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Is Bama Beating The Sports Talk Audience?

“Hosting shows is about more than just being right.”

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University of Alabama Athletics

College football tapped me on the shoulder this past weekend and told me I needed an attitude adjustment. I’ve been guilty this year — as many other hosts have — of focusing too much of my attention on Alabama’s dominance. Highly ranked teams were slow out of the gate to start the season while Bama looked more like Usain Bolt sprinting down the track. After the Tide dusted Miami 44-13, I turned into a “can’t-beat-Bama” broken record. I now see how that’s the wrong message to harp on.

It wasn’t the Florida Gators that made me realize this as they made Bama sweat out a tough 31-29 win. It was actually the great atmospheres at various colleges Saturday that caused me to rethink my stance. Penn State was a madhouse as it hosted and beat No. 22 Auburn. Indiana’s home crowd was so hyped to face No. 8 Cincinnati that fans in the student section ripped out an entire bleacher. Why? Because they were fired up beyond the point of making rational decisions.

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Courtesy: @grifgonzo on Twitter

The thought finally popped into my head; it’d be really sad if fans around the country said, “We can’t beat Bama so what’s the use?” Think about that. Picture half empty stadiums as fans refused to show up until their odds of dethroning Nick Saban improved. No energy. No excitement. Just blah. No jumping around at Camp Randall. No tomahawk chop at Tallahassee. No white outs in Happy Valley. Nothing.

Passion is what makes college football so great. You can even feel the electricity in the crowd while watching at home. It would be depressing if great fan bases shrugged their shoulders and weakly accepted that Alabama is better.

If all of that would be lame, then why would harping on Bama’s dominance work in sports radio?

Look, there are certainly times for hosts to stir the pot and be the bearers of bad news, but it shouldn’t be all of the time. Nobody wants a nonstop reality check. Imagine if you grabbed the mic from the PA announcer and said, “Hey, all of you Penn State homers, don’t forget that Bama would smoke you by three touchdowns.” Think that would go over well? Nope. So why would it be much different on the air?

Hosting shows is about more than just being right. Rosie Perez once said in White Men Can’t Jump, “Sometimes when you win, you really lose.” Sometimes in sports radio when you’re right, you’re actually wrong. Instead of predicting the winning team on ESPN’s College GameDay each Saturday, picture Lee Corso saying, “Neither one of these teams is beating Bama so the heck with it.” Although Corso would probably be correct, he wouldn’t benefit from the wrong approach.

Lee Corso 'Head Gear Pick': Oklahoma vs. Alabama, College Football Playoff  & more | College GameDay - YouTube
Courtesy: ESPN

One of the things that makes the NFL so great is hope. Many fan bases have realistic hope of winning a championship. That isn’t the case in college football. Imagine if the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers got the first pick in each round of the NFL draft. They’d be even more dominant. Well, that’s basically what happens with Alabama as the defending champs reload with the best recruiting class each year.

Constantly reminding people of that reality is like your smartwatch saying, “You’re overweight. You’re overweight. You’re overweight.” Nobody wants that. You’d chuck that thing into the closest body of water if that were the case.

It’s not just about what hosts are saying, it’s about what they’re selling. If a host keeps saying Alabama can’t be beaten, that host is selling a reality check that most people don’t want. Instead of a vendor at a baseball game saying, “Get your popcorn here,” the host is actually saying, “Get your harsh dose of reality that you really don’t want here.” Who’s buying that?

Hosts should be mindful of how things land. Colin Cowherd once alluded to this thought on his show. I can’t remember what he was specifically talking about, but he referred to a topic and said something in the neighborhood of, “It’ll probably be clunky. It’s not going to land well.” The last part always stuck with me.

It’s a great advantage to be aware of how your comments will land with others. It’s one thing to say, “Hey, wanna take a trip somewhere? It’d be fun.” It’s completely different to yell at your partner, “I refuse to be in a relationship where we don’t go out and do things.” The goal is the same; let’s go do something. But the approach and outcome is much different. If you’re aware of how things will land, you can arrange your comments to be beneficial.

I understand that one of the core ingredients of sports radio is stirring the pot, but not all stirring works. Saying the Dallas Cowboys stink or the Los Angeles Lakers are overrated largely works because most people want that to be the case. Who wants Bama to be unstoppable? Bama fans. Anybody else? No, that’s pretty much the entire list. 

By touting Bama, you are selling Bama. Hosts might not even realize they’re doing it. Heck, I didn’t until this past weekend. I was focused on being right instead how things would land. It’s always wise for hosts to ask themselves, “What am I selling?” It’s so simple yet so easy to overlook. You start thinking, “What can I talk about today? I can mention this. I can bring up that.” You forget that your stance on any topic is basically a sales pitch.

What are you really selling? - The Compass Blog | Due North

Why would you sell despair? Especially relating to college football! One of the greatest strengths of college football is the enthusiasm. Don’t throw a bucket of ice water on that excitement; tap into it. At the very least don’t beat a dead horse. If you’re going to talk about college ball, bring more to the table than, “Can’t beat ‘Bama.” All it will earn is a collective eye roll. That basic take won’t land well.

There are certainly times for hosts to go against the grain, to argue against what listeners think or want. But it’s hard to make a career out of that approach. You’re selling what they aren’t buying. Like Jalen Rose quoting The O’Jays; you got to give the people what they want. There is an excellent line from Proximo in the movie Gladiator; “I was the best because the crowd loved me. Win the crowd and you’ll win your freedom.” You can’t win the crowd in sports radio by selling what listeners don’t want.

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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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