Artificial intelligence is becoming a regular part of everyday life, and different industries are using it to streamline their processes and render themselves more efficient. Evolutions in AI technology usually accompany the threat to eradicate human jobs, and the radio industry is no exception. Portland rock radio station KBFF Live 95.5 recently unveiled Futuri Media’s RadioGPT for its midday show, replacing its host Ashley Elzinga.
The AI version of Ashley will take the airwaves during the midday slot (10 a.m. to 3 p.m. PST) instead of having Elzinga voice track segments between songs, as has become common practice in music radio. Elzinga herself is a nationally syndicated radio host and program director of WKHQ-FM in Charlevoix, MI. She can also be heard at nights on KQMV-FM in Seattle. The Portland rock radio station is owned by Alpha Media, which released a statement on the groundbreaking innovation in the world of radio.
“To put it simply, I am ecstatic to be one of the trailblazers at Alpha Media helping to build an innovative and unique listening experience for our audience,” Live 95.5 content director Dylan Salisbury said in a statement. “We have been working hard to ensure that ‘AI Ashley’ is just as live, local, engaging and entertaining as the traditional version, and I can’t wait for our fans to hear both versions of Ashley in action.”
Music formats have endured a paradigm shift less predicated on personalities and more focused on cost-efficient methods to disseminate content, especially with the rise of streaming services. Its future is arguably in great peril, and while the technology is unnerving to some, it is not what disappointed Fred Toucher and Rich Shertenlieb on Wednesday morning.
Elzinga’s enthusiasm for the product perturbed the morning show on 98.5 The Sports Hub, as she professedly vouched for the move and effectively sold her voice. Doing such a thing is daunting because of the possibilities it provides producers, including those with malicious intent.
“It’s radio’s own fault. It really is,” Shertenlieb said. “The fact that a lot of music stations have just phoned in these DJs – this is what you get. If you don’t spend money on having people that actually care about their audience; that can connect with them, can tell a story [and] can give you any reason to listen to them other than, ‘Here’s the next Red Hot Chili Peppers song,’ then you get what you deserve.”
Following the announcement of the project, Elzinga posted a video on social media reacting to how her voice sounded as engineered by artificial intelligence. She seemed enthusiastic about the ordeal, and embraced her unique position as a pioneer in the space, even affirming so in a statement.
“I am honored to be at the forefront of this evolved version of radio broadcasting,” Elzinga said. “As the world’s first AI DJ, I will fully embrace the power of synthetic voice software and artificial intelligence. In doing so, I can ensure that my audience has a compelling listening experience.”
Toucher expressed contempt towards the medium slowly losing its personal touch, an essential part of the appeal of the sports talk radio format. When he was going through a divorce, Toucher moved into his own home and shared that he found himself listening to the radio when folding laundry. Instead of eliminating music radio hosts entirely, Toucher proposed a new idea to salvage the format and retain its innate congeniality.
“You don’t even have to have well-established jocks,” Toucher said. “If you wanted to save money, then have it be a breeding ground for kids. Have young people that want to get into radio, try to give them a break [and] teach them how to do it.”
There are certainly considerable strides still to be made related to artificial intelligence, but the technology has seemingly reached a point where it has become an existential threat to those in certain professions. Radio hosts, voiceover artists and freelance production workers are all in danger of losing work, as are writers for movies and television programs.
“It’s unfortunately what a lot of the music stations have stepped into,” Shertenlieb said. “It’s not even the stations. It’s a lot of the people who own these stations…They’ve been soulless for this long [that] you might as well just literally not have a soul.”
‘The Dan Patrick Show’ Criticizes Sound on ‘Thursday Night Football’
“You pay all this money for that game [and] you can’t hear that it sounds like crap.”
Thursday night’s matchup between the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers ended up being a compelling game to watch throughout the first several quarters and was enhanced by the stellar images and presentation from Amazon Prime Video. The Thursday Night Football property recently garnered record-setting streaming numbers from its season premiere, according to a custom integrated streaming report by Nielsen Media Research.
Even so, there was critical feedback from many fans watching regarding the sonic experience of watching the game. Viewers complained that there was an inherent lack of crowd noise and field-level sound, making it more difficult to fully immerse themselves in the atmosphere.
“You pay all this money for that game [and] you can’t hear that it sounds like crap,” Patrick “Seton” O’Connor, an executive producer of The Dan Patrick Show, said on Friday. “There’s no atmosphere – you’ve got no crowd sound; the mics are all over the place. It’s terrible.”
Show host Dan Patrick concurred with this point, relaying that his wife walked by the television and thought something was amiss with the sound. When she asked Patrick what was happening, he replied that it was due to the presentation from Prime Video. Although most viewers ended up watching the game anyway, the inadequate soundscape detracted from the aura of the contest and dampened the viewing experience.
“I love [Kirk] Herbstreit [and] I love Al Michaels, but when I have the game on, do you ever have your stereo in your car and you have the bass and the treble set and somehow it gets reset – and everything’s reset to medium?,” Paul Pabst, an executive producer of The Dan Patrick Show, said. “You’re like, ‘Where’s the highs? Where’s the lows? It has that feeling.’”
The lack of dynamic contrast and aggregate timbre caused some viewers to connote that the broadcast sounds flat despite the stellar, highly-experienced commentary team. Improving on the sound and other customer feedback will be critical in incentivizing non-ardent fans to return to the property or try it altogether.
“We’ve created the atmosphere that is so good that you don’t even have to go to a game,” Patrick said. “With the sound of it, the TVs, [and] the quality… it’s almost a better experience sometimes when you’re sitting at home.”
In addition to watching the National Football League, Pabst frequently consumes college football on Saturdays, including the prime-time presentations. When he is viewing those games, he can feel the noise of the crowd permeating through the speakers and be part of the crowd.
“It’s thunderous,” Pabst said. “The crowd noise almost overwhelms [Chris] Fowler, sometimes in a good way, and it’s hard to tell what’s going on there.”
Finding games on Amazon Prime Video has been a difficult proposition for some users, evidenced by O’Connor describing how it took him 10 minutes to begin watching the Giants-49ers game last night. The game was broadcast regionally on FOX for those in the New York metropolitan area, but for O’Connor, he noticed that the network had the baseball contest between the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies on instead.
“I look and I’m like, ‘I swear there was a game tonight,’ and I see it’s in the first quarter.’ What the hell is going on?,” thought O’Connor. “Oh, that’s right. I forgot Amazon was a thing; it’s just not a TV destination all the time for me.”
Gregg Giannotti on Taylor Rooks: ‘Send in a 10’ to Get Players Talking
“I also thought, ‘Why don’t we use more attractive women in interrogation scenarios?'”
This week’s Thursday Night Football matchup between the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers came off a record-setting week for Prime Video, according to an integrated streaming report by Nielsen Media Research. There were questions surrounding the impending contest off the field pertaining to injuries, and the TNF Tonight pregame show did its best to address pertinent information.
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley headlined the team’s injury report after suffering an ankle injury last week, something the team publicly called a sprain. New information was divulged on Thursday night from Barkley himself after features reporter Taylor Rooks asked him about his injury. He then proceeded to reveal that he was dealing with a mild high ankle sprain, an impediment more serious than originally thought.
WFAN host Gregg Giannotti watched the entire pregame show and watched the desk discuss the state of New York football, including New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson. The report from Rooks, a reputable source of information who formerly worked for SportsNet New York (SNY) occurred shortly thereafter. While she has a network of contacts and insider information about the league, Giannotti believes there was another reason she got the exclusive story.
“It’s funny because all we heard was, ‘It’s a regular ankle sprain; not a high ankle sprain,’” Giannotti explained Friday morning on WFAN. “Then Taylor Rooks gets over there and finds out it’s a high ankle sprain. I was thinking, ‘You know what? I’d tell her anything too. Whatever you need to know, Taylor, about me, I will tell you.’”
Giannotti watched the Giants lose the contest 30-12 and fall to a 1-2 overall record, but he also began to ponder over the manner in which Rooks was able to effectively do her job. It led him to make a proposition on the air that challenges the effectiveness of the team’s beat writers because of their collective age and appearance.
“I also thought, ‘Why don’t we use more attractive women in interrogation scenarios?,’” Giannotti said. “This is what I was thinking about after I saw this last night. Art Stapleton couldn’t get that out of Saquon Barkley – I love Art Stapleton, but there’s no way. Taylor Rooks got it out of him right away, so why don’t we send in some of these interrogation scenarios where people are just totally zipped up – send in a ‘10’ in there, [and the] next thing you know, ‘Yeah, it was him. He did it, and I did it. We did it together!’”
Giannotti’s co-host Boomer Esiason was surprised to hear Rooks get that information from Barkley, and has not seen anyone in the media react to the occurrence. The injury update changes the way in which people consider his timeline for a return and was a part of the Prime Video broadcast that Giannotti valued.
“Yeah, of course, great reporting,” Giannotti said. “I’m just thinking about all the Giants beat writers sitting around – old guys who look like me just stewing and trying to hide farts in the locker room.”
Arizona Sports Extends Deal With Coyotes
“We look forward to an exciting season delivering Coyotes coverage on-air, online and on the Arizona Sports app.”
Arizona Coyotes fans can keep their presets the same. The team has extended its relationship with Bonneville in Phoenix.
The new deal is a one-year extension to keep the Coyotes on the company’s two Phoenix-area radio stations, 98.7 Arizona Sports and ESPN 620 AM and on the statiations’ website and app.
“We are excited to continue our partnership with the Arizona Coyotes and the Meruelo Group,” Bonneville Phoenix senior vice president and market manager Ryan Hatch said in a statement. “We look forward to an exciting season delivering Coyotes coverage on-air, online and on the Arizona Sports app.”
As part of the extension, Burns & Gambo will welcome Coyotes president and CEO Xavier A. Gutierrez and general manager Bill Armstrong for weekly segments. Wolfe & Luke will be joined weekly by head coach André Tourigny.
“We are very pleased to extend our partnership with Bonneville Phoenix and are thrilled to have Arizona Sports 98.7 and ESPN 620 broadcast all Coyotes games this season,” Gutierrez added. “There is a tremendous amount of excitement about our team, and we look forward to Arizona Sports 98.7, the Valley’s sports leader, providing our fans with outstanding Coyotes coverage all season long.”