easy as the folks doing it right now make it look or sound. Trust me, there is a lot that goes into it. The job done last year by these announcing crews should be commended and lauded. It’s hard enough to do the job when the game is front of you, let alone many miles away. 

Wondering how a baseball broadcast is done remotely? Here's the Jays booth  from Toronto : baseball
Courtesy: SportsNet

The RSN’s and radio stations not allowing travel are only doing a disservice to themselves, their own product and their audiences. As much as broadcasters try to call a seamless game from half a country away in some cases, it’s not the same as being there. It is just not and you can’t tell me it is. If it’s safe for ballparks to be opened to full capacity there should be no reason not to travel announcers. With most seats in ballparks being filled, empty seats in the broadcast booth are unacceptable. 

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5 Goals

5 Goals: Rob ‘World Wide Wob’ Perez

“I’ve always had aspirations, hopefully with FanDuel in collaboration with another network, to apply NFL Red Zone to the NBA.”

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This month’s subject of five goals is Rob Perez, better known to NBA Twitter as World Wide Wob. The content creator and producer for FanDuel shared with me five things he wants to accomplish or see happen.

1. I want to make FanDuel, my licensing partner in content creation, as happy as possible.

My goal is to drive people to their web site or app, and spread the reach of the brand. I’m sure there’s a more formal word for that, but I want to organically integrate FanDuel into everything I do.

I don’t want to just be a commercial — hey 20% off, or here’s a free bet — because people are drowning in those across various forms of communication. All the content I do is naturally involved, and if someone’s asking about who’s favored it’s a very seamless type of content integration in which I can include them and drive them to FanDuel if they’d like to put their money where their mouth is. 

I would certainly love the opportunity to continue working with them — not just because they pay me to do so, but I do find value in working with a sportsbook of that size that is turning into a content company. Of course, they’re always gonna be a sportsbook. It makes them the most money. But, giving you additional reasons to engage with that brand, if you have an itch to bet on something, is what my job is.

I want to continue to be the face of the NBA for them, having a very casual conversation about the game itself — whether that’s off the court stuff, or all the coaching departures earlier this week. Integrating the FanDuel logo into all this feels much more real than a 30-second commercial between timeouts. I want you to enjoy the experience of the show, and gamble if you so choose.

2. NBA Red Zone.

I’ve always had aspirations, hopefully with FanDuel in collaboration with another network, to apply NFL Red Zone to the NBA. It would work best on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and sometimes Sunday, when there are 8-9 concurrent games.

That’s why I’m where I am today. I’m watching every single dribble of every single game. But, I would never expect any other normal human with responsibilities outside of NBA content creation to ever keep up with what’s going on between the Kings and Pistons while there’s seven other games on, one of which is nationally televised. 

So, if the NBA ever decides to have a true commitment to their version of the Red Zone — they’ve tried versions of it on NBATV, but I’ve never seen one hopping between games every 15-20 seconds, hot switching any time there’s a play stoppage — I’d love to do it. 

You’d have a Scott Hanson type host who is as integrated with the league as it gets. I hope maybe one day I have the opportunity where what I do on my own personal timeline merges with true rights partnership from the NBA. Just based on the feedback I get on my Twitter page, there would be demand for it. 

3. Do another NBA variety show.

In the past, I had a show called Buckets that I did with Cycle and ESPN. It had sketches, pre-produced talk segments, and interviews. Think of it like Jimmy Kimmel or Jimmy Fallon’s shows, but applied to the NBA. 

Inside the NBA is obviously the gold standard for an NBA talk show. But, those guys are going to retire at some point. What I do on Twitter Spaces, Twitch, and Periscope — I want the ability to blow that out with some more production resources. 

Photo Credit: TNT

Right now, I’m doing everything myself, from playing DJ to directing to taking calls to actually running the show and talking basketball and researching stats — I’m doing it all on the fly. While I’m certainly happy to do that, I know what we could create with a team around me because we’ve done it in the past. I would love to do a weekly variety show based around the NBA.

4. Some more work life balance.

My entire day for 11 months out of the year revolves around the NBA. It’s my job and I’m happy to. I love following it. At some point, I feel like I’m gonna get burned out, and I don’t want to ever get to the point where doing this feels like work

It felt a little bit like work this year, and that might be because I’m on Year 8 doing this. [RG note: at this point, I mentioned how last offseason was so condensed after the bubble, and how the energy felt partially zapped out of sports with a lack of fans]. I’m gonna watch regardless because I’m a crazy person, but I think a lot of people would agree with you that the return to normalcy is helping with the engagement on a mainstream scale.

This offseason will be condensed again. We have the Olympics, which of course I’m going to watch because stars will be playing. Summer League is in August. There’s free agency and the draft. There’s barely going to be one month — September — where there probably won’t be a whole lot of NBA news or events. 

But then we’re going back to the normal schedule from before the pandemic, which means Media Week will be the first week of October. There’s one month off before it all starts again, and I’m hoping I don’t get burned out by it. 

Being on the East Coast, it’s impossible to follow the NBA 24/7. I don’t know how people with kids and families do it. Getting back to the West Coast is a personal goal of mine, which will happen this summer when I move back to Los Angeles. These hours will allow me to get back to a more normal life.

5. I want the Knicks to win a championship in my lifetime.

Just being a die hard Knicks fan and not seeing a title in my lifetime, that’s a personal goal. I’ve put so much work into watching every effing game since I was eight years old with Patrick Ewing and John Starks in the NBA playoffs. 

I was young, but I was old enough to know that I wanted to stay up for those games. I was emotionally invested. I would even get to the point where I was putting towels underneath the door so my parents couldn’t see that the TV was on. They thought I was sleeping. 

Patrick Ewing New York Knicks NBA Posters for sale | eBay
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Of course I want my team to win a championship, and I don’t want to die without seeing that mountaintop. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be a Red Sox or Cubs fan and going all those years without seeing them win, then having it happen. I want to experience it once. 

Whatever it takes to get there. I have too many gray hairs on my head, and every single one of them I can attribute to a single Knicks game from the past decade. Being a fan while trying to create objective NBA content will always be a challenge, but being a Knicks fan will always take precedent over a career because it means that much to me.

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BSM Writers

Forget the Email, Just Smile & Dial

“Don’t confuse marketing with sales. We are not human advertisements or, even worse, spam.”

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Back in August of last year, the pandemic was still front and center, acting as a roadblock for business. Retailers were in business and at the stores, but what about the advertising buyers? Where were they?

Well, the ad-buying community, corporate employees, and most white-collar workers were still at home. So were most of us in radio sales. So, when it came to prospecting for new accounts, some of us gave up, most sent emails, and a few brave souls hit the phone. Earlier this year, I wrote about the sales trainer John Barrows and how he got to the top by cold calling 400 prospects a week! That’s not cold emailing. That’s cold CALLING. And to be exact, if Barrows was working a 10 hour day on the phones Monday through Friday, he would dial at least eight prospects an hour. 

Does that send a chill down your spine?   Or does it make you want to run to your keyboard to avoid rejection and send some more cold emails? Back in August, when most of our ad buyers were at home, not near a business phone, Jeb Blount and Anthony Iannarino were recording a podcast about why you should hit the phone, not the email. Both sales consultants and authors thought we could improve our connect rate immensely by working the phones over email. 

Both authors agreed that we need to have conversations with people about our stations, personalities, shows, and the sports world! We can hire an automated CRM service to send emails!

Now I am all for some well-crafted custom emails sent to targets that do not answer phones or listen to voice mails but not as the first activity in a sales sequence. Don’t confuse marketing with sales. We are not human advertisements or, even worse, spam. Our job isn’t to create awareness for buying sports radio packages; it is to make the sale!

We are consultants offering custom solutions to the unique challenges your clients have. And consider that if you pick up the phone and connect with the advertising buyer and get the appointment, you won’t need an email!  

Both consultants agree that you don’t need email to warm up a client when using the phone to get the appointment! I recently tested this theory myself and decided that with the pandemic subsiding in most metropolitan areas and more buyers going back to the office, I could start hitting the phones more. 

It worked. I got more appointments faster and wasted less time. I even got help. I had a business owner who I reached out to via email with a custom approach. I offered a few excellent ideas on how I could help him. Crickets. I let 2.5 weeks go by before I picked up the phone to dial the business and ask for him. They told me he was out on vacation and asked me if I had personal interaction with him. I explained no I was looking to connect with him on an advertising idea. The receptionist said you need to talk to Jane, the ad buyer. I was connected immediately.

Erma Scholl working the Old Forge switchboard in 1971. Photo courtesy of the Goodsell Museum.
Courtesy: Goodsell Museum

I left a voice mail. The next day I received a return call indicating interest in my idea, and we set the appointment. Now, why didn’t I try that in the first place!

If you want a custom phone pitch that I wrote out for myself, send me an email at jeffcaves54@gmail.com. Now it’s time to smile and dial! 

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 33

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It has been a busy week at BSM. Demetri Ravanos talks about Domonique Foxworth and the future of commentary on ESPN. Kate Constable stops by to discuss her column on Sarah Spain and the sometimes ugly realities of life as a woman in sports media. Finally, Brian Noe and Demetri discuss Le’veon Bell’s Twitter rant and how depressingly relevant it is in the radio business.

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