Some hosts know how to create interesting radio. They can entertain and deliver compelling topics that catch your ear. Then there are rare talents that know how to create interesting radio, while also being interesting themselves. Dan McNeil is one of these hosts.
McNeil consistently showcased the chops that made him one of the titans of Chicago sports radio. He oozed both big personality and presence. He also spoke openly about his life. McNeil pointed out his warts, which made him more relatable and real. He connected with people easily.
Great stories rarely involve smooth rides. They typically include some turbulence and maybe a loss of cabin pressure along the way. McNeil’s journey has been bumpy at times. In our chat he opens up about addiction, depression and the tweet describing Maria Taylor’s wardrobe that got him fired. McNeil has a new opportunity though. He’s talking football and having a blast podcasting twice a week for BetRivers Network.
This could be a fluff piece, or it could be honest. My guess is that McNeil prefers the latter. The Northwest Indiana native is a striking mixture of triumph and tragedy. He’s won big, but should’ve won bigger. His career is like the Seattle Seahawks at the 1-yard line with a chance to win another Super Bowl, only to make the wrong choice. Danny Mac is both successful and complicated. Through it all, he’s unforgettable.
There’s a great line from an old Michael Jordan commercial: “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why, I succeed.” McNeil’s struggles have helped and hurt his success. It’s been a game of tug of war, but it’s part of who he is. It’s part of what makes him, him. He’s flawed. He’s raw. He’s also magic behind a mic. Enjoy.
Brian Noe: What did you learn the most during your early trial-by-fire days in radio?
Dan McNeil: Yeah, just try to get all of the suck out of your system as you possibly can. [Laughs] I had a real good program director at my first job at an FM rock station called the Loop. A guy named Greg Solk. He’s still in the business. We’re still friends. He encouraged me to interact with callers. A host named Chet Coppock didn’t do that very well and he didn’t like to do it.
Greg said to me, you’re more of an every man’s man, you’re more capable of having a conversation with Joe in Orland Park than Chet is. Why don’t you do that? Because you’re kind of more suited for it. That story you told about quitting a job at a restaurant on the spot to go see a concert; people dig that shit. Just be you.
That went a long way in, I think, separating myself from the rest of the pack because there’s millions of guys who know sports, but not all of them have the ability to engage an audience and get that audience to invest in them as personalities. I have to give Greg Solk a lot of credit for bringing that out of me.
BN: Are you surprised at all that a lot of hosts don’t have that ability? It seems like a very common trait, but there are a lot of hosts that don’t have it.
DM: That’s a challenging question, Brian, and I like it. I think the reason for it is many of them haven’t lived interesting lives maybe. Maybe some of them have been very sheltered. There’s a lot of nerds in sports broadcasting who haven’t been in a lot of places where some of us street kids have been, or they just aren’t willing to share it. Things as simple as admitting you smoke weed, which is legal in a ton of states now. I know some guys who that’s verboten; don’t ever mention that we smoked pot together. But I think those who have the courage to lay it all on the line — you’re gonna rub a lot of people really wrong, but that’s okay if a lot of people on the other side are really on board.
BN: Correct me if I’m wrong, but have you had to take a break or two along the way from radio?
DM: Oh yeah, I took a couple. It was February of 2012 when I hit the brakes to address addiction and depression because I hadn’t been treating those very debilitating mental health issues with any degree of reverence. I had gone off of a psych med without discussing it with my doctor. About six months prior to when I finally tapped out, I noticed a precipitous loss in appetite for the things that interested me when I went off the psych med. In addition to that, it’s been my history. I’m a pothead and drank a little bit more back then.
I was starting to get a little bit heavier involved in pain medication; I became addicted to it. When I had spinal fusion surgery in ‘07, I discovered Norco. I’d had pain medication before and I used it recreationally before without issues, but that Norco just did something different to me and it made me want it all the time. I had to stop and reassess and catch my breath and get healthy. Unfortunately, I stumbled again about 15, 18 months after that and went into residential treatment for the same reasons.
I was sick. I don’t dispute that for a second, but there is a big part of me that always will wonder if I paused and went to the bench again, because I was simply f—kin’ sick of working. The culture of the Score at that time was incredibly negative, and foolishly, I let that get into my head. Most of the shows got along. I got along with everybody on the show; I loved doing radio with them, but all the individual shows were on an island. There was no sense of team.
That was a radical departure from the first run at the Score, it was considerably opposite of what I experienced at ESPN. And frankly, I didn’t handle it very well. I wanted to run away from that; and self-medication, and sadness, and clinical depression are not a good cocktail. I don’t regret it. They easily could’ve fired me, but I was trying to get right and hopefully it helped.
BN: How would you describe what those toughest days of radio were like for you, when you’re dealing with all that stuff at the same time?
DM: You have to put on a mask sometimes when your mind is occupied by family issues, or whatever, whether it’s personal issues, whether it’s irritability, lack of sleep, clinical, whatever. You put on the mask and you try to fake it. Sometimes it’s hard to even make speech when you’re wanting to shut down. It was particularly rough on me. I was in a position where I had to talk about things that didn’t interest me. I couldn’t give a f—k about NBA basketball. Baseball in the winter doesn’t pump my testosterone a bit. When you’re in there every day for four or five hours, you have got to grind out thoughts.
Matt Spiegel and I had a basketball guest on once. I remember having physical pain in my stomach, not being able to think of one f—king thing I wanted to ask that guy. And I think it was a big name; I think it was Kenny Smith from TNT. And I like his work, but at that time, I would have rather had a root canal procedure than talk publicly with Kenny Smith. It didn’t interest me. I was done with that part of my life and trying to get through that was real tough. It’s like trying to punch underwater is one way I’ve heard it described and that’s pretty accurate.
BN: I have to ask you about the Maria Taylor tweet. If the Score was with you through these stints where you had to pause due to some really heavy stuff in your life, and then you get fired for a tweet about Maria Taylor, was that a surprise to you?
DM: Well, it was a different management team and it was a different company. At the time it was Entercom now Audacy. It was a completely different group from CBS, even though my program director, Mitch Rosen, was the same. Was I surprised I got fired the next day? No. A couple close friends of mine asked me if I was trying to get fired. I think the answer is no.
I only had 18 months left to go. Even had that not happened, I wouldn’t be on the Score today. We had agreed to extend my deal 18 months to coincide with the conclusion of this past year’s Super Bowl. I wouldn’t be doing afternoons now anyway, even if that didn’t happen. And to a large degree that softened the blow for me that I only had 18, 19 months until the finish line.
I hated to see it end the way it did because I’m not a misogynist. I contend to this day, it wasn’t a sexist tweet. It was a wardrobe critique that was harsh. I’d have said the same f—king thing about Kyle Brandt if he showed up for Good Morning Football wearing shorts and a sleeveless tank top; I’d ask when he’s going to work for the Thunder Down Under in Vegas. But it was directed at Maria. If I really hurt her, I feel terrible.
I’m not a bully. I abhor social media bullying. When you look at teen suicide as a result of that, it’s startling. But she is not a high school cheerleader. She was on Monday Night goddamn Football. That’s a high profile position. I live in a world where wardrobe is part of the critique of visual media. That’s never going to change for me. But your question was, was I surprised? No, because that’s where we are in this era.
BN: If I was in your position, I’d feel like, ‘It was wrong, it was stupid. Fine, but can we not blow things out of proportion?’ But if you say that, it doesn’t land well; you know how it goes. How do you balance those two things together?
DM: Yeah, I hid basically for six months after it happened. It’s remarkable how I stayed off of reading stories; I checked my newsfeed of things that I usually read. You know how they always pop up on your phone. I’m seeing on SI.com, ‘Chicago yacker fired for misogynistic tweet’. Every paper in the country is using that as a tease to get people to look at their products. I’m like, I can’t f—king believe this.
I’m on Inside Edition with Deborah Norville who I’ve loved since the ‘80s when she used to be at Channel 5 in Chicago. But I didn’t open them. I think I read social media for maybe three hours after I tweeted and I said this is a battle I’m going to lose, and I’m probably going to lose it tomorrow. I don’t want to open a thing because I know myself and I’ll be tempted to reply and just dig a bigger f—king hole and I don’t want to do that.
BN: Spinning it forward, do you ever experience, ‘Oh, you’re the guy who sent that tweet?’ And you’ve done all this other work. How do you distance yourself from the tweet while owning it at the same time?
DM: Yeah, that’s a good question. It’s like Mark Giangreco at Channel 7 who gets fired over a joke he made about Cheryl Burton. And all the Emmys that are on the shelf above his fireplace, all out the window. That’s how he’s going to be remembered. Yeah, that’s frustrating, but there’s nothing I can do to change perception. Early on in your career you’ve got to accept that because you’re going to be tagged as the guy who did this or did that regardless.
Thom Brennaman was a very versatile broadcaster, very good voice, both baseball and football. And everyone’s gonna remember him for when he thought he was off the air. That gets out and it’s like, that’s how he’s always going to be remembered. That’s the way it goes. My listeners, especially those who were on board early on, know who the f—k I am and what my values are. And like I said, I can’t change those who want to look at me only as what I did to get fired. I can’t change that.
BN: What is it about your relationship with BetRivers that excites you most?
DM: It’s football and it’s unsupervised. It’s just me, which I historically have not enjoyed. I always preferred having a partner. It’s more natural. It’s more fun when it’s interactive and two guys play ping-pong. It can be real magic as it was with most of my partners. I’m trying to get used to just standing on my feet for 35 minutes and flapping my gums about football. I’ve done four or five of them and remarkably I have found it to be incredibly exhilarating without the partner.
I love football and that’s going to be a super high percentage of my content. God, I don’t see it changing between now and the end of the Super Bowl. I’m talking football. I don’t have any pressure from business partnerships at radio stations, ‘Hey, calm this down,’ or, ‘Tone that down a little bit.’ Not that that happened often, but it’s present. I don’t have to weigh every thought like these poor slobs have to do on terrestrial today. I can just lay it all out there. I’m not gonna say f—k for effect, but if I want to talk about the Bears going one and f—king 13 on third down, that’s what I’ll say.
BN: [Laughs] Have you been into sports gambling for a long time?
DM: First Super Bowl I bet on was Super Bowl III. I was nine. [Laughs] I took the Colts laying 18.5 and the Jets won straight up. I should have known then. No, but I started wagering on sports more seriously, probably as I started to earn a little bit of money in the ‘90s. It’s taken a long time to learn how to get better at it, but I think the last five years I have figured out some things that have led to winning seasons finally. Not colossally huge seasons, but I’m winning more than I’m losing.
The biggest reason is betting fewer games. And laying off parlays, not chasing, not looking at money earned as free money. That’s the biggest mistake guys make. You hit two games at noon, okay now it’s time for the afternoon tilts. I didn’t like Denver before, but I like them now. No, no, no, keep the money in the pocket, so that’s helped.
BN: BetRivers has signed some major talent: you, [Mike] Francesa, Mark Schlereth. Is there a sports radio host that’s really appealed to you over the years where you’re like, man, that person knows what they’re doing?
DM: The partner I would love to work with most and it just wouldn’t happen — that ship has sailed, I’ll never do terrestrial likely again other than this thing I’m doing now for WJOB, my hometown station in Hammond — but it’s Boomer Esiason. I would love to be in Gio’s shoes or Carton’s shoes before he went to the stripy hole for shit he got involved in.
That’s a great number two chair because football matters a ton to him and he loves the Rangers and he speaks hockey. When he’s talking baseball or basketball, he does it on a very cursory level, which for me is the only way to talk about it without going crazy. And he’s a regular dude. He was also born in 1961 and all the coolest people who walk the face of the earth were born in 1961. So Boomer would’ve been a great partner.
BN: Who would you say has either been your favorite partner, or the most talented partner you’ve worked with?
DM: Terry Boers at the Score between ’92 and ‘99 was a very good partner. I think where he was strong I was weak and vice versa. He also was very content to be the number two. That helps when you have a guy who’s the second or third option not trying to run everything.
Danny Parkins is a very, very talented guy and he’s very, very close to becoming a great host. That was kind of a fun way to wrap it all up doing what I called a father-and-son vibe. There were 25 years between us and I had not heard that attempted anywhere. It’s kind of remarkable nobody tried it over these years because what you do is lock in every goddamn demo there is. I got the old guys. I got some guys in the middle. He’s got guys in the middle and the young guys.
BN: What do you think would cause Danny to go from good to great as the host?
DM: I knew you’d pick up on that. The more life experiences he has, and he has had some really trying ones over the last three years. His first son was born I think nine weeks prematurely and was in NICU for a number of weeks. His brother has glioblastoma and has been fighting for his life for a couple years. His father isn’t in great shape.
Those life experiences and his willingness to talk about them when he has the courage to do that, stand in front of that microphone, it’s making him more relatable. It’s making him much more appealing to the everyday motherf—kers who might have just seen him as another silver spoon from the North Shore years ago. His life, until he started experiencing real life shit, was one of leisure. And I think Danny could take more of an interest in the history of sports before he started watching them. As he experiences more, hopefully he will, because many sports talk consumers enjoy reflecting on the ups and downs of their lives as fans.
BN: What would be ideal for you in terms of your future?
DM: Winning the Powerball.
BN: [Laughs] Yeah. If the Powerball doesn’t have your numbers, what do you want it to look like?
DM: You know what, Brian, you learn at some point not to obsess about the destination. It took me forever to get there. The podcasting thing is fun. If it grows into something really big, terrific. I really don’t want to commit any more than a few days a week doing it. Would I love Sirius XM to say hey, we love you, we want to hear you get wild, you want to do Sunday nights and do NFL? If the money is right, yeah, that would be a lot of fun too.
But just trying to enjoy it week by week. The little terrestrial thing I do on Fridays for my hometown station, I’m enjoying the shit out of it. It pays a little bit better than I expected it to and most would’ve expected it to. I have a great crew. That’s been fun. If that show were on every day in Chicago, until I got sick of it and didn’t show up, it would be one of the best shows in the market. [Laughs] But I’ve learned all things in moderation, including me.
BN: Is there one thing that you would like to do most going forward?
DM: I’ve got to finish the book I started a while back. I have been grinding away at this thing for several years and I had the perfect opportunity to do it when they fired me. But I needed some distance between that time and reliving so much of a career that was both very rewarding and satisfying, but also sometimes very upsetting.
I had my heart ripped out of my chest several times in this business by people who should’ve treated me better. When they broke up the original partnerships at the Score in ‘99, that sickened me because I should’ve been involved in those conversations and not just told what was happening. Then when ESPN fired me in ‘09, that kind of changed the way I looked at the industry for a long time. I’m sorry, I get a little [emotional].
I gotta finish that book. I’ve got a lot of stories to tell. Many of them I’ve told already, but there’s a lot of stuff I’ve left on the cutting room floor. This is kind of a no-holds-barred approach to my career, the people I’ve met in it, athletes, coaches and radio dorks, and also some of the challenges I’ve had in my life away from work.
Brian Noe is a columnist for BSM and an on-air host heard nationwide each weekend on FOX Sports Radio. Previous roles include stops in Portland, OR, Albany, NY and Fresno, CA. You can follow him on Twitter @TheNoeShow or email him at email@example.com.
The Future Is Now, Embrace Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+
As annoying as streaming sports is and as much as I haven’t fully adapted to the habit yet, Amazon and Apple have done a magnificent job of trying to make the process as easy and simplified as possible.
This week has been a reckoning for sports and its streaming future on Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+, ESPN+, and more.
Amazon announced that Thursday Night Football, which averaged 13 million viewers, generated the highest number of U.S. sign ups over a three hour period in the app’s history. More people in the United States subscribed to Prime during the September 15th broadcast than they did during Black Friday, Prime Day, and Cyber Monday. It was also “the most watched night of primetime in Prime Video’s history,” according to Amazon executive Jay Marine. The NFL and sports in general have the power to move mountains even for some of the nation’s biggest and most successful brands.
This leads us to the conversation happening surrounding Aaron Judge’s chase for history. Judge has been in pursuit of former major leaguer Roger Maris’ record for the most home runs hit during one season in American League history.
The sports world has turned its attention to the Yankees causing national rights holders such as ESPN, Fox, and TBS to pick up extra games in hopes that they capture the moment history is made. Apple TV+ also happened to have a Yankees game scheduled for Friday night against the Red Sox right in the middle of this chase for glory.
Baseball fans have been wildin’ out at the prospects of missing the grand moment when Judge passes Maris or even the moments afterwards as Judge chases home run number 70 and tries to truly create monumental history of his own. The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand has even reported there were talks between YES, MLB, and Apple to bring Michael Kay into Apple’s broadcast to call the game, allow YES Network to air its own production of the game, or allow YES Network to simulcast Apple TV+’s broadcast. In my opinion, all of this hysteria is extremely bogus.
As annoying as streaming sports is and as much as I haven’t fully adapted to the habit yet, Amazon and Apple have done a magnificent job of trying to make the process as easy and simplified as possible. Amazon brought in NBC to help with production of TNF and if you watch the flow of the broadcast, the graphics of the broadcast, NBC personalities like Michael Smith, Al Michaels, and Terry McAuliffe make appearances on the telecast – it is very clear that the network’s imprint is all over the show.
NBC’s experience in conducting the broadcast has made the viewing experience much more seamless. Apple has also used MLB Network and its personalities for assistance in ensuring there’s no major difference between what you see on air vs. what you’re streaming.
Amazon and Apple have also decided to not hide their games behind a paywall. Since the beginning of the season, all of Apple’s games have been available free of charge. No subscription has ever been required. As long as you have an Apple device and can download Apple TV+, you can watch their MLB package this season.
Guess what? Friday’s game against the Red Sox is also available for free on your iPhone, your laptop, or your TV simply by downloading the AppleTV app. Amazon will also simulcast all Thursday Night Football games on Twitch for free. It may be a little harder or confusing to find the free options, but they are out there and they are legal and, once again, they are free.
Apple has invested $85 million into baseball, money that will go towards your team becoming better hypothetically. They’ve invested money towards creating a new kind of streaming experience. Why in the hell would they offer YES Network this game for free? There’s no better way for them to drive subscriptions to their product than by offering fans a chance at watching history on their platform.
A moment like this are the main reason Apple paid for rights in the first place. When Apple sees what the NFL has done for Amazon in just one week and coincidentally has the ability to broadcast one of the biggest moments in baseball history – it would be a terrible business decision to let viewers watch it outside of the Apple ecosystem and lose the ability to gain new fans.
It’s time for sports fans to grow up and face reality. Streaming is here to stay.
MLB Network is another option
If you don’t feel like going through the hassle of watching the Yankees take on the Red Sox for free on Apple TV+, MLB Network will also air all of Judge’s at bats live as they are happening. In case the moment doesn’t happen on Apple TV+ on Friday night, Judge’s next games will air in full on MLB Network (Saturday), ESPN (Sunday), MLB Network again (Monday), TBS (Tuesday) and MLB Network for a third time on Wednesday. All of MLB Network’s games will be simulcast of YES Network’s local New York broadcast. It wouldn’t shock me to see Fox pick up another game next Thursday if the pursuit still maintains national interest.
- One of the weirdest things about the experience of streaming sports is that you lose the desire to channel surf. Is that a good thing or bad thing? Brandon Ross of LightShed Ventures wonders if the difficulty that comes with going from app to app will help Amazon keep viewers on TNF the entire time no matter what the score of the game is. If it does, Amazon needs to work on developing programming to surround the games or start replaying the games, pre and post shows so that when you fall asleep and wake up you’re still on the same stream on Prime Video or so that coming to Prime Video for sports becomes just as much of a habit for fans as tuning in to ESPN is.
- CNN has announced the launch of a new morning show with Don Lemon, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlin Collins. Variety reports, “Two people familiar with plans for the show say it is likely to use big Warner Bros. properties — a visit from the cast of HBO’s Succession or sports analysis from TNT’s NBA crew — to lure eyeballs.” It’ll be interesting to see if Turner Sports becomes a cornerstone of this broadcast. Will the NBA start doing schedule releases during the show? Will a big Taylor Rooks interview debut on this show before it appears on B/R? Will the Stanley Cup or Final Four MVP do an interview on CNN’s show the morning after winning the title? Does the show do remote broadcasts from Turner’s biggest sports events throughout the year?
- The Clippers are back on over the air television. They announced a deal with Nexstar to broadcast games on KTLA and other Nexstar owned affiliates in California. The team hasn’t reached a deal to air games on Bally Sports SoCal or Bally Sports Plus for the upcoming season. Could the Clippers pursue a solo route and start their own OTT service in time for the season? Are they talking to Apple, Amazon, or ESPN about a local streaming deal? Is Spectrum a possible destination? I think these are all possibilities but its likely that the Clippers end up back on Bally Sports since its the status quo. I just find it interesting that it has taken so long to solidify an agreement and that it wasn’t announced in conjunction with the KTLA deal. The Clippers are finally healthy this season, moving into a new arena soon, have the technology via Second Spectrum to produce immersive game casts. Maybe something is brewing?
- ESPN’s Monday Night Football double box was a great concept. The execution sucked. Kudos to ESPN for adjusting on the fly once complaints began to lodge across social media. I think the double box works as a separate feed. ESPN2 should’ve been the home to the double box. SVP and Stanford Steve could’ve held a watch party from ESPN’s DC studio with special guests. The double box watch party on ESPN2 could’ve been interrupted whenever SVP was giving an update on games for ESPN and ABC. It would give ESPN2 a bit of a behind the scenes look at how the magic happens similarly to what MLB Tonight did last week. Credit to ESPN and the NFL for experimenting and continuing to try and give fans unique experiences.
Jessie Karangu is a columnist for BSM and graduate of the University of Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland but comes from Kenyan roots. Jessie has had a passion for sports media and the world of television since he was a child. His career has included stints with USA Today, Tegna, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Sightline Media. He can be found on Twitter @JMKTVShow.
ESPN Shows Foresight With Monday Night Football Doubleheader Timing
ESPN is obviously testing something, and it’s worth poking around at why the network wouldn’t follow the schedule it has used for the last 16 years, scheduling kickoffs at 7 and then 10 on their primary channel.
The Monday Night Football doubleheader was a little bit different this time around for ESPN.
First, it came in Week 2 instead of Week 1. And then, the games were staggered 75 minutes apart on two different channels, the Titans and Bills beginning on ESPN at 7:15 PM ET and the Vikings at the Eagles starting at 8:30 PM on ABC and ESPN+. This was a departure from the usual schedule in which the games kicked off at 7:00 PM ET and then 10:00 PM ET with the latter game on the West Coast.
ESPN is obviously testing something, and it’s worth poking around at why the network wouldn’t follow the schedule it has used for the last 16 years, scheduling kickoffs at 7:00 PM and then 10:00 PM ET on their primary channel. That’s the typical approach, right? The NFL is the most valuable offering in all of sports and ESPN would have at least six consecutive hours of live programming without any other game to switch to.
Instead, they staggered the starts so the second game kicked off just before the first game reached halftime. They placed the games on two different channels, which risked cannibalizing their audience. Why? Well, it’s the same reason that ESPN was so excited about the last year’s Manningcast that it’s bringing it back for 10 weeks this season. ESPN is not just recognizing the reality of how their customers behave, but they’re embracing it.
Instead of hoping with everything they have that the customer stays in one place for the duration of the game, they’re recognizing the reality that they will leave and providing another product within their portfolio to be a destination when they do.
It’s the kind of experiment everyone in broadcasting should be investigating because, for all the talk about meeting the customer where they are, we still tend to be a little bit stubborn about adapting to what they do.
Customers have more choices than ever when it comes to media consumption. First, cable networks softened the distribution advantages of broadcast networks, and now digital offerings have eroded the distribution advantages of cable networks. It’s not quite a free-for-all, but the battle for viewership is more intense, more wide open than ever because that viewer has so many options of not just when and where but how they will consume media.
Programmers have a choice in how to react to this. On the one hand, they can hold on tighter to the existing model and try to squeeze as much out of it as they can. If ESPN was thinking this way it would stack those two Monday night games one after the other just like it always has and hope like hell for a couple of close games to juice the ratings. Why would you make it impossible for your customer to watch both of these products you’ve paid so much to televise?
I’ve heard radio programmers and hosts recite take this same approach for more than 10 years now when it comes to making shows available on-demand. Why would you give your customers the option of consuming the product in a way that’s not as remunerative or in a way that is not measured?
That thinking is outdated and it is dangerous from an economic perspective because it means you’re trying to make the customer behave in your best interest by restricting their choices. And maybe that will work. Maybe they like that program enough that they’ll consume it in the way you’d prefer or maybe they decide that’s inconvenient or annoying or they decide to try something else and now this customer who would have listened to your product in an on-demand format is choosing to listen to someone else’s product entirely.
After all, you’re the only one that is restricting that customer’s choices because you’re the only one with a desire to keep your customer where he is. Everyone else is more than happy to give your customer something else.
There’s a danger in holding on too tightly to the existing model because the tighter you squeeze, the more customers will slip through your fingers, and if you need a physical demonstration to complete this metaphor go grab a handful of sand and squeeze it hard.
Your business model is only as good as its ability to predict the behavior of your customers, and as soon as it stops doing that, you need to adjust that business model. Don’t just recognize the reality that customers today will exercise the freedom that all these media choices provide, embrace it.
Offer more products. Experiment with more ways to deliver those products. The more you attempt to dictate the terms of your customer’s engagement with your product, the more customers you’ll lose, and by accepting this you’ll open yourself to the reality that if your customer is going to leave your main offering, it’s better to have them hopping to another one of your products as opposed to leaving your network entirely.
Think in terms of depth of engagement, and breadth of experience. That’s clearly what ESPN is doing because conventional thinking would see the Manningcast as a program that competes with the main Monday Night Football broadcast, that cannibalizes it. ESPN sees it as a complimentary experience. An addition to the main broadcast, but it also has the benefit that if the customer feels compelled to jump away from the main broadcast – for whatever reason – it has another ESPN offering that they may land on.
I’ll be watching to see what ESPN decides going forward. The network will have three Monday Night Football doubleheaders beginning next year, and the game times have not been set. Will they line them up back-to-back as they had up until this year? If they do it will be a vote of confidence that its traditional programming approach that evening is still viable. But if they overlap those games going forward, it’s another sign that less is not more when it comes to giving your customers a choice in products.
Danny O’Neil is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously hosted morning and afternoon drive for 710 ESPN Seattle, and served as a reporter for the Seattle Times. He can be reached on Twitter @DannyOneil or by email at Danny@DannyOneil.com.
Media Noise: Sunday Ticket Has Problems, Marcellus Wiley Does Not
On this episode of Media Noise, Demetri is joined by Brian Noe to talk about the wild year FS1’s Marcellus Wiley has had and by Garrett Searight to discuss the tumultuous present and bright future of NFL Sunday Ticket.
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.