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What Do PDs Want From A Fill-In?

“This is an important time for young voices in the building with aspirations to be a show host. In fact, it may be the biggest opportunity of the entire year.”

Tyler McComas

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M4th5 CC BY-SA 3.0

It’s the holiday season, which means hosts across the country are probably looking at their remaining vacation days and making plans to use all of them before the end of the year. That leaves PDs in the position where they’re usually looking for fill-in talent to help fill shows. Some PDs will look outside the building, while others look at it as an opportunity to get a better look at some of the other voices that are employed as board ops, podcast hosts, etc. 

This is an important time for young voices in the building with aspirations to be a show host. In fact, it may be the biggest opportunity of the entire year. It’s the perfect time for someone to develop who they are behind the mic and identify the strengths and weaknesses they may possess. 

But what exactly are PD’s looking for and where do they normally go for fill-in talent? Those were the questions I posed to three PDs across the country. 

Armen Williams – Brand Manager at SportsRadio 610 and CBS Sports Radio 650

How did you come across the fill-in hosts you use?

AW: A lot of times fill-in hosts are inherited – let’s first investigate the voices that have been used over the years at the radio station.  Who are the listeners most familiar with? Then, it’s always healthy to look internally to see if there are other individuals who are on the support staff that would be interested in the opportunity or perhaps could be groomed for future roles. Next, it’s a search between other media members or notable individuals inside the market.

What are you looking for from these folks? 

AW: It depends. In a perfect world, there are at least a few people that you’re grooming for potential roles on the station one day. Who’s good enough to possibly do this thing on a regular basis? Building a depth chart on the station is one of the harder things to do but can pay off in dividends long-term.

Then, sometimes you’re just looking for others who might have another job but can provide a unique perspective and can be available on occasion.

Do you coach them the same way you do your regular hosts? 

AW: Well, most fill-ins are only in your building for a small amount of time out of the year, so it’s not a situation where you’re doing regular aircheck sessions with them, no. But it is important that they get communication as to what the minimum expectations are and a general feel/direction of the brand and content. Regular fill-ins will likely get more feedback than someone that’s only called on a few days out of the year.  

Tye Richardson – PD of ESPN Arkansas and Host of The Morning Rush

How did you come across the fill-in hosts you use?

TR: We’ve found our fill-in hosts at ESPN Arkansas in a number of ways. Some have been former employees. Others have been doing weekly podcasts associated with our radio station. Giving part timers a crack is another route we’ve explored. 

What are you looking for from these folks?

TR: We’re looking for future hosts of the station. Radio is an ever evolving business. I always need to be prepared if someone leaves for another job, quits, etc. Most athletic directors have a shortlist of who they would hire next if needed. We take a similar approach.

Do you coach them the same way you do your regular hosts?

TR: I rarely say anything to our current hosts as the Program Director. Our market manager handles that side of the coaching. I’m more willing to share my opinion to the fill-ins. It’s in my best interest they’re prepared to take a next step. 

John Mamola – PD of 95.3 WDAE, AM 620 and NewsRadio WFLA

How did you come across the fill-in hosts you use?

JM: During the holidays, we tend to give some of our board ops and producers some air time. We try to cycle it through the staff to try and get some reps in. We want to keep it local with people that the audience is familiar with, as opposed to bringing someone in out of the market. Sometimes we’ll lean on our partners, like if the Rays, Lightning or Bucs want to have some of their on-air personnel do some shows. But we do try to keep it to familiar voices

How valuable is that for you as a PD, to be able to use this time to evaluate talent?

JM: It’s extremely valuable. It’s good to give opportunities to some people that have worked really hard throughout the year and give them some experience behind the mic, instead of just the board. We pull in talent from the other radio stations in the building to give it a different spin, but those are more guest spots as opposed to full shows. We have some options to do more syndication, which we kind of lean on a little bit, but we try not to dive into that too much. 

What advice would you give to a fill-in talent?

JM: I don’t think booking interviews is necessarily a good trait of if you’re going to give an air check to a talent. Can you ask questions? Sure, as long as you’re asking the right questions and framing them correctly, fine. If I’m going to give advice to a talent, I’d rather give them advice on a skill set that defines them. 

If I were to go to North Carolina and ask someone to do a couple of hours in Tampa, the top three things would be, make sure you understand what you’re talking about, because if you don’t research my city and my market, then people aren’t going to listen to you. Work on pronunciations. That’s a big faux pas for a lot of people, unfortunately, when I hear people at other stations with talent that aren’t in those markets. Know how to pronounce Amalie Arena. Three, just be welcoming to being razzed a little bit. If people don’t know who the hell you are, they’re going to ask who the hell do you think you are. You have to be prepared for that, because it’s one thing to dive into how terrible the Bucs were on Sunday but if you can’t remember a certain play or moment in the game, and it’s obvious to the audience you have no idea what you’re talking about, you have to have thick skin. Have fun with it, because it’s a one-off and the biggest thing is can you entertain my audience from afar? If you can do that, you win the day.

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Sports Radio News

Mike Felger: iHeartMedia Adding ‘The Rich Shertenlieb Show’ is a Good Sign

“Anything that gets people to turn the radio on I am for.”

Barrett Sports Media

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Screengrab of The Off Air Show with Mike Felger joined by Kendra Middleton
Screengrab from 98.5 The Sports Hub Facebook

Mike Felger had Kendra Middleton as his guest on the latest edition of The Off-Air Show on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Facebook page. In between finding out about Middelton’s influencer career and the dirty pics she gets sent to her from men, the subject of The Rich Shertenlieb Show came up. Shertenlieb started this week on Boston classic rock station 100.7 WZLX after being off the air for over six months since he left The Sports Hub and show partner Fred Toucher.

About the new show, Felger said, “I’ve sampled it, I think it sounds good. It sounds like Rich. It sounds like what it would sound like when Fred was off, and Rich was in.”

Felger has talked before on the show about wanting the industry as a whole to be successful and that was what stood out to him about iHeartMedia adding Shertenlieb to mornings. “I’m glad that he got that gig…Anything that gets people to turn the radio on I am for,” he continued. “I just want the industry to be good, I want radio to be strong, the industry to be strong, I want people to listen to the radio. I want radio companies hiring radio hosts to do radio shows. I take that whole thing as being healthy.”

While Felger wants his company to win, he wants the other companies to have just enough success to continue doing what they are doing. “I hope Fred and Hardy beat him soundly in the morning in the ratings, but I want Rich to do well, do well enough,” he said. “I want ZLX and iHeart to do well and do well enough. I want them to have a good business and a strong revenue stream. I am rooting for that and Rich personally as well, who I know, and I wish personal success to him. I’m more interested in iHeart hiring a real radio host to do a real radio show in Boston and obviously paying him enough to it. That’s a good sign and I hope it does well enough that more radio stations keep doing that and whatever gets you to turn on the radio, I am for.”

Middleton said she had not yet heard the new show but said, “I think the rotating third chair is an interesting concept. I was shocked to see Ted [Johnson] go. The rotating third chair is going to be an interesting thing in the industry.”

The pair talked about rumors ZLX might flip to all sports eventually and try to get the Boston Red Sox play-by-play rights, which are not up again until after the 2028 season. Felger asked Middleton if all of that were to happen, “Is that a good or bad thing for The Sports Hub?”

“I think both,” she said. “Obviously it’s going to pull listeners away from The Sports Hub, but it’s doing that already in the mornings because the nature of another show being in town. But I think the competitiveness and forcing people here to be on their ‘A game’…I don’t think that’s ever a bad thing. Competition is never bad.”

Felger later added, “Sports radio is so lucrative that a third company has decided to come in and do it, that’s how I read that, that’s good…I want radio to be strong. Radio, not just The Sports Hub, radio as a medium, as a business. So, if iHeart flipping to sports means sports radio is strong, I am for it.”

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Sports Radio News

Sports Media Reacts to the Possibility of Losing ‘Inside the NBA’

“It’s must-see television, it always is.”

Barrett Sports Media

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Photos of Shaquille O'Neal, Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley
Photo Courtesy: TNT Sports

Many in sports media have reacted to the news today that NBC will claim the final NBA media rights package. This means that longtime NBA partner TNT is out after next season and, most likely, Inside the NBA will come to an end next year as well.

On 670 The Score in Chicago, Dan Bernstein said, “I’m genuinely unhappy about it because it appears that the last season of the NBA on TNT and Inside the NBA is next year and then it’s over. Unless somebody just throws a ton of money and picks that whole show up and grabs it and says, ‘What’s your number’ for everybody we want to just take the whole show, everybody involved and make it part of what we do…it sounds like it’s over and that sucks. That’s the best sports studio show ever.”

Steak Shapiro from 92.9 The Game in Atlanta said upon reading the news, “That stinks… What great entertainment does is allow you to be entertained and take a deep breath and say, ‘I just enjoy this, this is my hour and a half or two hours watching Shaq, Kenny, Charles and Ernie Johnson Jr. hanging out.'”

Rich Eisen spent time on his show talking about it and said, ” I’m telling you guys I would be stunned if they were all a package deal going somewhere else.” He later added, about the show, “It’s must-see television, it always is.”

Several others took to social media to post about the show:

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Andy Gresh: ‘Greg Olsen Got Pushed Out for the Greatest Player in the History of the Game’

“Even in the world of tight ends he doesn’t scratch the surface of where Tom Brady has been.”

Barrett Sports Media

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Photos of Andy Gresh and Greg Olsen and a logo for WEEI
Gresh Photo Courtesy: Audacy Olsen Photo Courtesy: FOX Sports

The Sports Emmy Awards were handed out last night and one particular award caught the attention of WEEI’s Gresh & Fauria show in Boston. Hosts Andy Gresh and Christian Fauria talked about the category of Outstanding Personality/Event Analyst where the nominees were Troy Aikman, Cris Collinsworth, Greg Olsen, Bill Raftery, John Smoltz and Tom Verducci.

Olsen won the award, and the show played the audio from his acceptance speech. “I think there’s a lot of people wondering what I’m going to say right now,” Olsen said. “Coming into tonight, people asked me, they say, ‘What’s your biggest threat to your future in the business?’ And everyone’s like, ‘Oh, Brady and this,’ and I think it’s Andy from ‘Toy Story.’ If he gets in, (Cris) Collinsworth, (Troy) Aikman, we’re dead. But I really appreciate it.”

Olsen later added, “I don’t know what the future holds, all I know is I love talking football, I love talking ball, I love studying it, I love seeing where the game is going. Wherever that takes me, whatever level it is, I’m more committed to the game of football now.”

It was the “I don’t know what the future holds” part of what Olsen said that caught the host’s attention. They took that as Olsen pouting and not being happy to be on the No. 2 FOX Sports NFL team. Fauria used the term “pushed out” and Gresh wanted to make a point about that.

“Again, Greg Olsen got pushed out for the greatest player in the history of the game,” Gresh said. “And they’re not firing him, they’re moving him to the No. 2 spot… and guess what, if you don’t keep that gig, the only thing that’ll be on the epitaph of the career resume is that you got bumped by Tom Brady. You’re good, settle in for No. 2, wait your turn somewhere else…but even in the world of tight ends he doesn’t scratch the surface of where Tom Brady has been.”

Fauria painted the picture a little differently as he is not of the belief Tom Brady is going to be a great NFL analyst. “It’s funny because here comes a guy who was just recognized by all his peers…deciding between all these guys, he was the best one,” he said. “And he got pushed out for a guy who has never done it before…and there is not some sort of given that he is even going to be good at it. He could suck at it.”

Gresh replied back, “If you are at the FOX upfronts and you got a chance to go in a room, are you going to pick the one with Greg Olsen or the one with Tom Brady? …Brady is not going to let himself fail at this. He is not going to look like a big idiot.”

“Just the assumption that Brady is going to be great at this I think is a stretch” replied Fauria.

As for Olsen, Fauria believes if he continues the way he has started, he will come out on top in the end. “I guarantee you at some point in time, when his contract runs out, and he tells all the streaming services that all exist now, he ends up being the guy. He’s fine. And he lost his job to the greatest football player ever.”

Gresh is not nearly as big of an Olsen fan and said, “If Greg Olsen was so great, are the other networks going to fall all over themselves to try and hire this guy? Will ESPN say, ‘maybe we will get rid of Aikman and put Olsen in there?'”

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