Week One of the NFL was back this past weekend in all its glory.
Being the radio nerd that I am, I often spend my Sunday mornings and late afternoons/evenings flipping between various local pre and postgame shows around the country.
While I was impressed by a few, I was sadly disappointed by many. One host sounded so disinterested, it felt like he didn’t even want to be on the air. Another show consisted of three guys rambling about the game and offering no useful information. Another was doing a show from a crowded bar, and you could hardly hear him amongst the background noise. Another host spent half a segment trying to figure out how the phone system worked because calls kept dropping.
One of the most telling things that explained the prevailing attitude towards pre and postgame shows was said by a former GM of mine.
“These shows exist for one reason, to sell remotes and run extra commercials,” they said.
Based on the litany of programs I listened to on Sunday, that philosophy continued to ring true.
I’ve long been of the belief that, more than any other sport, during NFL season, pregame and postgame shows MATTER.
NFL Sundays have long been national holidays. If you’re a sports station you have 17 of them every season (and if you have a decent team in town, even more). You need to treat these days like you’re covering a special, all-day event…BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT IT IS. You have a window of opportunity to grab the attention of listeners in your market ALL DAY, EACH WEEK for SIX MONTHS. This is a golden opportunity and needs to be treated as such. You can’t do that being low rent.
Pregame shows really set the tone for the day. Sure, you want to talk about the game at hand and get in any last-minute info that’s relevant before kickoff. But SO much more is needed. Now more than ever, there is a real THIRST for information from listeners. People spend their Sunday mornings getting their fantasy football lineups, picks, parlays, and teasers set. The onus is on programmers and content managers to set these up the right way and with the right people. Make the pregame show a one-stop shop for all this info so consumers don’t have to flip between different shows to get it.
Postgame shows can be the ultimate destination once a game goes final. Fans need a place to celebrate, vent and grieve. They want to hear instant analysis and relevant info on the game that they hadn’t heard before. Not just the stats (which they can get from any number of apps), but the anecdotal; the WHY. They want to hear what the coach and starting QB and other relevant players had to say…not just in their pressers but on their social media channels.
It’s so easy to be successful producing quality NFL pre and post-game shows. I’ve always tried to go by four principles.
1 – HIRE THE RIGHT PEOPLE
In my many years as a PD, I’ve consistently used my best weekday talent on pre or postgame shows. NFL Sundays are PREMIUM days, and you should use PREMIUM talent. Sometimes, that requires you to pay more. So what? It’s worth the investment. Your hosts and contributors need to be worth tuning in for.
Are they proven fantasy football winners? Can they make me money and help me beat the spread? Do they know things about the team that other people don’t? Do they have a passion for the team they’re covering and can generate can’t miss content? These are all questions you need to answer honestly before you set your gameday lineup. You can’t just throw a bone to the afternoon show producer because he or she will do it on the cheap.
2 – DISH OUT THE RIGHT INFO
Have your segments drawn up and run them TIGHT. This is not a day where you want to be caught rambling or taking bad phone calls. You need to get out all the info that listeners are clamoring for and push them out as fast as you can on your things that matter, and you need to make sure that all this info is being pushed out both on-air and on all your social channels.
At a MINIMUM:
- Fantasy Football info
- Gambling info
- Live check ins-from the stadium
- Last minute “insider” info
- Repurposing of any GOOD coach/player audio from the week
- Instant analysis and reaction
- Coach/player pressers
- A look at what players are posting on their social channels
- Listener calls and texts (quality over quantity)
- Highlights from the game
3 – KEEP IT IN STUDIO
I have long had an absolute hatred of remote broadcasts. Yes, I realize that they are often low-hanging fruit when it comes to generating revenue. But in most cases, the actual quality of what comes out of the speaker goes right down the toilet.
If you MUST do a pregame and postgame show on-location, do everything you can to set it up for success. Make sure that you have a dedicated hard-wired broadcast connection and that said connection is installed and tested in advance of EVERY show. Always have a backup in the event that the broadcast line goes down (because at some point, it will). Make sure your hosts are in a location where they can do their jobs and not be bothered by drunk patrons. Most importantly, set up your broadcast in a spot that shelters them from too much ambient noise, so listeners won’t have an unpleasant experience when they tune in.
4 – TAKE OWNERSHIP OF THE AUDIENCE
If you’re the flagship, you need to be sure to highlight all the access you get that the other outlets don’t. You should have exclusive audio from the head coach and starting QB teed up after the game.
If you aren’t the flagship, you still need to act like you OWN the fan base. It doesn’t take much energy for a listener to push a button if you give them a reason to do so. Your hosts need to beat the drum that their show is the place to be before and after the game.
Some of the best pre and postgame shows were on outlets that didn’t carry any actual games. If you have the right hosts and contributors in place, you can put together programs that can gain loyal fanbases every week.
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.