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Brown, Dunaway, Taylor & Heninger Ready For ‘The Next Round’

“The former hosts of The Roundtable are betting big on themselves by leaving one of the most established radio stations in the south and creating their own digital platform.”

Tyler McComas

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Ryan Brown, Jim Dunaway, Lance Taylor and Sean “Rockstar” Heninger may never host a show on terrestrial radio again. That’s a jarring statement, seeing as the group spent a collective 77 years at WJOX 94.5 FM in Birmingham and hosted one of the most popular shows Alabama sports talk radio has ever seen. But if the group never does another show on the radio dial, it just might mean their new venture turned into a massive success. 

The former hosts of The Roundtable are betting big on themselves by leaving one of the most established radio stations in the south and creating their own digital platform. No, they weren’t pushed out of JOX, in fact, the station offered the show an extension. But the crew wanted a new challenge, a new format and a chance to change the landscape of Alabama sports media. Thus, The Next Round was born. 

“We’re beyond excited about this,” said Taylor. “There’s just so much we can do with it. We really wanted autonomy, equity and to create our own thing by building a digital platform. We’ve seen very talented people in the industry that are going this route..”

Taylor is right. Talented hosts such as Clay Travis, Pat McAfee, Dan Le Batard and Joe Rogan are doing incredible work with digital platforms and they’re only getting more popular by the day. The Next Round is hoping they’ll be the next to prove you don’t need an AM or FM signal to be a popular sports talk show. 

“Obviously we’re light years away from those guys,” said Taylor. “But I’m really good friends with Clay Travis and what he’s been able to do at Outkick has been incredible. I have no idea where this thing is going, it’s truly limitless. But it’s also a little sad, because I spent so much time in radio. The elements of everything were going to do, it’s going to include everything but terrestrial radio. That’s the only thing we won’t be doing.”

Starting in August, The Next Round will air every weekday morning from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm CST. That means they’ll be changing their time slot from morning drive to mid-morning and the middle of the day.

“Part of our desire was to get out of morning drive,” said Dunaway. “Not all of us were big fans of waking up at 3:30 in the morning.”

Several options will be available to both listen and watch The Next Round when the new show debuts next month. Initially, the website, nextroundlive.com, will be the easiest way to listen to the show. However, a mobile app is on the horizon and will give listeners the option to stream directly. 

The option to watch the show will also be easy, as The Next Round will stream on YouTube, Twitch as well as Facebook and Twitter.  

“We’re going to stream our show 24 hours a day,” said Dunaway.  If you’re on the app, we’ll always be on the air. If you want to listen to us from 9 to 1 or 2 o’clock or 5 o’clock in the afternoon, if you work late nights driving a truck, you can get the app and it’ll be like streaming live with us.”

As exciting as this new venture is, there’s a big risk that’s involved. The obvious question to ask, is why? Why leave one of the most popular radio stations in the south, where each guy had security, a good paycheck and a wildly popular show? Why risk all of that for a massive unknown?

“I was really comfortable at JOX and I had a really good client list,” said Taylor, who also did sales at JOX. “I had a lot of security there but it was the right time, at this stage in my life, we were just ready for a new chapter and a new challenge. I think this digital platform is it.”

“It’s climbing up a new mountain for us,” said Dunaway. “I’ve done 20 years of television and jumped into radio, because it was a different challenge and I love that format. I’ve always liked trying new things and this is the next mountain to climb. I wanted to make sure all four of us are together for the rest of my career.”

This won’t be the first time listeners have been asked to follow the show during a switch. At JOX, the show moved from the middle of the day to morning drive after nine years in the lunch slot. The listeners followed and the expectation is that they’ll do the same thing this time around. The good news for those who loved The Roundtable is that the show will sound very different than it did on terrestrial radio.

“My view is that we’ll continue to focus on Alabama and Auburn,” said Brown “Those are the local teams that the mass majority of our listeners and viewers care about. I think the TV numbers show this, there’s people in Birmingham and all across Alabama that love college football. Alabama and Auburn are going to be the focus, naturally, but college football is going to be the focus, overall. “

The fact the show has worked for so long is what gives the group the most confidence The Next Round will be a success. Granted, Taylor’s ability to sell advertising and Heninger’s understanding of how to produce the show are major pluses, but the chemistry between all four guys is what truly shines. 

“We’re basically like brothers, because we mess with each other a lot,” said Heninger. “We’ll comment on each other’s shoes or clothes, really anything. Everyone has something we like to rag on. The chemistry just works.”

Heninger doubles as a musician that plays local gigs in the Birmingham area. Taylor swears he’s the most talented in the group and notes his impeccable timing of often only saying one thing an hour, but making it so funny, it’s often the most memorable thing said the entire hour. Rockstar is truly the comedic relief of the show. 

FCC regulations are no longer a worry, due to the show not broadcasting on terrestrial radio. So how might that change things? 

“That’s a very popular question,” laughed Taylor. “We have three layers to the show. Brown is very conservative. Very witty, but very conservative. Dunaway is kind of middle of the road and I’m the guy they kind of peg as El Diablo. We’re not going to be dropping F bombs left and right, just to do it. It’s amazing I made it 23 years in the business without ever breaking an FCC violation. Now I just don’t have to have the guard and filter up that much. There’s not a filter but we still want it to be authentic.”

There are some unknowns with The Next Round. Taylor has never sold digital media, product placement or YouTube. There’s also the fact that so many different viewing and listening options could create confusion and/or headaches for the audience, and no one knows yet if the listeners will follow the show to a new platform or just stick to their comfortable routine of listening to sports talk on the radio dial on JOX. 

But big rewards come from taking big risks. These guys are well aware of the challenges they’re facing and they’re betting on themselves. If it breaks right, the return could be massive. 

“I have complete confidence in the guys I work with,” said Brown. “We all have the same vision and we’re united in it. I have confidence in those who have always followed us. They’re loyal and fans of ours. The people of Alabama love college football and sports. We do that and in an entertaining fashion. That’s what we do.”

BSM Writers

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.

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WRONG BAD

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.

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BSM Writers

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.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

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.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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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.

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