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Let’s Go To Sports Radio Minicamp

“Programmers from around the country weighed in with their ideas on what may make up a sports radio minicamp.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Teams across the NFL have broken from OTAs and are now either in or about to be in minicamp. This is the time to reinforce the basic good habits anyone in the business needs to master in order to thrive. It is the time to observe your talent and think about what new things you can do with them.

Jacksonville Jaguars 2021 rookie minicamp: So far so good
Courtesy: Photo Pool

We are hearing a lot about young quarterbacks across the league. Some look great. Some…well, don’t. There are plenty of reports about highly drafted rookies at other positions and how they are fitting into teams’ defensive schemes. Then of course, there’s Aaron Rodgers, the story that isn’t going to die until it does.

Minicamp is never short on storylines and objects of intrigue. Very rarely do you see reports about the nitty-gritty. There aren’t a lot of SportsCenter segments about exactly what Bruce Arians is doing in his golf cart or what Arthur Smith’s daily schedule is like for Kyle Pitts.

That is what I want to talk about today…kinda. I want to talk about how we would design a minicamp if we had them in the sports radio business.

What would be the best way to use the time? Do you focus on the basics and improve everyone from the ground up? Do you put the onus squarely on your stars and challenge them to get better? Are you looking at the “bottom of your roster” with a keen eye on who actually makes you better and how you can best use them?

This is all an exercise in imagination, so I asked the industry how they would do it. Programmers from around the country weighed in with their ideas on what may make up a sports radio minicamp. Enjoy.

KYLE BROWN – 710 ESPN IN SEATTLE

It’s minicamp so we’re sticking to the fundamentals, blocking and tackling type stuff. We’ll get deep into install when Training Camp rolls around.

For now, we’re focusing on our foundation: show prep, sticking to the clock, and executing teases. I’m expecting full participation with no veteran holdouts. We can’t have that on this team, too destructive to our culture. 

ADAM KLUG – 97.3 THE FAN IN SAN DIEGO

NFL teams use minicamp to re-instill the basics and fundamentals of football into their players: blocking, tackling, etc. If a sports radio PD ran a minicamp for talk show hosts, it should be used in the same way. Two of the biggest fundamentals that a radio host should have top of mind at all times, but are often taken for granted, are: knowing your audience and effective teasing.

A host should always know who they are broadcasting to, and actually broadcast to that audience. Too often a local host, or even a network host, is interested in a topic or a team or a sports league that their audience has no interest in, or for a network host, for a market their show is not cleared in. Your first job is to entertain your audience, so discuss topics they are interested in.

What Tennessee Titans coaches are saying on eve of mandatory minicamp
Courtesy: George Walker IV / Tennessean.com

Teasing is also extremely important, and can be done in various ways, yet is often taken for granted.  A tease at the end of a segment should not be telling the listener what is coming up after the break; it should be giving a reason why the listener should stick through the break! Teasing within a segment can also be effective, by giving the listener a reason to listen to the entire segment. Not broadcasting to your audience’s interests and lazy teases are issues many hosts have, because they believe their audience will listen no matter what, but in today’s world that offers so many choices, that just isn’t the case. 

JOHN MAMOLA – 95.3 WDAE IN TAMPA

The point of any football mini camp is to look at your roster, and see what traits or skills each player has and where they fit on your roster moving into the season.  Most radio stations know their starting lineup or have had it for a number of years, but refining or building up some skill sets of the younger and up and coming athletes/talent already have that your current roster can shape into their own is vital to the success and staying power of your roster and brand. 

So how well does each talent know how to reach a digital audience, and when’s the last time they tried anything specifically digital?  Does your talent have a grasp that their audience may be tuning in the same, more, less outside their daypart than when they’re actually live?  Are they using social media to enhance their on air and on demand content?  Are they thinking outside the box with content and interviews?   And more importantly than ever, how well do they network with your sales department on driving revenue utilizing the entire on air and digital picture? 

There’s no real playbook at this mini camp, but a ton of drills (questions) to work towards finding those answers moving into finding ways to be better each and every day.

SCOTT MASTELLER – WBAL NEWS RADIO IN BALTIMORE

I would focus on the “Blocking and Tackling” of Spoken Word Radio.  Always good to have a refresh on the fundamentals that help drive quarter-hours.

May 10: Texans rookie minicamp
Courtesy: Brett Coomer
  • Topic selection is everything. Much like the plays a football teams has in their playbook. It all comes down to execution. 
  • Do not waste time; get right to the core of the topic you are talking about. 
  • Never Assume the audience knows what you know.
  • Make sure you take care of the basics.
  • Tease-tease-tease. Tell the story to the consumer and make sure every segment delivers a payoff. 
  • Be specific and give the listener a reason to hang around for the next segment. 
  • Make sure you re-set the guest and/or conversation as the audience is constantly changing. 
  • Keep interviews interesting with short open-ended questions. 
  • Know how long to go with a caller and also know when to not take a call. 

Always ask yourself if the content you are presenting plays to the broadest set of the audience that is consuming your content!

MATT NAHIGIAN – 95.7 THE GAME IN SAN FRANCISCO

Our first day of training camp starts with the word passion.  If you don’t have a passion for what you do the blocking, tackling and fundamentals don’t matter.  Every day you crack that microphone, the listener should know right away what topic is touching you and means something to you.  It could be something local, but it might not be.  If it isn’t, it’s important to find a way to bring it back or tie it in to your local audience.  

After we establish how important the passion part is, we move on to the blocking and tackling.  It sounds cliche, but under the current system we are in, playing the hits and hitting the breaks are fundamentals that have to perfect each and every day if you want to win.  Passion first, fundamentals a close second.  We are ready for the Week 1!

RYAN PORTH – 102.5 THE GAME IN NASHVILLE

In a short amount of time, I’d want to focus on just a few things with hosts: quality over quantity, if you will.

One of the most important things in sports radio is topic development; a crash-course on improving topic development, what works and what doesn’t, would be at the top of the list for mini-camp. You can win or lose quarter hours based on topic selection, but proper development of those topics is a winning recipe.

Another item to discuss in mini-camp would be teasing; there’s value in a good tease to keep your audience hooked to the other side of a break. In today’s world where stations could still be playing catch up from financial losses due to the pandemic, it’d also be important to spend time on how hosts can interact with the sales team to benefit both the individual and the station.

JEFF RICKARD – 93.5 & 107.5 THE FAN IN INDIANAPOLIS

I would drill staying on the clock, working on great teases and having a plan. 

Giants Minicamp: Barkley continues knee out of sight. | AccessWDUN.com
Courtesy: Adam Hunger | Credit: AP

At the beginning of the day I would have everyone write down the three biggest, most interesting topics of the day; they should focus on those to the exclusion of almost anything else. Later in camp, we’ll introduce how to constantly spin those topics and keep them entertaining.  I already know they have great talent, now I want to show them how to get the most out of what they do best.

BSM Writers

The Future Is Now, Embrace Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+

As annoying as streaming sports is and as much as I haven’t fully adapted to the habit yet, Amazon and Apple have done a magnificent job of trying to make the process as easy and simplified as possible.

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This week has been a reckoning for sports and its streaming future on Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+, ESPN+, and more.

Amazon announced that Thursday Night Football, which averaged 13 million viewers, generated the highest number of U.S. sign ups over a three hour period in the app’s history. More people in the United States subscribed to Prime during the September 15th broadcast than they did during Black Friday, Prime Day, and Cyber Monday. It was also “the most watched night of primetime in Prime Video’s history,” according to Amazon executive Jay Marine. The NFL and sports in general have the power to move mountains even for some of the nation’s biggest and most successful brands.

This leads us to the conversation happening surrounding Aaron Judge’s chase for history. Judge has been in pursuit of former major leaguer Roger Maris’ record for the most home runs hit during one season in American League history.

The sports world has turned its attention to the Yankees causing national rights holders such as ESPN, Fox, and TBS to pick up extra games in hopes that they capture the moment history is made. Apple TV+ also happened to have a Yankees game scheduled for Friday night against the Red Sox right in the middle of this chase for glory.

Baseball fans have been wildin’ out at the prospects of missing the grand moment when Judge passes Maris or even the moments afterwards as Judge chases home run number 70 and tries to truly create monumental history of his own. The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand has even reported there were talks between YES, MLB, and Apple to bring Michael Kay into Apple’s broadcast to call the game, allow YES Network to air its own production of the game, or allow YES Network to simulcast Apple TV+’s broadcast. In my opinion, all of this hysteria is extremely bogus.

As annoying as streaming sports is and as much as I haven’t fully adapted to the habit yet, Amazon and Apple have done a magnificent job of trying to make the process as easy and simplified as possible. Amazon brought in NBC to help with production of TNF and if you watch the flow of the broadcast, the graphics of the broadcast, NBC personalities like Michael Smith, Al Michaels, and Terry McAuliffe make appearances on the telecast – it is very clear that the network’s imprint is all over the show.

NBC’s experience in conducting the broadcast has made the viewing experience much more seamless. Apple has also used MLB Network and its personalities for assistance in ensuring there’s no major difference between what you see on air vs. what you’re streaming.

Amazon and Apple have also decided to not hide their games behind a paywall. Since the beginning of the season, all of Apple’s games have been available free of charge. No subscription has ever been required. As long as you have an Apple device and can download Apple TV+, you can watch their MLB package this season.

Guess what? Friday’s game against the Red Sox is also available for free on your iPhone, your laptop, or your TV simply by downloading the AppleTV app. Amazon will also simulcast all Thursday Night Football games on Twitch for free. It may be a little harder or confusing to find the free options, but they are out there and they are legal and, once again, they are free.

Apple has invested $85 million into baseball, money that will go towards your team becoming better hypothetically. They’ve invested money towards creating a new kind of streaming experience. Why in the hell would they offer YES Network this game for free? There’s no better way for them to drive subscriptions to their product than by offering fans a chance at watching history on their platform.

A moment like this are the main reason Apple paid for rights in the first place. When Apple sees what the NFL has done for Amazon in just one week and coincidentally has the ability to broadcast one of the biggest moments in baseball history – it would be a terrible business decision to let viewers watch it outside of the Apple ecosystem and lose the ability to gain new fans.

It’s time for sports fans to grow up and face reality. Streaming is here to stay. 

MLB Network is another option

If you don’t feel like going through the hassle of watching the Yankees take on the Red Sox for free on Apple TV+, MLB Network will also air all of Judge’s at bats live as they are happening. In case the moment doesn’t happen on Apple TV+ on Friday night, Judge’s next games will air in full on MLB Network (Saturday), ESPN (Sunday), MLB Network again (Monday), TBS (Tuesday) and MLB Network for a third time on Wednesday. All of MLB Network’s games will be simulcast of YES Network’s local New York broadcast. It wouldn’t shock me to see Fox pick up another game next Thursday if the pursuit still maintains national interest.

Quick bites

  • One of the weirdest things about the experience of streaming sports is that you lose the desire to channel surf. Is that a good thing or bad thing? Brandon Ross of LightShed Ventures wonders if the difficulty that comes with going from app to app will help Amazon keep viewers on TNF the entire time no matter what the score of the game is. If it does, Amazon needs to work on developing programming to surround the games or start replaying the games, pre and post shows so that when you fall asleep and wake up you’re still on the same stream on Prime Video or so that coming to Prime Video for sports becomes just as much of a habit for fans as tuning in to ESPN is.
  • CNN has announced the launch of a new morning show with Don Lemon, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlin Collins. Variety reports, “Two people familiar with plans for the show say it is likely to use big Warner Bros. properties — a visit from the cast of HBO’s Succession or sports analysis from TNT’s NBA crew — to lure eyeballs.” It’ll be interesting to see if Turner Sports becomes a cornerstone of this broadcast. Will the NBA start doing schedule releases during the show? Will a big Taylor Rooks interview debut on this show before it appears on B/R? Will the Stanley Cup or Final Four MVP do an interview on CNN’s show the morning after winning the title? Does the show do remote broadcasts from Turner’s biggest sports events throughout the year?
  • The Clippers are back on over the air television. They announced a deal with Nexstar to broadcast games on KTLA and other Nexstar owned affiliates in California. The team hasn’t reached a deal to air games on Bally Sports SoCal or Bally Sports Plus for the upcoming season. Could the Clippers pursue a solo route and start their own OTT service in time for the season? Are they talking to Apple, Amazon, or ESPN about a local streaming deal? Is Spectrum a possible destination? I think these are all possibilities but its likely that the Clippers end up back on Bally Sports since its the status quo. I just find it interesting that it has taken so long to solidify an agreement and that it wasn’t announced in conjunction with the KTLA deal. The Clippers are finally healthy this season, moving into a new arena soon, have the technology via Second Spectrum to produce immersive game casts. Maybe something is brewing?
  • ESPN’s Monday Night Football double box was a great concept. The execution sucked. Kudos to ESPN for adjusting on the fly once complaints began to lodge across social media. I think the double box works as a separate feed. ESPN2 should’ve been the home to the double box. SVP and Stanford Steve could’ve held a watch party from ESPN’s DC studio with special guests. The double box watch party on ESPN2 could’ve been interrupted whenever SVP was giving an update on games for ESPN and ABC. It would give ESPN2 a bit of a behind the scenes look at how the magic happens similarly to what MLB Tonight did last week. Credit to ESPN and the NFL for experimenting and continuing to try and give fans unique experiences.

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BSM Writers

ESPN Shows Foresight With Monday Night Football Doubleheader Timing

ESPN is obviously testing something, and it’s worth poking around at why the network wouldn’t follow the schedule it has used for the last 16 years, scheduling kickoffs at 7 and then 10 on their primary channel.

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The Monday Night Football doubleheader was a little bit different this time around for ESPN.

First, it came in Week 2 instead of Week 1. And then, the games were staggered 75 minutes apart on two different channels, the Titans and Bills beginning on ESPN at 7:15 PM ET and the Vikings at the Eagles starting at 8:30 PM on ABC and ESPN+. This was a departure from the usual schedule in which the games kicked off at 7:00 PM ET and then 10:00 PM ET with the latter game on the West Coast.

ESPN is obviously testing something, and it’s worth poking around at why the network wouldn’t follow the schedule it has used for the last 16 years, scheduling kickoffs at 7:00 PM and then 10:00 PM ET on their primary channel. That’s the typical approach, right? The NFL is the most valuable offering in all of sports and ESPN would have at least six consecutive hours of live programming without any other game to switch to.

Instead, they staggered the starts so the second game kicked off just before the first game reached halftime. They placed the games on two different channels, which risked cannibalizing their audience. Why? Well, it’s the same reason that ESPN was so excited about the last year’s Manningcast that it’s bringing it back for 10 weeks this season. ESPN is not just recognizing the reality of how their customers behave, but they’re embracing it.

Instead of hoping with everything they have that the customer stays in one place for the duration of the game, they’re recognizing the reality that they will leave and providing another product within their portfolio to be a destination when they do.

It’s the kind of experiment everyone in broadcasting should be investigating because, for all the talk about meeting the customer where they are, we still tend to be a little bit stubborn about adapting to what they do. 

Customers have more choices than ever when it comes to media consumption. First, cable networks softened the distribution advantages of broadcast networks, and now digital offerings have eroded the distribution advantages of cable networks. It’s not quite a free-for-all, but the battle for viewership is more intense, more wide open than ever because that viewer has so many options of not just when and where but how they will consume media.

Programmers have a choice in how to react to this. On the one hand, they can hold on tighter to the existing model and try to squeeze as much out of it as they can. If ESPN was thinking this way it would stack those two Monday night games one after the other just like it always has and hope like hell for a couple of close games to juice the ratings. Why would you make it impossible for your customer to watch both of these products you’ve paid so much to televise?

I’ve heard radio programmers and hosts recite take this same approach for more than 10 years now when it comes to making shows available on-demand. Why would you give your customers the option of consuming the product in a way that’s not as remunerative or in a way that is not measured?

That thinking is outdated and it is dangerous from an economic perspective because it means you’re trying to make the customer behave in your best interest by restricting their choices. And maybe that will work. Maybe they like that program enough that they’ll consume it in the way you’d prefer or maybe they decide that’s inconvenient or annoying or they decide to try something else and now this customer who would have listened to your product in an on-demand format is choosing to listen to someone else’s product entirely.

After all, you’re the only one that is restricting that customer’s choices because you’re the only one with a desire to keep your customer where he is. Everyone else is more than happy to give your customer something else. 

There’s a danger in holding on too tightly to the existing model because the tighter you squeeze, the more customers will slip through your fingers, and if you need a physical demonstration to complete this metaphor go grab a handful of sand and squeeze it hard.

Your business model is only as good as its ability to predict the behavior of your customers, and as soon as it stops doing that, you need to adjust that business model. Don’t just recognize the reality that customers today will exercise the freedom that all these media choices provide, embrace it.

Offer more products. Experiment with more ways to deliver those products. The more you attempt to dictate the terms of your customer’s engagement with your product, the more customers you’ll lose, and by accepting this you’ll open yourself to the reality that if your customer is going to leave your main offering, it’s better to have them hopping to another one of your products as opposed to leaving your network entirely.

Think in terms of depth of engagement, and breadth of experience. That’s clearly what ESPN is doing because conventional thinking would see the Manningcast as a program that competes with the main Monday Night Football broadcast, that cannibalizes it. ESPN sees it as a complimentary experience. An addition to the main broadcast, but it also has the benefit that if the customer feels compelled to jump away from the main broadcast – for whatever reason – it has another ESPN offering that they may land on.

I’ll be watching to see what ESPN decides going forward. The network will have three Monday Night Football doubleheaders beginning next year, and the game times have not been set. Will they line them up back-to-back as they had up until this year? If they do it will be a vote of confidence that its traditional programming approach that evening is still viable. But if they overlap those games going forward, it’s another sign that less is not more when it comes to giving your customers a choice in products.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: Sunday Ticket Has Problems, Marcellus Wiley Does Not

Demetri Ravanos

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On this episode of Media Noise, Demetri is joined by Brian Noe to talk about the wild year FS1’s Marcellus Wiley has had and by Garrett Searight to discuss the tumultuous present and bright future of NFL Sunday Ticket.

ITunes: https://buff.ly/3PjJWpO

Spotify: https://buff.ly/3AVwa90

iHeart: https://buff.ly/3cbINCp

Google: https://buff.ly/3PbgHWx

Amazon: https://buff.ly/3cbIOpX

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