When Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo floated the possibility of retiring if the Arizona Diamondbacks won the National League Championship Series down three games to two, many listeners were curious to see if he’d follow through on his promise. After the team pulled off the impressive feat, Russo appeared on The Howard Stern Show on SiriusXM to discuss a suitable alternative punishment. Mad Dog wasn’t interested in stepping away from the radio business so Stern devised a plan of public humiliation that Russo reluctantly agreed to.
The collaboration and cross-genre integration embedded within SiriusXM has made it a destination for consumers interested in a variety of different topics. Moreover, it has been through the deft capabilities and talent embedded within the brand that has rendered it one of the most venerated in all of media.
Capitalizing off of the star power of SiriusXM, along with its utilization of satellites within the cosmos to connect to listeners all over the globe, the media conglomerate revealed its new brand identity and application, which will be available on the market starting on December 14. The brand also revealed a $9.99 package that will grant users full access to its application, which features unique, alluring content from various different genres.
“You get everything,” SiriusXM Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Witz told Barrett Sports Media, “and we have a really compelling product on the music side. Sports is something where, we obviously have all of the games in one place, which is highly unusual, certainly on the video side, and we also have a ton of commentary and everything else.”
As it pertains to sports, SiriusXM has a wide variety of live game play-by-play rights, along with daily programming from dedicated channels tailored to different kinds of sports fans. For example, Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo anchors afternoons on Mad Dog Sports Radio, while SiriusXM MLB Network Radio keeps baseball fans up to date on all the latest news and opinions around the league.
These outlets encompass just some of the content that will be accessible to consumers, but a point of differentiation is the capability of learning individual listening habits. From that data, the platform will utilize artificial intelligence and other machine learning to suggest content that can add to the overall listening experience.
“We’re going to try to put together an audio DNA recommendation for you where you’re going to be in a position to hopefully get things that matter to you,” Scott Greenstein, president and chief content officer of SiriusXM, told Barrett Sports Media, “and as you use them, we’re going to be better at it.”
The average American consumer listens to, on average, four hours and 11 minutes of audio content per day, with nearly two-and-a-half hours spent listening at home. For SiriusXM, fostering a connection with the listeners and cultivating a sense of community is critical within a media ecosystem that has no shortage of consumption choices over which people can deliberate. Even with the augmented user control, the platform has a low churn rate and an overall core audience and growth audience opportunity that, when combined, account for 84% of total audio spend.
SiriusXM took part in a new brand exercise that clearly defines the identity of its brand built upon enhancing the listener experience and providing users with an incentive to come back and continue listening. With its new logo, it aims to maintain its ability to bring listeners closer to the hosts, artists and brands towards which they have an affinity. Many of the stars throughout the company’s lineup were on hand for the event, including Howard Stern, Kelly Clarkson, Kevin Hart and Conan O’Brien, and there were several announcements made about new content in the music and talk spaces.
“There’s enough content there – good content – that our subscribers feel fulfilled,” Stern said. “To me, SiriusXM was an oasis in a desert of censorship. The technology I dreamed of; the freedom I dreamed of. [SiriusXM] really met all of my expectations.”
The new application will streamline processes for sports fans, amalgamating different aspects of the consumption experience that would ordinarily require multiple platforms to successfully execute. Fans of specific sports teams, such as the New York Giants, will be able to access a dedicated landing page with all of the pertinent news and information about the team. Additionally, the area will implement live game broadcasts and recommended programming.
These functionalities will be synced across different platforms utilizing valid login credentials, including in-car capabilities. Sports fans will also be able to contribute to polls in real time in select vehicles and select home or away feeds on game broadcasts with ease.
Image courtesy of SiriusXM
Sports talk and podcasting content is specifically focused on the national audience with the satellite-based platform, with offerings from established voices including Tom Brady, LaChina Robinson, Adam Schein, Larry Fitzgerald and, of course, the aforementioned Russo. The platform will continue to superserve the fan as it sees fit, revealing new avenues for people to interact with the content they value and find salient.
“It’s not just enough to have those voices – how do I educate people as to [the fact that] those voices are available to them and really create that fandom and bring people along,” Joe Inzerillo, chief product and technology officer at SiriusXM, told Barrett Sports Media. “So I think you have to have the top stars to legitimize it so people understand that this is credible, this is a real source [and that] this isn’t a fly-by-night company.”
The landscape of sports talk radio is in the midst of a paradigmatic shift as it remains committed to content that is accessible and relatable for listeners through various dayparts. Some platforms are remaining on the terrestrial dial, reaffirming their commitment to the embedded audience, while also exploring other means of distribution in the digital space. Other brands, such as ESPN New York, are planning to forgo the FM dial entirely and repositioning its operations to serve AM radio and digital platforms.
Although the MSG Radio Network will remain on ESPN New York for the foreseeable future, there are other professional teams within the ESPN New York portfolio and around the country that could soon be moved off of FM radio and may have an interest in continuing to serve the over-the-air audience. In viewing the media landscape, there is a chance that SiriusXM and satellite radio in general could play a role in keeping live game broadcasts on the airwaves and rendering them available through multiple means of dissemination.
“We view local sports content as national because for every local fan, there was a local fan who now moved away and wishes they could have it exactly as it is,” Greenstein said. “I, personally, would love to have some teams exclusively with SiriusXM so local fans can listen on SiriusXM and fans all over the country can hear their favorite team with their favorite announcer, just the way they grew up with it.”
At the same time, SiriusXM knows that the emphasis on national content in the sports media space serves a specific sector of its audience, but is keenly aware of sports radio brands that are hyper-focused on local subsets of fans. In order to create a more localized content offering, the brand would need to focus on becoming more regionalized and capitalizing on potential chances for sustained growth within the marketplace. When Inzerillo was previously working as the chief technology officer for Major League Baseball, he found that roughly half of fans were located in the same city of the team they rooted for while the other half were displaced and cared more about national coverage.
“When you look at numbers like that, you sort of have to have both,” Inzerillo said. “Without making any announcements, it’s certainly something we’re aware of that if there was going to be an alternative to the local market stuff, it would have to still continue to be local.”
Various other platforms have incorporated current athletes and provided them platforms to share their viewpoints and opinions about the sports world at large. The Volume utilizes Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green for a podcast, while Wave Sports + Entertainment features brothers and NFL stars Jason and Travis Kelce on their own show. SiriusXM knows the impact this type of content, colloquially referred to as the “new media” movement, can have and how it resonates with audiences. While it has explored content in this regard in the past, it also wants to remain staunchly focused on regularly serving its audience.
“We require a meaningful commitment to what we do on the air, so it’s a little harder with current [players], and we like regularity,” Greenstein said. “We want our hosts and our listeners to feel there’s a community and they’re a part of that. We’ve done it – we’ve done it in golf and other places – but we want to make sure the commitment is there, and when it is, we sign them and we have.”
SiriusXM is gearing itself to remain a viable part of the media landscape in the future, both adapting to the changing marketplace and innovating to demonstrate a wherewithal for being able to meet the moment. The new brand identity and concomitant application brings more discretion and power to the consumers, something the company hopes will bolster subscriptions and provide an aggregate return on investment both in the present moment and posterity. While SiriusXM did not invent the concept of radio, it has and continues to imagine what the medium can be and is looking forward to further extend and reach its possibilities.
“I think it definitely will appeal to sports enthusiasts, but it’s really for the audience that really wants everything in audio in one place to be able to come in,” Witz said. “We’re providing a better opportunity to help them navigate that.”
Derek Futterman is a contributing editor and sports media reporter for Barrett Sports Media. Additionally, he has worked in a broad array of roles in multimedia production – including on live game broadcasts and audiovisual platforms – and in digital content development and management. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks, wrote for the Long Island Herald and served as lead sports producer at NY2C. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.
Amanda Brown Named Program Director of Denver Sports 104.3 The Fan
Brown will begin her role with Denver Sports 104.3 The Fan next week.
Former ESPN LA 710 Program Director Amanda Brown has been named to the same position at Denver Sports 104.3 The Fan.
She replaces Raj Sharan, who exited the station earlier this month after leading the brand since February 2019.
Amanda Brown was part of the downsizing at ESPN earlier this year. She had worked for the company since 2002. After beginning her career in Dallas at ESPN 103.3, she moved to Bristol to work as a national producer on ESPN Radio. Brown worked on shows hosted by Mike Tirico, Scott Van Pelt, and Erik Kuselias while producing on the national level.
She later moved to ESPN LA 710 in 2010, first as a producer before eventually ascending to the role of Program Director in December 2019.
Brown will begin her role with Denver Sports 104.3 The Fan next week.
The station recently shuffled its lineup after suffering its first head-to-head ratings defeat in the summer ratings period. Josh Dover departed Altitude Sports Radio to join Brandon Stokley for middays. Meanwhile, Zach Bye and former Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay were paired for afternoons. In the reshuffling, Darren “DMac” McKee departed the station before joining Altitude Sports Radio in the spot vacated by Dover.
Anthony Gargano, Beasley Media Group Going to Settlement Conference
The settlement conference will take place on Jan. 17, 2024, one day after Gargano and ALLCITY Network are required to reply to the lawsuit from Beasley Media Group.
When Anthony Gargano was hired by ALLCITY Network to appear on its new PHLY Sports channel and national network, he was sued by Beasley Media Group for breach of contract. The former 97.5 The Fanatic host came to terms on a preliminary injunction that prohibits him from contributing to any sports media content that is specifically targeted to the Philadelphia marketplace, as the designated market area (DMA) is defined by Nielsen Media Research. Gargano’s original intent was to work at both outlets simultaneously, but he remained restricted for the last several months while continuing to work with FOX Sports Radio and starting a sports betting podcast with Parx Casino.
Gargano and Beasley Media Group will now be proceeding to a settlement conference, which will take place on Jan. 17, 2024 before Magistrate Judge Scott Reid.
Within the lawsuit, Beasley claims that Anthony Gargano is under contract with the company until Oct. 7, 2024, and that there are provisions within the deal and “the common law duty of loyalty” that preclude his ability to provide services to competing businesses. Inside Radio was the first to report the news of the disputation moving to this step in an effort to reach a resolution.
Should the settlement conference prove unsuccessful, a pretrial date has been set by the court for May 7, 2024, and a trial date is set for two years later. Beasley had previously agreed to a request by the defendants to extend the deadline to file a response to the complaint from Nov. 17, 2023 to Jan. 16, 2024.
Gargano and BSN Live (doing business as ALLCITY Network), his new employer, are legally required to respond to the lawsuit filed against them by Beasley by that time, according to an order filed on Nov. 16, 2023. For the settlement conference itself, lawyers have been directed to have their clients physically present for its duration and with “ultimate authority to settle.”
In a previous interview with Barrett Sports Media, ALLCITY Network Chief Executive Officer Brandon Spano explained how the goal of the company is to implement talent who are able to inform and entertain their audiences in various locales. The company also eliminated non-compete clauses from most of its contracts, with Spano stating that they were originally included because it was the industry-standard practice.
“I have a real problem with this idea that these major corporations are laying off dozens, if not hundreds of people, quarter-over-quarter, and then the people that they don’t lay off, they say they cannot look for jobs or work anywhere else,” he explained. “That’s just not good business, and it’s giving sports media a bad wrap. Sports radio right now, because of those actions, is giving sports media a bad look. It’s a very dangerous game.”
Gargano was originally included in the promotional video for PHLY Sports but has yet to appear on one of its programs. Concurrent with the launch of the company’s new national network, he was able to make his debut and has been contributing on the ALL NFL show with Brian Baldinger. Spano articulated that the company was about to reach profitability prior to the introduction of its Philadelphia and national networks and is preparing for another funding round later on. At the moment, the goal is to double the size of the company and launch in another local market as the outlet looks to expand and launch a free ad-supported television (FAST) channel in the future.
Jerry Recco: Paul Allen is ‘Not Textbook and He’s Phenomenal’
Allen sounded dejected in his final call of the Vikings’ 12-10 loss on Monday night, according to WFAN anchor Jerry Recco.
The Minnesota Vikings lost their Monday Night Football matchup against the Chicago Bears on a walk-off field goal. Paul Allen, who has been calling Vikings games for the last 21 seasons, sounded dejected in the call as if he were a Vikings fan communicating to listeners en masse, according to WFAN anchor Jerry Recco.
Outside of his role on the Boomer & Gio morning program on WFAN and CBS Sports Network, Recco is a play-by-play announcer himself as the radio voice of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights men’s basketball team. Because of his position in the industry, morning program co-host and CBS Sports analyst for The NFL Today, Boomer Esiason, asked Recco if he takes elements of style from other announcers to implement into the game broadcasts.
“No, because I don’t think there is a right way to do it,” Recco replied Tuesday morning on WFAN. “No, I do what I do, and if it’s good, great. As long as [athletic director] Pat Hobbs and [head coach] Steve Pikiell are happy, I’m happy.”
Recco has been calling Rutgers games since the 2016-17 season. The National Sports Media Association named him the recipient of the New Jersey Sportscaster of the Year in 2022.
As a play-by-play announcer, Recco is focused on documenting the action and has had the chance to call several memorable moments in program history, including its first NCAA Tournament win in 30 years when it defeated Clemson in March 2021.
“There’s no right way to do it because you’ve got textbook guys like [Mike] Breen, who’s the best; then you’ve got guys like Paul Allen,” Recco said. “He’s not textbook and he’s phenomenal – would you agree? And then there’s Gus Johnson, who’s crazy and he’s phenomenal in his own way.”