Certain memories from childhood find a way to stick with you. For Danny Zederman, one of those memories is being seated in his mother’s car in Chicago listening to a surfeit of talk radio and being captivated by the power of the aural medium. Whether it was Howard Stern, Jonathan Brandmeier or Steve Dahl, there was always the sound of a familiar voice permeating through the car speakers, cultivating a perdurable appeal to what was being said. Throughout his youth, Zederman was infatuated with radio and thought about potentially pursuing a career in it.
Zederman attended college at The University of Kansas and studied journalism; however, he was relatively uncertain about what he wanted to do upon his graduation. Seeking advice, he conferred with a school counselor who posed a question to him that he remembers to this day.
“‘Danny, what can you do for eight or more hours a day and get paid for it, or not get paid for it; what’s something you’re passionate about?,’” Zederman recalled the counselor asking him. “I said, ‘I’m passionate about sports, and I’m passionate about the radio.’”
The sports radio format was still in its growth phase at the time Zederman attended college in the late 1990s, and the ways to begin working in it were not as widely known. As a result, Zederman had to perform much of his own research to learn the available roles and unearth the path to a successful career. Once this research was complete, he knew that the sports radio industry was for him and started trying to position himself for success in this competitive industry. After all, Zederman grew up in the city of Chicago as an avid sports fan and a steadfast radio listener by osmosis wherefore he sought to merge his two passions into a career.
Over two decades later, Zederman has experienced his journey in radio at home in “The Windy City,” starting his career in 2002 as the operations manager of Newsweb’s conglomerate of Chicago-based stations: WSBC, WCSN, WNDZ and WCFJ. He began working as a producer at The Score in late 2003 and stayed there for just over two years before making the move to ESPN 1000 WMVP Chicago in 2006. In this role, Zederman proved to be an integral part to the station’s development, producing notorious radio programs including Mac, Jurko & Harry, Kap & J. Hood and Silvy & Carmen. One of Zederman’s favorite memories from his time at the station came in 2016 when his beloved Chicago Cubs won Game 7 of the World Series, breaking their infamous 108-year-long championship drought.
“I got to be [at] Game 7 of the World Series, [and] that was incredible,” Zederman said. “The next day we went on the air; my favorite baseball team of all-time just won the World Series… and I’m producing a sports talk radio show celebrating a game that I was at in which the Cubs won the World Series – that was incredible.”
Good Karma Brands purchased ESPN 1000 WMVP Chicago as part of a $15 million long-term affiliation agreement with The Walt Disney Company that also included ESPN 710 KSPN Los Angeles and ESPN 1050 WEPN New York. While ESPN 1000 was being operated by Good Karma Brands since October 2019 under a local marketing agreement, Zederman remained in his role as a show producer.
Yet shortly after the official purchase of the station at the start of the new year, Zederman was promoted to director of content, a role he has since been working in for just under seven months. While he has a new title, Zederman knows working as a producer for over fifteen years effectively prepared him for this new responsibility in radio management.
“I’ve got to think about things further down the line than just the next day’s show like you do when you’re a producer, but you’re still wearing the same hat,” expressed Zederman. “The goal is to find out what the fan wants to hear; what the fan wants to consume; and how to best serve the fan. Although the role’s different, I think being a producer is the best minor-league system for somebody who wants to go into programming because you have a great touch [and] a great feel for what the fans want.”
From an outsider’s perspective, making the shift from being a producer to being director of content could seem daunting because of potential animosity from new subordinates. For Zederman though, garnering their respect was not a difficult task because of his longevity at the station, familiarity with the staff and enduring desire to position the station for sustained success.
“I’ve been here for almost seventeen years. I’ve worked for most of these guys and gals that work in this building,” said Zederman. “They’ve seen my work ethic; they’ve seen how much I care; they’ve seen how much I want this place to succeed, and they respect that.”
In his previous role as a producer, Zederman worked closely with various program directors at ESPN Chicago, including Mitch Rosen, Adam Delevitt and Justin Craig. Over the years, he picked up on various proclivities and other skills they had in an effort to excel in his new role and be the best manager possible, one of which is to value the opinions of colleagues and let them be expressed.
“Justin Craig… was a tremendous listener,” said Zederman. “As a leader, he would listen to us; he would let us talk; he would let us vent; he would let us express ourselves; he would hear everything. I think that’s one thing I learned from him is to manage people, it’s important for them to be heard and to feel heard.”
While the quotidian operations of the station did not significantly change following the ownership shift, Zederman began working with senior vice president and market manager Keith Williams, who has been with Good Karma Brands since 1999. Williams started in his role as a market manager for ESPN Digital in Baltimore, M.D. and Washington, D.C. in 2018, and following a three-year stint in Madison, Wisconsin, joined ESPN 1000 in Chicago last October. His leadership skills and ability to relate to people has helped Zederman assimilate into his new role at the station and gives him another dependable colleague on the team.
“Keith is absolutely incredible – he is probably the best leader that I’ve ever worked with,” said Zederman. “He understands people; he understands situations; he’s a great listener, a great communicator and he’s all about teamwork. We’ve always had a great culture here at ESPN Chicago, but he’s taken that to another level with his ability to understand everybody’s role.”
The market manager for ESPN Chicago before Williams was Mike Thomas, who is now the senior vice president and marketing manager for Audacy in Boston. Thomas, a Chicago-area native, left his job as program director for 98.5 The Sports Hub in October 2019 to join ESPN 1000 in Chicago, and was with the station for two years. In that time, he proved to be instrumental in the creation of the morning drive show Kap and J. Hood, along with overseeing the station’s move on FM via digital HD2 transmission. The change in market manager was prompted by Thomas’ resignation from the position in October 2021 to return to Boston.
“Mike Thomas is a wizard when it comes to programming,” said Zederman. “He was innovative; he had a great sense for what good content was [and] he had a great sense for what the fans wanted. I learned from him how content is created for the fan and how to stay ahead of the curb and always be innovating… changing direction… and finding what’s next.”
As director of content for ESPN 1000, part of Zederman’s job is to ensure the station is generating favorable ratings and revenue. Despite Nielsen being the standard for ratings in radio though, Zederman relies on other metrics to genuinely delineate the performance of his station against more than just its radio counterparts.
“I never get too high when the ratings are good. I never get too low when the ratings are bad,” said Zederman. “I understand how Nielsen measures ratings, so I kind of take it with a grain of salt. It’s not an exact science.”
Accurately instantiating radio performance in the 21st-century extends beyond the scope of simply reviewing the Nielsen ratings on a regular basis. Managers today intricately monitor an assortment of other statistics representative of a multiplatform media environment with an excess of voices and audiovisual content.
“I look at the stream numbers; that’s far more accurate,” said Zederman when discussing his dependance on radio ratings. “I look at our podcast downloads – we have over a million podcast downloads a month; that’s a huge number…. So I look at that to know, ‘Hey, we are resonating with our fans no matter what the Nielsen numbers say – positive or negative.’ There are metrics that we have that are far more accurate.”
Shortly before the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the United States in March 2020, ESPN 1000 released its mobile app where users can stream ESPN 1000 programming live wherever they may be. The app also gives users the ability to listen to past programming, along with other original content including podcast-exclusive shows. Additionally, the station live streams all of it’s original shows on Twitch, creating a visual experience and the chance for listeners to join the conversation without even calling in to the show via the platform’s chat function.
Even before March 2020, sports media was in the midst of a rapid shift towards digital content accessible to listeners on their own schedule, and the change remains ongoing. Staying ahead of the curb by continuing to innovate and monitor changes in the industry are parts of the job Zederman seeks to master to ensure the station remains prudent and able to compete with other sources of content creation. Those sources of content creation extend far beyond the other prominent sports radio station in town: 670 The Score.
“I don’t really worry about competing with The Score,” affirmed Zederman. “The truth is I’m competing with iTunes; I’m competing with Spotify; I’m competing with The Ringer. Nowadays, you can get audio in so many different places that if I think I’m just competing with the other sports talk station in town, I’m in big trouble.”
Part of the shift in content distribution is resultant upon a profusion of new research suggesting that while younger demographics enjoy listening to aural content, they do so less through the traditional radio medium. Rather, audio is being consumed in a variety of different ways, whether it be through digital streams, podcasts, on-demand shows or visual simulcasts, and is only continuing to expand. That is why while ESPN 1000 is on the FM dial, albeit through an HD2 stream, it does not make a significant impact in terms of the reach of the station, nor does it serve as a primary driver of future content.
“You ask somebody between the ages of 15 and 24 the last time they turned on a radio; they probably haven’t done it in months,” Zederman surmised. “If we want to reach our fans, there are so many different platforms to reach them – that’s what they focus on.”
ESPN 1000 has a variety of local and national content varying from live radio shows to original podcasts. While podcasting has incontrovertibly made its assimilation into sports radio, Zederman believes the two aural mediums can effectively coexist despite marketplace saturation because of each one’s innate components that appeal to audio’s consumption base.
“There are times when it is more convenient to listen to a podcast, and that’s obviously why we make our shows available on podcasts, [and] why we have original content podcasts,” Zederman explained. “…I also think there’s an aspect to live radio that will never go away. The day after a Bears game when they lose ugly to the Packers and Aaron Rodgers says ‘I own you,’ there’s nothing like live radio with these hosts pissed off pounding the table and the callers from all over the Chicagoland area calling in to vent their frustration.”
Every source of content distribution seeks to differentiate themselves from others through what materials they release to consumers, yet that also comes with attracting and retaining the most optimal talent. As a director of content, Zederman knows that what the station is able to do is guided by the characteristics of the talent, making the managerial tasks of recruitment and retention essential for future development.
“The number one most important thing in what I do is prioritizing the fan,” said Zederman. “The fan’s the most important thing because they’re consuming the product. The next most important thing is the talent. You have good talent; you have talent that can tell a story. Talent can make any content interesting.”
Talent are also now able to keep in touch with their listeners for more than just their allotted time slot on the air, truly affording radio personalities the chance to better know their consumers and understand their needs and wants. The intimate relationship long-heralded as the crux of the argument for live radio’s perpetuity and eminence indeed extends outside of the reach of the AM/FM frequency.
“Social media is a great way for the talent to become brands and to get a following,” Zederman said, “and hopefully that following tune into the show the next day… Social media is a great way for the talent to engage with the fan, and I think we just have to continue to go that way and embrace it. It’s a great tool for what we do.”
Sports media is unequivocally different than it was when it initially launched, yet the guiding principle of the industry – that is, to serve the fan – remains the same. Just how effectively the fan is being served is representative of the independent variable, and determines the concurrent ratings and revenue, or dependent variable.
“I think the important thing is to just keep giving people content on multiple different platforms,” said Zederman. “We don’t know what’s next, [but] whatever the next platform is, we’re going to be there.”
For aspiring professionals looking to work in radio management, along with those currently holding management roles at radio stations, Zederman knows that being versatile in one’s ability to understand and perform various roles at the station makes you more relatable to colleagues and able to adapt to sudden changes. But there is one truly unspoken rule of being in management that has been imperative in keeping Zederman in Chicago. It’s a piece of advice that does not require power to be supplied to a microphone in a studio. In fact, it does not require any electricity.
“You need to be a good listener to be in radio,” expressed Zederman. “It’s not always about talking – a lot of radio has to do with listening; listening to what’s going on with the fans; listening to what’s going on with the talent.”
As Zederman continues to work in his first year as director of content for Good Karma Brands’ ESPN 1000 WMVP Chicago, he seeks to continue the station’s ongoing innovation and work to create compelling, informative and entertaining sports content. His thinking centers around satisfying three groups of people he is cognizant of every day on the job, imperative to the present standing and rise to an acclivity where the station seeks to soar.
“I want to serve our fans; I want to serve our partners; and I want to serve our teammates,” Zederman said, “and if every day we are doing those three things, then it’s successful.”
Derek Futterman is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. In addition, Derek serves as a production manager, broadcaster, voiceover artist, technical director, audiovisual editor, and media engineer for Hofstra University’s WRHU. He has also worked on New York Islanders radio broadcasts. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @DerekFutterman.
Jason Barrett Podcast – Dave LaGreca
How did Dave LaGreca convince the bosses at SiriusXM to let him talk about wrestling as a full-time job? He didn’t. He tells Jason why wrestling fans are the kind of loyal audience every show and network want.
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
Evan Roberts, Self-Professed Sports Maniac, Thrives at WFAN
From an early age, Roberts knew that radio was the medium through which he wanted to express his fandom, especially WFAN.
Evan Roberts made his first appearance on WFAN at just 10 years old, filling in for NBA play-by-play announcer Mike Breen delivering sports updates on Imus in the Morning. The opportunity came after he sent a letter on a whim to the station asking for a job since he enjoyed listening to the station with his father. Desiring to become a radio host was the result of dynamic career aspirations that transitioned from wanting to work as an architect to trying to become the play-by-play announcer for his favorite baseball team, the New York Mets.
“Listening to Mike and Chris, and Benigno in the overnights and Somers – I was like ‘That’s what I want to do’,” Roberts recalled. “….It couldn’t be any more specific when I’m listening to the Fan saying ‘I want to be on the Fan.’ About a decade and a half later, I was able to get it done and I’ve been there ever since.”
From an early age, Roberts knew that radio was the medium through which he wanted to express his fandom, especially WFAN. As a native New Yorker, Roberts connected with the teams in the area and sought the chance to talk about them for a living on a sports radio station with a storied history in the area.
Since 1989, WFAN has been one of the pillars of New York sports coverage and a place that helped pioneer the sports talk radio format. Getting there, though, required that Roberts had deft knowledge of sports, an ability to connect with fans, and experience that ensured he was ready for an opportunity in the number one media market in the world.
While attending school, Roberts was hosting a radio show called Kidsports on WGBB, a radio station based in Freeport, N.Y. serving Nassau County on Long Island. He then moved to Radio AAHS to host What’s Up With Evan Roberts and Nets Slammin’ Planet, the latter with famed high school basketball player Albert King and NBA insider Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson. Aside from being able to refine his hosting skills, Roberts made valuable connections in these roles including one that would help him land his first job out of high school: Danny Turner.
Before he was named the senior vice president of programming operations at XM Satellite Radio in Washington, D.C., Turner served as the engineer for Roberts’ shows on Radio AAHS. He helped to coordinate the technology associated with broadcasting since the shows were done remotely rather than from out of a studio.
“[He] ended up working at XM Radio and heard one of my tapes as it went on and said ‘I remember him. I like him,’ and then sent it to the right person and they ultimately hired me,” said Roberts. “It was my first real, real job working out of high school, and that was about meeting someone earlier on and remembering who that person was and sending as many tapes as I could.”
As a graduate of Lawrence High School, Roberts quickly made the move from Cedarhurst, N.Y. to Washington, D.C. to begin working at XM Satellite Radio, a place he would stay for the next two years. Then, he made the move down I-295 from D.C. to Baltimore, Md. where he worked at 105.7 The Fan WJFK-AM and had to adjust his sports consumption to align with the interests of those listeners. It taught him the importance of research and preparation, important aspects of working in sports media that he still utilizes to this day.
“When I was in Baltimore, I had to be Baltimore,” said Roberts. “I had to understand what makes the Orioles fan tick; what makes the Ravens fan tick. I didn’t grow up as an Orioles fan or a Ravens fan. The Ravens had won the Super Bowl years earlier. I know nothing about winning Super Bowls; I’m a Jets fan.”
At 21 years old, Roberts made the move back to “The Big Apple” when he was hired by WFAN as an overnight host, a role he stayed in for the next two-and-a-half years. Simultaneously, Roberts was working on Maxim Radio doing a night show on the Sirius Satellite Radio channel. Balancing those two roles, while it may have seemed daunting, gave Roberts the chance to broadcast in his home market and talk about the teams he grew up rooting for; the aforementioned Mets and Jets, along with the then-New Jersey Nets and New York Islanders.
Then in 2007, Roberts got his big break when he was named the midday co-host with Joe Benigno on the program Benigno & Roberts in the Midday. Benigno, who got his start on WFAN as a regular caller, had grown a rapport with listeners since joining the station in 1995, making the task for Roberts, a 23-year-old at the time, more difficult in terms of fitting in. Roberts is grateful that Benigno, a host he grew up listening to on WFAN, was accommodating and amicable towards him – plus it helped that they aligned in their rooting interests as Mets and Jets fans.
“He was very welcoming, and he didn’t have to be because I was a lot younger; he had no idea who the hell I was,” said Roberts. “….Right out of the gate, I think he saw my passion [and] my knowledge; he saw a little bit of himself in me, and we were able to bond right away.”
To make a name for himself in the new midday time slot, Roberts stuck to the principles that had been given to him from his early days of radio; that is, to be himself. From the start of his foray into sports media, Roberts and most people around him knew that he was, in his own words, “a sports maniac”, and he needed to maintain that genuine identity on the air. His relatability and passion for the teams as a fan made him an ideal fit for the station synonymous with New York City bearing those iconic call letters and an unbeatable afternoon duo.
“I think as time [went] on and Joe and I developed even more and more chemistry, the audience knew who we were,” said Roberts. “They certainly knew who he was, but they learned ‘Evan’s a die-hard Mets fan. He doesn’t miss a game.’”
While it was important for Roberts to emulate his fandom for the teams he roots for, he quickly developed a cognizance for trying to talk about other teams impartially while on the air. It is a challenge, to a degree, to maintain objectivity daily with intrinsic fandom for certain teams, but being able to understand how other fan bases feel after monumental victories or crushing defeats renders the art of appealing to the listening audience easier. It also upholds WFAN’s commitment to serve as an outlet for all New York sports fans rather than just certain cohorts of them.
“We’re trying to appeal to everybody,” said Roberts. “We want everybody listening. Not just Yankees fans; not just Mets fans; not just die-hard sports fans; not just casual fans. How do you keep every single person wanting to listen to the radio?”
When Roberts first joined the station in 2004, most New York sports teams were rebuilding aside from the Yankees. Today, the preponderance of professional teams in the New York Metropolitan area are contending or at least have the chance to appear in their league’s playoffs, something that is exciting for fans like Roberts but presents a challenge in doing effective sports radio that accurately depicts the emotions of listeners.
“I think what’s going to be a real challenge… is [when] the Mets are in the playoffs, the Yankees are in the playoffs, the Jets look competent, and the Giants look competent, and it’s a Monday,” Roberts expressed. “You’ve got four monstrous fan bases that care about their team. How the hell do you find a way to keep them all entertained?”
To express the true extent of his fandom for niche sectors of the audience, Roberts turns to another form of aural consumption: podcasts. There has been much discussion over the ability of traditional radio and podcasts to coexist in this digital age of media; however, Roberts believes that the two mediums provide a unique combination that was previously nonexistent.
In his opinion, podcasts are a method to delve deeper into topics or teams that do not garner as much time on the radio, specifically those that do not generate as large of a market share or which are not as representative of the interests of the majority of listeners.
“I do a Mets podcast specifically – I called it Rico Brogna because I loved Rico Brogna as a kid and I figured ‘Why the hell not?’”, Roberts said. “…I do an hour breaking down the Mets in a hard-core way that I’m not going to do on WFAN for an hour. I may do it for a couple of minutes. I think those two things work perfectly side-by-side.”
Still, most listeners, according to Roberts, will likely turn to terrestrial radio to get their sports fix, especially if they do not express allegiance to solely one team.
“The majority of people are still going to turn on WFAN and say ‘Okay, entertain me. I don’t know what I want to hear. You just entertain me’,” said Roberts. “I think those two forms of entertainment can work side-by-side. That’s why we do it.”
When Mike Francesa signed off WFAN in December 2017, the station had to make changes in the afternoon drive-time slot which it did with the debut of Carlin, Maggie & Bart. The show was eventually disbanded though when Francesa ended his retirement just over four months later, returning to afternoons. His return to WFAN did not last long though, departing the station again in December 2019. Again, WFAN had to make a change in afternoons, this time moving Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts to do a 2 to 6:30 p.m. show renamed Joe & Evan.
For Roberts, the opportunity to host in the afternoon slot that he had grown up listening to Mike Francesa and Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo make famous with their program Mike and the Mad Dog was an opportunity he did not hesitate to accept. Yet the change in time also required a change in approach regarding topic selection; after all, since the show would be starting later in the day, it was more important to preview the forthcoming action than recap that of the previous day.
“Even though you’re doing the same thing because you’re the same person, you’ve got to realize the audience is thinking about things a little bit differently; they’re not always analyzing what happened last night,” said Roberts. “I always find that interesting [trying to] balance the two [and] it’s almost like a game.”
When Benigno retired from the station in November 2020, Craig Carton made his return to the New York City airwaves pairing with Roberts to form the new afternoon duo Carton & Roberts. Carton had previously been with the station hosting mornings with Boomer Esiason on Boomer and Carton from 2007 until his arrest in 2017. He served time in prison for fraud-related charges, and ultimately sought and received help for addiction related to gambling.
Since his return to WFAN, Carton has been vocal about his struggle to overcome addiction and the lessons learned from his time serving in prison, hosting a special weekend program titled Hello, My Name Is Craig to discuss these issues in-depth. On Carton and Roberts, the duo has experienced immense success, recently topping ESPN New York 98.7 FM’s The Michael Kay Show in the spring ratings book. From the onset of Carton and Roberts working together though, there was some trepidation as to whether their personalities would blend well together on sports talk radio.
“I remember the first time I was told ‘Hey, there’s a possibility of you and Craig together.’ I was like ‘What?,’” Roberts said. “My first reaction was ‘Really?’”
Now nearly two years in, Roberts enjoys working alongside Carton and learning more about his perspectives and thoughts on the radio industry. Following advice he was given from both Russo and Esiason on working with Carton, Roberts has let him take the lead and discover how the show can effectively inform and entertain its vast listening audience.
“Let’s take a step back; don’t have an ego,” Roberts recalls thinking when he started the new show. “Watch this magician figure out how this show is going to work and then lean into it. I think that’s what I did and it has worked, and I feel very comfortable, I know he feels very comfortable and we’ve got a successful thing going on now.”
Roberts views Carton as an informed talent in the radio industry, aware of the changing nature of the medium and the potential it has to serve its audience. Roberts indeed experienced success in his previous roles, most notably when working in middays with Benigno; however, he is always willing to try new things and form new approaches towards jaded industry practices and show formats.
“I know that I have a guy who I’m working with who knows the medium as well as anybody,” said Roberts. “If he has a vision on how this could work with his personality and my personality, I’m going to listen; I’m going to follow along.”
WFAN and SportsNet New York (SNY), the flagship network for the New York Mets and New York Jets, agreed last year to simulcast Carton and Roberts from 4 to 6 p.m. on weekdays. While the move, which has been made with various other WFAN programs over the years including Mike and the Mad Dog and Boomer and Gio puts the radio program on a visual medium, Roberts’ approach to the show did not change.
The thought always was that he would be doing a radio show with the curtain pulled back, giving longtime listeners the chance to see the two co-hosts during their discussions and on-air interactions.
“They’re listening to the radio, and it’s cool sometimes when you get to peek in and say, ‘Oh, look at Craig’s expressions. Look at Evan’s expressions. Look at the way they’re looking at each other. Boy, they hate each other right now,’” Roberts said. “I think it’s people looking in on a radio show, and that’s what I always try to remind myself. It’s on TV – that’s great – but we’re a radio show first, and I think a lot of people kind of like to eavesdrop on that.”
One of the challenges of doing a radio show whether or not it is simulcast is in taking calls, and various hosts and producers have differing opinions when it comes to their value on the air. Still, while the hosts, producers, and caller themselves may enjoy their interactions, it is fundamental awareness is placed on the audience that does not call in and their enjoyment of listening to a caller.
“I think when you’re talking [to] somebody, you’re not just thinking about the conversation you’re having with them,” said Roberts. “You’re thinking about the 98% of the audience that doesn’t call in and if this is entertaining or not; if this is informative or not; what are they getting out of this?…. I love callers – it’s a big part of WFAN – but as I interact with them… I think the thought that I always try to have is ‘How is everyone else listening feeling about this discussion?’”
While Carton and Roberts continues to do well in afternoon drive among the demographic of men 25-54 years old, the way the ratings are interpreted by each person and entity in radio differs. Something the Nielsen ratings do not take into account is the number of people listening to the show on-demand as a podcast or watching its simulcast on SNY. During his time with Benigno, Roberts scrutinized the numbers, looking at copious and exiguous details, similar to how he consumes professional sports.
The difference is that while it may be good to have a complete understanding of show performance, getting caught in the minutiae of ratings and trying to improve in weaker areas can sometimes be, according to Roberts, a means without an end.
“I think I realized as time went on that’s going to give you a headache and it’s not going to really help anything,” said Roberts. “I think I learned a little more that you still look at numbers but maybe with a broader view of things; not as specific. I look at [them] a lot, but sometimes it’s tough. I don’t think you want to alter a show too much based on what you think is a pattern but may not necessarily be a pattern.”
This fall, both Carton and Roberts will be starting new roles in media while continuing to host their afternoon show. Carton is going to begin hosting a new national morning show on Fox Sports 1 with a co-host yet to be determined, a move that will place him primarily on television in mornings against WFAN and CBS Sports Radio’s simulcast of Boomer & Gio. Roberts will continue to stay on WFAN, adding a new Saturday program with his former co-host Joe Benigno beginning on September 10.
“It’s like getting back on a bicycle,” Roberts said of working with Benigno. “It’s always comfortable…. It’s going to be [like] our old show – just once a week on a Saturday.”
WFAN was the sound of Evan Roberts’ childhood, and a large reason he became as invested in professional sports as he considers himself to be today. Throughout his time at the station, he has worked with various hosts and recently welcomed new program director Spike Eskin to the station. He says the contrast between Eskin and previous program director Mark Chernoff is stark – yet they are similar in where it matters most: being able to effectively lead WFAN.
“I think they both very much understand radio, and that’s the most important thing,” said Roberts. “You’re the program director of WFAN; I think you have an idea of what good radio is… [They are] both very, very intelligent radio guys that I trust, but everything else about them is probably polar opposite.”
For aspiring professionals looking to pursue a career in sports media, Roberts advises them to take advantage of the innovations in media and communications especially when it comes to podcasts. With widespread evolution and progression in technology coupled with altering consumption habits and means thereof, putting in the time allows novices to hone their skills and position themselves well in sports media. That and always being willing to learn and study to be the most prepared and informed host as possible – especially when talking to listeners, many of whom have seen teams in their ebbs and flows.
“My wife knows that I’m going to watch every pitch of the Yankees and Mets game,” said Roberts. “I may do it on DVR, and I may do it at 2 in the morning because we need to have a life; I don’t want to get divorced, and I want my kids to love me, but she also knows that I want to be as informed as anybody on the radio and that’s not going to stop.”
Derek Futterman is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. In addition, Derek serves as a production manager, broadcaster, voiceover artist, technical director, audiovisual editor, and media engineer for Hofstra University’s WRHU. He has also worked on New York Islanders radio broadcasts. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @DerekFutterman.
Jake Paul, Betr Pair Micro-Betting With Media
There are plenty of hurdles, though, that still need to be overcome before this takes over the betting landscape.
I’ll be completely honest: I can’t get into TikTok. I’m closing in on 40 years spent on this planet, and it’s simply not my thing. It’s not meant to be, though. The current generation is one with shorter attention spans, the kind that wants a quick highlight of a sporting event so they can shift their focus to something else. When I tell folks a decade younger than me stories about how I–and others of my age group–would sit around and watch an entire SportsCenter, they look at me like I’m crazy. Not sure how they’d look at me if I told them we used to often watch the rerun an hour later, but that’s another discussion.
It’s a big reason why micro-betting is considered the “next big thing” in sports betting. Similar to in-game betting, micro betting goes a step further and focuses on individual events within a sporting event, such as the outcome of a drive, whether a baseball player will get a hit in his upcoming at-bat, or even something such as a coin toss at the Super Bowl. A perfect example of micro-betting is the rise in popularity of betting on whether or not a run will be scored in the first inning of a baseball game. For a generation that wants a quick resolution to their bets, it makes total sense. You place a bet, you find out how it did, and then you move on–whether that’s to another bit of action or something else entirely.
Something else I can’t get into is the whole hoopla surrounding the Paul brothers. Logan and Jake Paul have built an empire for themselves on the back of YouTube, with Jake Paul having more than 70 million followers on social media. For various reasons, I’m not a fan of either individual. Again, though, they aren’t coming after my demographic. Like them or hate them, you have to respect their grind –and you have to admire their business acumen — as they parlay their notoriety and success into sports entertainment by way of boxing and the WWE, as well as a new sports drink company that has already partnered with Premier League side Arsenal.
Monday’s announcement by Jake Paul of a new micro-betting site simply furthers the narrative and does so in a manner that can’t be ignored by those in the sports betting space. Betr, a joint venture between Paul, sports betting entrepreneur Joey Levy, and the sports betting company Simplebet, was announced yesterday morning. Backed by a $50 million investment from multiple venture capital firms, the new company is backed by ownership groups of franchises such as the Boston Celtics and San Francisco 49ers, and also has financial backing from current and former NFL players including Dez Bryant, Ezekiel Elliott, and Richard Sherman. Musician Travis Scott has also put his financial backing behind the product.
The other very interesting tidbit from the press release was the announcement of a media company that would feature, among other shows, “BS w/ Jake Paul”. Their new YouTube channel, which already has over two million subscribers despite not a single video being posted as of Monday afternoon, will feature sports-betting content from Paul and other content creators and will focus on micro betting. In an interview with Axios, Levy said that consumers can “expect 10+ videos a day from emerging content creators we’ve brought into the company,” but that things would begin with a focus on “premium content natives, starting with Jake’s show.”
Sports radio and television have long been focused on making their products more appealing to younger generations. Just take a look at ESPN, where they’ve long been doing “SportsCenter” episodes on Snapchat. This could be a game-changer, provided they can help drive micro-betting into a wider market.
There is plenty of potential in the space, a big reason Paul was able to acquire such high amounts of funding. Just last year, JP Morgan estimated that more than $7 billion per year would be wagered on micro bets by the year 2025. And earlier this year, the CEO of Oddisum stated in an interview that micro-betting would account for the majority of wagers placed on sporting events within the next three years. Even DraftKings CEO Jason Robins has talked about plans on how his company expects to embrace the trend.
There are plenty of hurdles, though, that still need to be overcome before this takes over the betting landscape. The biggest one is the delivery of data. As we move more towards a society that streams sporting events and other digital content, the delay between real life and what shows up on your mobile phone can be the difference between placing a wager or not. For some services (I’m looking at you, Peacock) there’s often a delay of more than 90 seconds, which means the play I want to bet on is still two or three plays away from being seen with my own eyes. That makes it difficult to place a bet with any sort of confidence.
The other major obstacle will be getting their gambling service legalized. In their press release, Betr stated they will start as a “free-to-play” app in all 50 states, and eventually they will add real money gambling services as they become licensed to operate within individual states. That’s not going to be so simple, though, as gambling addiction concerns continue to rise and multiple state legislatures are already having discussions regarding the matter.
As addictive as betting on sporting events can be, micro-betting is often exponentially more. A study last year from CQ University in Sydney, Australia indicated that micro bettors are more likely to be younger players and that they usually “have high trait impulsivity”. An author of the report also stated, “there’s a very strong link between micro betting and gambling problems”, and pointed out that the short amount of time between placing a bet and having it resolved leaves little time to evaluate performance or track one’s bankroll.
Whether or not those things are overcome in every state possible is a discussion for another day. The fact is, micro-betting is more likely than not to become a huge growth market for sports betting companies over the next two to three years, and Paul and Levy have become the first big players to jump into the media space. It’s not a question of if, but when, others will follow them into the realm of micro betting sports content, but their announcement on Monday raises the stakes. It also reminds those of us in business, especially sports media, that while we may not fully understand the allure of what the younger generation enjoys, we ignore it at our peril.
Jason Ence resides in Louisville, KY and is fully invested in the sports betting space. Additionally, he covers Premier League and Serie A soccer, college football, and college basketball for ESPN Louisville 680 including serving as the station’s University of Kentucky correspondent, and co-host of the UK football and basketball post-game shows. He can be found on Twitter @JasonUK17 and reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.