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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Forget the Email, Just Smile & Dial
“Don’t confuse marketing with sales. We are not human advertisements or, even worse, spam.”
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Now it’s time to smile and dial!
Media Noise – Episode 33
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.