A 24-hour channel devoted solely to pro football? On satellite radio?
What was Sirius thinking?
Not even the people launching the station could be sure where it was headed. And a decade later, their dedicated listeners range from Robert Kraft to Mike Shanahan to Sean Payton. And from players on all 32 teams to truck drivers traveling the length and width of the nation.
“We were ahead of everybody,” says Gil Brandt, the former Cowboys personnel director, current NFL draft consultant — and co-host of the very first program on Sirius NFL Radio on Aug. 2, 2004. “I marvel at it. I go into the grocery store or barber shop now, and even women are telling me, ‘You said this and this and this’ on the air.
“The allure is amazing.”
The NFL’s allure seems limitless, and Channel 88 on SiriusXM — the companies merged in 2008 — has built its impressive resume on it. When Steve Cohen, the current senior vice president of sports programming, and Brandt first went on the air 10 years ago, Sirius had 500,000 subscribers. A year later, another 1 million had signed up. By 2008, SiriusXM had 18.5 million subscribers.
Now, that number has reached 26 million.
NFL Radio isn’t responsible for all of that, not by a long shot with Howard Stern and Oprah Winfrey among SiriusXM personalities. But it’s among satellite radio’s leaders in caller participation and, within the NFL itself, it’s become must listening.
“SiriusXM NFL Radio attracts fans of all ages with their insight from former players and coaches and some of the most respected NFL insiders in the industry,” Patriots owner Kraft says. “I am a regular listener. I try to listen to financial reporting and timely global news when I can, but most often, I tune in to … Channel 88. It gives me the pulse of what’s going on in my favorite sport seven days a week, 365 days a year.”
Cohen actually consulted with Kraft before taking on the challenge of building the channel. Cohen’s vision for it was to have professional broadcasters team with former NFL players or executives.
“Here was the hardest thing: hiring people,” Cohen says. “They couldn’t pronounce the name and hadn’t heard of this company.”
Yet he attracted Hall of Fame running back John Riggins and future Hall of Famers Shannon Sharpe and Cris Carter to become hosts, although they no longer are on the channel. Brandt brought considerable cachet because of his wealth of inside knowledge and endless array of anecdotes.
Former Jets personnel director Pat Kirwan also signed up immediately, and he’s become perhaps the station’s most popular voice because of his skill at explaining everything from the intricacies of the zone blitz to the dynamics of the salary cap.
“When I first started, I had no radio experience, had done some TV, but I knew enough about football to talk,” says Kirwan, who has partnered with former NFL players Tim Ryan and, now, Jim Miller. “And I had a lot of notions from TV that it was not addressing the needs of the fans who wanted to grow. The football guy felt there has been more than what these announcers are telling us, because TV appeals to a general audience.”
NFL Radio wanted to appeal to everyone who follows the sport. It came up with some unique ways to do so.
Not only has SiriusXM been broadcasting all regular-season and playoff games live throughout its deal with the league, which runs through 2015, but Channel 88 has brought listeners live to the combine, the draft, and to each of the 32 training camps during the summer.
The camp trips are among the favorite endeavors for NFL Radio’s staff (55 and counting), although they got off to a rocky start.
“The training camp tour started out small, three cities, and soon it became every team every summer,” says Adam Schein, Cohen’s first hire — at age 26. “You’d fly from Seattle to Denver to the Redskins’ camp in three days. Fly to Chicago and then drive to Bourbonnais, Illinois, or to Terre Haute, Indiana, and Nashville, and Georgetown, Kentucky. You go to Saints camp in Jackson, Mississippi, and the humidity smacks you right in the face.
“We were not staying at the Ritz Carlton, either, but that was something that made it so great — it increased the bonding with the guys.”
Cohen offers a reminder that there are far more days on the calendar without any pro football games. Yet, as his boss notes, the thirst for the NFL must be quenched.
“Having every NFL game is a very significant part of what we offer,” says SiriusXM President Scott Greenstein, “but I can’t emphasize enough how important it is having SiriusXM NFL Radio on the air all day, every day, 12 months a year, feeding the appetite of NFL fans.”
For the rest of the story visit the Miami Herald where it was published
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.
Dan Le Batard: What 790 the Ticket Did to Jonathan Zaslow Was Horrifying
“But what they did to Zas was horrifying. What they did to Zaslow after 18 years of service, calling him in and not giving him any explanation, awful.
The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz used its local hour portion of their podcast to discuss the folding of Miami’s 790 the Ticket. A large portion of the podcast also worked with The Ticket and they had many memories and thoughts on the end of an era for them.
Le Batard began by saying that they feel like they have grieved four different things in relation to the station, but it still stirred something when the news became official. Le Batard asked Stugotz, one of the founders of the station, what he felt when the switch happened.
“I wasn’t as sad as I thought I would be for a couple of reasons,” Stugotz said. “One: super proud of what we accomplished and built there. Secondly, and I’m serious about this, it probably lasted 17 years longer than what I thought it was going to last and for that I am thankful.”
The show went on to talk about one of the last pillars of the station, Jonathan Zaslow, being let go a couple of weeks ago and how that was the final connective tissue that many had to the station where they began.
“My connection point (to 790 the Ticket) was the people there,” began Mike Ryan Ruiz. “The final nail in the coffin was when they let (Jonathan) Zaslow go, who was one of the original 790 hires. They did so in a crude fashion, I felt but…”
“Oh it was crude. It was crude,” Le Batard jumped in. “And that is what got stirred for me. That’s what got stirred for me when, it seemed 790 was dead to me because of some of the stuff that happened with the Local Hour at the end that I found disrespectful. But what they did to Zas was horrifying. What they did to Zaslow after 18 years of service, calling him in and not giving him any explanation, awful. The awful part of this awful radio business.”
Ruiz said that Zaslow should have been given an explanation and it wouldn’t have taken much.
“In fact, the explanation Zaslow should have gotten was ‘we’re consolidating both stations and don’t worry, we’ll tell the Miami Heat for you,’. Should have been a nice little human touch in regards to the Zaslow thing.”
Kayla Anderson Added to 104.5 The Zone Morning Show
Anderson will begin hosting Wednesday morning. She has previously worked as a sports anchor, reporter, and digital contributor to WKRN-TV in Nashville.
Kayla Anderson has been added to the 104.5 The Zone morning show, newly titled Ramon, Kayla, and Will, joining Ramon Foster and Will Boling on the Nashville station.
Anderson will begin hosting Wednesday morning. She has previously worked as a sports anchor, reporter, and digital contributor on WKRN-TV in Nashville. A graduate of Washington State University, she has also worked at television stations in Spokane, Missoula, Tucson, and Columbus in addition to her time in Nashville.
“After spending the last 15 years in local TV covering sports, I’m thrilled to venture into Sports Talk radio, joining 104.5 The Zone in the mornings with Ramon, Will and producer Jonathan Shaffer,” Anderson said. “I’m truly looking forward to hanging with this talented crew, talking sports, interacting with the listeners, and having lots of fun doing it!”
Anderson said on Twitter she is “so excited to join this group!”
Boling had been the interim host of the morning show after the August departure of Jason Martin.
Ramon, Kayla, and Will will be heard from 6:00 AM-10:00 AM each weekday morning.
Derek Wolfe Joining 104.3 The Fan as ‘The Drive’ Co-Host
I am so insanely pumped to talk with you every afternoon on The Fan. We had a special connection when I was playing for the Broncos that’s only going to grow stronger every day on The Drive.”
Former NFL defensive lineman Derek Wolfe is joining 104.3 The Fan in Denver as Darren “DMac” McKee’s co-host on The Drive With Derek Wolfe and DMac.
Wolfe announced his retirement from the NFL earlier this year after signing a one-day contract to retire with the Denver Broncos. He was the franchise’s top pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, spending eight seasons with the team, including a win in Super Bowl 50.
“To the listeners in Denver, ‘The Fan Wolfe-pack,’ I am so insanely pumped to talk with you every afternoon on The Fan. We had a special connection when I was playing for the Broncos that’s only going to grow stronger every day on The Drive,” said Wolfe. “DMac and I are going to fight sometimes, maybe we’ll fight a lot of the time, but we’ll always be working together to entertain you. I’ve always kept it 100 with you, and that’s not going to change one bit.”
“Derek is one of the most popular players in Broncos history, with the iconic image of his sack celebration in Super Bowl 50 forever etched in Denver sports lore,” said 104.3 The Fan program director Raj Sharan. “What’s so exciting about adding Derek is his connection with the audience goes far beyond his production on the field. He’s never been afraid to mince words and is unapologetically authentic. Those characteristics drew Denver sports fans to fall in love with Derek, and we’re thrilled to help Derek build on that relationship everyday as he entertains his ‘Fan Wolfe-pack!’”
Wolfe enters a role previously occupied by former Bronco Tyler Polumbus, who departed the station in September. The Drive with Derek Wolfe and DMac will be heard weekday afternoons from 2:00 PM-6:00 PM.