Waylon Jennings once said, “Everybody deserves a chance to do it their way at least one time.”
I think we all agree with Hoss on that one. However, it shows me that he probably wouldn’t have been cut out for life in corporate sports radio. Granted, it’s certainly not the case in every situation, but there’s several instances where hosts are held back because of how management tries to shape and portray a show. Not everyone in sports radio gets to do it ‘their way.’
There’s nothing more attractive to a host than the idea of doing a show their way with no restrictions. That’s why Jonathan Hutton, Chad Withrow and Paul Kuharsky couldn’t say no to Clay Travis when he pitched the trio on bringing their show to Outkick. Travis made it clear he wanted Outkick 360 to be exactly what Hutton, Withrow and Kurharsky wanted it to be. And with no restrictions.
“He told us in the beginning ‘I’m hiring you guys to do your show, I really like your show. I’m never going to tell you what to talk about or what to do, because you know what to do’,” Withrow says.
It was an incredible pitch from Travis. Soon after, he offered the trio a deal to come to Outkick. Now, there was a huge decision on the table. Should they continue with their nine-year run at 104.5 The Zone in Nashville or take a chance with Outkick?
“We knew we all wanted to stay together,” said Withrow. “We were on a three-year contract and I think we had a one-month open negotiating window. Clay Travis and Outkick came to the table and we all had the same representation with a lawyer that repped all three of us. Clay laid out his vision and pitched us. Cumulus had a chance to match that and they didn’t. We had an option at Cumulus and could’ve stayed but it came down to who was the best position for the future. We decided, hey, in five years where do we want to be and where should we be? We decided Outkick was the better option.”
“All of us not staying together would have been foolish,” said Kuharsky. “I’m not confident our old place saw the value in that. I’m limited in what I can say there, but they were asking me to make changes regarding my website that were not in the realm of possibility for me. At that point I knew there was going to have to be some sort of alternative and I was fortunate Outkick offered us something where we could continue to be ourselves and say and do what we want without restriction.”
The show’s producer, David Reed, didn’t even have the slightest idea the trio were on the verge of moving the show.
“I didn’t know they were leaving until their last day on air,” Reed said. “When I found out they were leaving to do their own thing, my intentions were to stay at Cumulus because I thought we all were staying. When that all came to be I wondered, what does my future look like here?”
Outkick 360 went live in mid-March and was instantaneously a hit. It helped that the show already had a large following, as the much anticipated launch was met with several listeners from their old show.
The promise Travis made to the show has stayed true. Outkick 360 makes its own rules and isn’t micromanged or questioned by anyone at the network. That includes their lack of political talk on the show. When some people think of Outkick, they think of the strong conservative stances Travis regularly takes. But just because it’s worked for him, he knows it’s not for everyone, nor does he want every show on Outkick to have strong political takes.
“He said, look, I’m after you guys because I love your show and I love what you do,” said Hutton. “I wouldn’t invest in your show to change it. He has never come to us and told us that we have to do things a certain way. He’s a fan of doing what works. We’re 90 percent sports and he may be 90 percent politics. What he sees in us is a great balance. If Outkick is the tree, we’re the sports branch. We’re proof that you don’t have to talk Republican or Democrat to do a show at Outkick.com. For me, that was important.”
That means Outkick 360 is about football – NFL, college, more NFL and SEC. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the summer or in late November, football rules the airwaves on the show. But since the move from terrestrial radio, the video component of the show has taken content to another level.
“For example, Hutton has a deal with a polo shirt provider and they sent him a shirt that he didn’t like that looked ridiculous,” said Withrow. “He presented it to me on air so I got to show it on camera. I also hated the shirt so I threw it to my producer who liked it. Just little things like that are some new things we can do. We’re still scratching the surface.”
That story is a great example of how live video has given the show even more personality than it had before on terrestrial radio. As Outkick 360 figures out how to navigate it and bring even more content to life, there’s a chance the show will see its best days.
“I think it has the chance to be much better, because people are able to tune in and see our live reaction to go along with our daily conversations,” said Hutton. “I think there are tons of sales opportunities that will be cashed in on very soon and I like the idea of being available, literally everywhere. I think that makes it better. Once we have the radio part of it back, I think the sky’s the actual limit of what we can do on the platform.”
Outkick is booming these days. Especially with the recent news that Fox has bought the website, which they reportedly intend to operate as an independent brand. For Hutton, Withrow and Kuharsky it was the perfect time to join in on the expanding company.
But the interesting twist is that Travis was a friend with each of the trio before he recruited them to Outkick. It’s an interesting dilemma to think about calling someone a friend one day, and then a boss the next.
It’s funny with Clay because there’s not a huge difference,” said Withrow. “He really is always the same guy. He was always that way with us. We could tell some things were going on in the last few months, there was definitely some stress. He was a little different at times and a lot more business-like. But he’s always the same guy.”
Outkick 360 is great because of its content, freedom and personality. But the reason it will continue to grow is the chemistry each host has with one another. It’s genuine enough for listeners to take note of how much they care for another. That’s key. If you can find a show where every host genuinely cares about the well-being of the others, anything can be accomplished.
“We just hit it off right from the start,” said Kuharsky. “We get along really well and we’re really good friends outside of work. That’s not always the case with other shows. The depths of our friendships are the key to that and people tell us that a lot when we spend time with listeners.”
The depth of that friendship extends into the production side with Reed. After a couple of months and an incredibly loyal move from Travis, Reed is now back with his old pals and running the controls.
There’s a chance Outkick 360 would have been Waylon Jennings’ favorite sports show, for no reason other than they have the freedom to do it their way. If Outkick chooses to build more shows on the network,it will have a great chance to lure even more high-profile talent, based on how Travis has managed Hutton, Withrow and Kuharsky.
“That’s what we had been wanting to do for a long time,” said Outkick 360 producer David Reed. “This is our chance to do it the way we want to do it without anyone telling us different. That’s not going to happen with Clay Travis at Outkick.”
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.