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Every Format Has Its Hits And Every Host Has To Play Them

“Playing the hits on sports talk radio should be a fun challenge that forces you to go deep and find new, interesting angles to explore the biggest story of the day.”

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Pulse Films

Ask any program director in any format their advice for choosing great content, and it is a safe bet you will hear these three words: Play the hits.

The message is pretty clear. Give the people what they want. Make them comfortable with what we are doing here. That is how you turn listeners into fans.

Courtesy: Crown Archetype

For DJs and personalities on music stations, playing the hits can be tiresome. Take it from someone that spent 18 years in rock radio. There is no variety to the hits. If the playlist says to play “Seven Nation Army,” brother, you’re playing “Seven Nation Army”.

Are there better songs than “Seven Nation Army”? Sure. Are there better White Stripes’ songs than “Seven Nation Army”? Absolutely. But the masses know and love “Seven Nation Army,” so that is what you’re gonna play.

Hits in sports radio are topics. The Monday after the first full weekend of NFL action comes with an expectation that you are going to be talking about the biggest stories from the game with the most local relevance. There is no mandate on what you are going to say. Playing the hits on music radio is tiring because it is always the same song. Playing the hits on sports talk radio should be a fun challenge that forces you to go deep and find new, interesting angles to explore the biggest story of the day.

Q Myers programs Lotus’s sports stations in Las Vegas. He also came from a music format. He was a little bit more enthusiastic about playing the hits than I was in my music days. That has helped guide how he talks to talent about why we keep going back to the top stories of the day.

“Especially to me with my music background, I know it’s all about the hits,” Q told me. “What is the hot topic? What is important in my market and how many ways can you talk about it to keep it fresh? I look at is an ‘A’ record. How can I play this ‘A’ record but still make it sound hot and fresh? How creative can I get to allow my audience to embrace it like it’s brand new?”

Your Boy Q (@YourboyQ254) | Twitter

“I want the host to hit the big topics every 40 minutes. We are competing with too many audio sources that I don’t want the talent ever more than 40 minutes from a hit,” Gregg Henson, program director of 910 The Fan in Richmond told me. “We are moving more and more to preparing a one-hour show and repeating it every hour. Nobody is listening for three or four hours. The presentation should vary per hour but the content shouldn’t.”

For Gregg, those big topics will always lean towards the Washington Football Team and Virginia’s college football and basketball teams. News and speculation about those teams are the lifeblood of Richmond sports fans.

Steven Spector disagrees. He programs 610 Sports in Kansas City and told me that he hopes his hosts can recognize times there may not be a hit to play.

“A Monday after the Chiefs comeback to beat the Browns requires playing the hits but it doesn’t mean that every NFL Monday is the same,” he told me in an email. “On the days when there is not a 1a story, then you need to make people laugh. Entertain them. And if you keep the pace moving, you’ll get to the stories and opinions people want to hear.”

There are all kinds of exercises for taking those hit topics and mining them for content. Sports radio’s go-to is Bruce Gilbert’s topic tree, but there are other options. Have you ever seen Steve Reynolds’ wheel of content? Are you a list maker? Maybe you follow a pattern that forces you to change things up. You give your thoughts the first time the topic comes up, then you go to a guest, then you take phone calls.

No right or wrong answers exist. This is purely about preference.

Spector says he doesn’t care which tool his hosts and producers use. What is more important is that they know they are expected to recognize when a “1a story” exists and get the most mileage they can out of it.

“I think if you set a general philosophy for the radio station when it comes to content, then it’s known before the day starts and before show prep starts. Then it’s about daily/weekly check-ins with your guys to make sure they’re following the philosophy. Generally speaking, I believe the talent & producers know when there are ‘those days’ where you don’t stray from 1a.”

Myers thinks about the hits in a number of different ways. Sure, he wants his team talking about the Raiders today. He wants them talking about the Raiders a lot, but he told me that a story doesn’t have to happen in Las Vegas in order for it to be a hit with a Las Vegas audience.

“That’s a question I always want my team to be thinking. If something happened like a legendary player or coach dies for example, do we have someone locally who played for or with or against them that can add a unique perspective? I always try to bring our national stories and give them a local feel, so it means more to our audience.”

The hits matter. As a host or producer, it is understandable that talking about the same thing for an entire show or an entire week can be boring. That is why it is on you to make sure you aren’t stuck on a single angle or detail of a story.

Is that on the host and the producer? Ultimately yes, but just like Spector, Gregg Henson believes that motivation comes from the top. A staff will only place as much value in playing the hits as a programmer does. That is why he wants to see the show prep being done and how it shakes out.

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“As a PD, the best way to ensure that a host is hitting the A topics is to the set expectation in advance and make sure the show sheet matches the mission,” he says.

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BSM Writers

Keeping Premier League Games Shouldn’t Be A Hard Call For NBC

“Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans.”

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NBC Sports is facing some tough, costly decisions that will define its sports brand for the rest of this decade.  A chance to connect with viewers in a changing climate and grow Peacock’s audience as well.  However, making the right choice is paramount to not losing to apps like Paramount+ (pun intended).

NBC is currently in the business of negotiating to continue airing the Premier League as their current deal ends after this 2021-2022 season.  NASCAR is contracted to NBC (and FOX) through the 2024 season.

NBC’s tentpole sports are the NFL and the Olympics.  

Negotiations for the EPL are expected to go down to the wire. Rather than re-up with NBC, the league is meeting with other networks to drive up the price. NBC has to then make a decision if the rights go north of $2 billion.

Should NBC spend that much on a sport that is not played in the United States? It’s not my money, but that sport continues to grow in the US.

If NBC re-ups with the Premier League, will that leave any coins in the cupboard to re-up with NASCAR? Comcast CEO Brian Roberts hinted that there might be some penny pinching as the prices continue to soar. This may have been one of the reasons that NBC did not fight to keep the National Hockey League, whose rights will be with Disney and WarnerMedia through ESPN and TNT, respectively.

“These are really hard calls,” Roberts said. “You don’t always want to prevail, and sometimes you’re right and sometimes you’re wrong, but I think the sustainability of sports is a critical part of what our company does well.”

Roberts was speaking virtually at the recent Goldman Sachs 30th Annual Communacopia Conference. He told the audience that between NBC and European network Sky, that Comcast has allocated approximately $20 billion towards these sports properties.

Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh spoke virtually at the Bank of America Securities 2021 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference and echoed that the company is in a good position to make some strong choices in the sports realm. 

“The bar is really high for us to pursue outright acquisitions of any material size,” Cavanagh added. “We got a great hand to play with what we have.”

While the European investments involve a partnership with American rival Viacom, the US market seems to have apparent limits.

Last Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series at Bristol Motor Speedway was seen by around 2.19 million people. It was the most-watched motorsports event of the weekend. That same week eight different Premier League matches saw over 1 million viewers. More than half of those matches were on subscription-based Peacock. 

Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans. A game of typical soccer fan is used to a sport that is less than two hours long. The investment in a team is one or two games a week. 

My connection to the Premier League began before the pandemic.  When I cut the cord in late 2017, I purchase Apple TV.  Setting it up, it asks you to name your favorite teams.  After clicking on the Syracuse Orange and the New Jersey Devils, I recalled that my wife has family based in London, England.  They are season ticket holders for Arsenal, and that family redefined the word “die-hard” fans.

I’ve long been a believer that sports allegiances are best when handed down by family. I love hearing stories of people loving the New York Giants because their parents liked them, and they pass it down to their children.

I’ve successfully given my allegiance to the Devils to my young daughters. 

By telling Apple TV that I liked Arsenal, I get alerts from three different apps when the “Gunners” are playing. The $4.99 is totally worth it to see Arsenal.

Whenever I told this story, I was amazed to see how many other American sports fans had a Premier League team. Students of mine at Seton Hall University rooted for Tottenham Hotspurs, while an old colleague cheers on Chelsea.

Global Is Cool': The Growing Appeal of Premier League Soccer in America
Courtesy: Morning Consult

This is not meant to say that NBC should sign the EPL on my account. The key for any US-based soccer fan is that between Bundesliga, Serie A, and other leagues, there will be no shortage of soccer available on both linear television and streaming services.

Besides, Dani Rojas did say that “Football is life.”  NBC, originator of the Ted Lasso character, should make keeping its Premier League US connection a priority.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 45

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Today, Demetri is joined by Tyler McComas and Russ Heltman. Tyler pops on to talk about the big start to the college football season on TV. Russ talks about Barstool’s upfront presentation and how the business community may not see any problems in working with the brand. Plus, Demetri is optimistic about FOX Sports Radio’s new morning show.

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BSM Writers

6 Ad Categories Hotter Than Gambling For Sports Radio

“Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life.”

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For years sports radio stations pushed sports gambling advertisers to early Saturday and Sunday morning. The 1-800 ads, shouting, and false claims were seedy, and some stations wouldn’t even accept the business at 5 am on Sunday.

Now, with all but ten states ready to go all in on sports gambling, sports radio stations can’t get enough of that green. Demetri Ravanos wrote about the money cannon that sports gambling has become for stations. Well, what if you are in one of those ten states where it isn’t likely to ever be legal like California or Texas? Where is your pot of gold?

A Pot of Gold Articles - Analyzing Metals
Courtesy: iStockphoto

Or, let’s face it, the more gambling ads you run, the more risk you take on that the ads will not all work as you cannibalize the audience and chase other listeners away who ARE NOT online gambling service users and never will be. So, what about you? Where is your pot of gold?

Well, let’s go Digging for Gold. 

The RAB produces the MRI-Simmons Gold Digger PROSPECTING REPORT for several radio formats. In it, they index sports radio listeners’ habits against an average of 18+ Adult. The Gold Digger report looks at areas where the index is higher than the norm – meaning the sports radio audience is more likely to use the product or service than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. The report, generated in 2020, indicates that sports radio listeners are 106% more likely to have used an online gambling site in the last thirty days. That’s impressive because the report only lists 32 activities or purchases a sports radio listener indexes higher than an average adult. I looked at those 32 higher indexes, and I think we can start looking for some gold.

Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life. The gambling companies who commit significant money to get results will continue advertising and chase the others away. So, the future of sports radio needs to include other cash cows.

If it is evident to online sports gambling services that sports radio stations are a must-buy, who else should feel that way?  I looked at the Top 32 and eliminated the media companies. ESPN, MLB/NHL/NFL networks, and others aren’t spending cash on sports radio stations they don’t own in general. But Joseph A Bank clothing, Fidelity, and Hotwire should! Here’s your PICK-6 list I pulled together that’s hotter than sports gambling:

  • Sportscard collectors, Dapper Labs, Open Sea- read about Sports NFT $.
  • Online brokerage firms-Fidelity, Charles Schwab, Robinhood, Webull, TD Ameritrade
  • Golf courses, resorts, equipment, etc.- we play golf at home and vacation
  • Hotwire.com, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Airbnb, Carnival Corporation, and Priceline.com- we’ve used Hotwire in the last year.
  • FedEx, UPS, U.S. Postal Service, Venmo, PayPal, Zelle-we wired or overnighted $ 
  • Jos. A. Bank, shein.com, macys.com, nordstroms.com- we went to Jos. A. Bank in last three months

The sports card/NFT market is 32% hotter than the sports betting market for sports radio listeners. Everything on the PICK-6 is at least 100% more likely to purchase than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. All listed are at or above indexing strength compared to sports betting. The individual companies I added are industry leaders. Bet on it! Email me for details. 

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