The national sports network business has become very crowded over the past four years. But that hasn’t slowed down Harvard graduate and Yahoo Sports Radio CEO David Gow.
Based in Houston, Gow Media, is the lone independent sports radio network operator. In less than five years, the company has tripled its affiliate base, upgraded its lineup, and established a partnership with Yahoo, one of the world’s leading digital brands.
Those moves along with a few other sound investments have positioned the company well for the future. Just last week, the company confirmed plans to offer its programming in the Philadelphia area for the first time. With that addition, the network now reaches into seven of the Top 10 markets and can be heard in some shape or form on more than five hundred radio stations nationwide.
Critics will point out that the content featured on many affiliates aren’t the network’s top flight weekday programs, and the station’s which air the programming aren’t ratings leaders in their respective markets but Gow is not deterred by that.
He believes that all stations which clear his network offer value and he’s made it easier for them by not crippling them with rights fees and forced clearance of his weekday shows. He helps stations customize plans that satisfy their objectives, while finding ways to incorporate his own brand, its content, and its advertisers onto their airwaves.
The biggest challenge that most networks face is getting their programming cleared by local stations. Affiliate representatives will aggressively push their network’s weekday shows that air M-F between 6A-7P, but if that opportunity can’t be solidified, then the focus turns towards finding a way to gain entry onto the radio station.
Once a provider agrees to carry some of the network’s programming, it counts as an official affiliation. Why is that important? Because once an affiliation is secured, networks can list it and use it to their benefit when trying to secure business from national advertisers. The more stations and the bigger the markets, the larger the reach, which means more revenue.
To compete in the national space and gain local partnerships, David has had to be creative. In 2012 he purchased “The Sports Flash Radio Network” and it’s since become a part of Yahoo Sports Radio’s programming strategy. The network creates custom sports updates for local sports stations and in turn it helps them enter markets that don’t carry their long form content.
The network also cuts deals with operators who express interest in nights/overnights/weekend programming and/or appearances from Yahoo contributors on their local shows. By offering flexibility, Gow is proving to local groups that he’s invested in their success, and not trying to compromise their ability to run their radio stations effectively.
What makes their approach unique during the prime hours of weekday programming is that unlike ESPN Radio, Fox Sports Radio, and CBS Sports Radio, Yahoo’s weekday programming is built around four local market shows. That design has led to daily clearance in Washington DC, Charlotte, NC, Los Angeles, CA, Austin, TX, and Houston, TX, the cities which their key talk shows originate from.
Many industry people believe that five national sports networks can’t be sustained long term. I share that same opinion. But as I discovered during my fifty minute conversation with David Gow, if you’re betting on Yahoo Sports Radio to turn off the lights and call it a day, you’re going to be waiting for a while.
Here’s my conversation with Yahoo Sports Radio CEO David Gow. It covers everything from the start of his career, to the development of Yahoo Sports Radio, to lessons learned as a radio owner, to the challenges that lie ahead for each of his radio stations.
Q: How does a guy with a background as a corporate executive at Compaq and as CEO for Ashford.com wind up in the sports talk radio business?
A: I always loved the medium and was an avid listener and Houston sports fan. When we sold Ashford in 2002, I had a chance to evaluate what I wanted to do next and I knew that I wanted to work in a business that I was passionate about. As luck would have it, an opportunity became available to enter this industry, and it was one I was determined to be a part of.
Q: So you enter the industry in 2007 when you purchased KGOW 1560AM, a local Houston AM signal. Four years later you assume control of the Sporting News Radio network which puts you instantly onto 150+ radio stations nationwide. As someone who was brand new to the industry, and yet being presented with these incredible opportunities for expansion, how hard was it for you to find the right people to surround yourself with?
A: It was definitely a challenge to get the right team in place. Over the course of time we’ve had to make changes, but during the past 18 months I think we’ve assembled a talented team that is steering us in the right direction. We’ve grown our digital business significantly. Our sports updates business has expanded and become a valuable tool for our partners, and the distribution for our programs has attracted new markets and stations.
Q: I’ve talked to a lot of people about you, and the buzz words that follow are usually ‘high character guy, smart, likeable, loyal & willing to trust’. Those same positive qualities though may have worked against you early on. Were you too nice and too trusting when you were establishing the company?
A: There were people I depended upon early on who didn’t ultimately work out for us. The label “too nice” is interesting though because I do hold people accountable. I think that I’m fair and easy to work for if you’re taking care of your responsibilities and helping us grow the business.
A: We loved the Yahoo brand and the investments they were making into the sports world. Their position as a digital leader was very attractive to us and we felt that by partnering with them, it would position us strongly for the present and the future. We actually did look at alternative brands but there was nothing as compelling. Since forming the relationship it’s proven to be very strong and effective. We couldn’t be happier with the relationship.
Q: Industry folks may not realize this but since you entered the network business, you’ve experienced a lot of affiliate growth. What do you attribute it to?
A: We have grown our affiliates carrying our long form programming to 185, and we have about 385 brands carrying our sports updates. Our total amount of distribution is now over 550 stations. That’s something we are very proud of.
I believe a big part of why we’ve experienced growth is because we’ve made significant investments in talent. We hired Sean Salisbury, Steve Czaban, Steve Bunin, Travis Rodgers, Jeff Passan, Adrian Wojnarowski, and a number of other great talents, and we feel strongly about our product.
We have also worked hard to build relationships in the industry and develop partnerships that benefit us and our affiliates. We not only provide quality content to them but we also are fortunate to have talent working for us who understand the business. Many of them get involved to help our partners by calling into their local shows, speaking with their local advertisers, voicing local commercials, and assisting their needs.
Q: What was the best advice you were given about making the move into the national sports radio business?
A: In the network business, I have more constituents to be in conversation with than on the local end of the business. I was told long ago, “spend less time trying to advance your own agenda, and more time listening to the objectives of other people“. That advice has served me well.
Q: What’s been the toughest lesson you’ve learned?
A: The national sports radio landscape has been much tougher than we expected. The expansion of the format has tempered the growth for many of us and it’s forced us to look for new ways to expand our business. Digital is a much bigger priority now than ever before.
Q: From a strategic standpoint, the network features shows on the national stage that operate out of local markets. This approach has helped you gain daily clearance in some great locations including Los Angeles, Washington DC, Houston, Austin and Charlotte. Why do you believe this strategy is effective?
A: Although the shows originate from different places, we see them as national shows. Over the course of a 24/7 day, we present programs from many geographic areas. That gives us an advantage with how we reach and connect with our audience. It also serves our advertisers well because we’re able to place their products in front of sports fans all across the country, as well as in the digital space.
A: I do believe it is crowded but we are profitable, growing, and investing in this business. We won’t be letting people go this year, and we feel very bullish about our business.
Q: When it comes to business, how much does it matter to your advertisers that your prime content clears a local market station versus gaining spot clearance on a brand during a M-SU 6a-mid schedule?
A: There are different types of sales. There are some clients who will buy based on the network’s total audience reach. But there are also some who do want to attach themselves to talent and shows and see the programming clearing in larger markets. We need to be able to show those clients and affiliates how we perform by show and station, and we strive to be the user friendly network. We see ourselves as the partner who doesn’t burden the radio station with rights fees and forced bundling. We want to be the group that works with the local operator to enjoy shared success.
Q: On the local level, ESPN 97.5 became the 2nd highest rated station in the Houston market during the October book. What has changed to help the station gain bigger traction?
A: There are several factors. We added a little more content, and we’re now cross promoting the stations more. It’s about recycling the cume between both brands. We also switched John Granato and Steve Bunin, two moves that we believe have benefitted them both. The brand sounds great, and is comprised of some very strong talent, and with more consistency and some smart additions, we’re now seeing better results.
Q: Are there plans in the future to make a bigger run at the local play by play rights for the Houston market teams?
A: We presently carry the Houston Dynamo, our local soccer team, and I’d love to be a partner of the Astros and Rockets. The Texans recently signed a long-term deal with their current partner. We believe we provide something unique and attractive in the sense that we can offer local teams the support on both AM and FM, while combining it with the promotion of a national network to make their stories an even bigger focus for sports fans around the country.
Q: Looking to the future, what are your objectives and goals for ESPN 97.5 and the Yahoo Sports Radio Network?
A: We believe we’re going to win the digital landscape. Some of the other brands have TV relationships that are important to them, and we have a digital partner that is a leader in the online space. We recently launched PodcastArena.com and since mid-August we’ve had 4.6 million listens. That number is growing by leaps and bounds.
We’ve also started taking our shows and editing the best parts and making short form audio files available. Yahoo then uses content tags to place them into locations that have appeal to an individual’s preferences. That helps us expose our content to people who may not have been aware of it before.
Those two items alone are going to be significant components to our growth in the future and we’re excited about the possibilities and looking forward to building on the momentum we’ve created during the past five years.
For more information on Yahoo Sports Radio, visit their website by clicking here or follow them on Twitter by clicking here. You can also learn more about Gow Media’s local station ESPN 97.5 in Houston by clicking here.
Doug Gottlieb, Nick Wright Feud Over College Sports NIL Issues
“Gottlieb caught wind of Wright’s rant and let his disapproval be known.”
FOX Sports hosts Doug Gottlieb and Nick Wright definitely do not see eye-to-eye when it comes to money going to college athletes.
Despite both being employed by the same company, Gottlieb, who is never afraid to voice his opinion, fired back at Wright Friday regarding his take on college football’s NIL rule in the wake of Alabama head coach Nick Saban’s claiming Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher “brought” his recruits.
On Wright’s morning show, First Things First, the colorful broadcaster had a two minute rant about how he’s happy that schools are finding workarounds under the new NIL rules implemented by the NCAA to pay the players for their name, image and likeness. He said the universities have been taking advantage of college athletes, particularly black student athletes from rough backgrounds, for years and now that the tide has shifted, people are freaking out.
“The general sports public wants extra regulations and extra rules, is keeping their thumbs on college football and basketball players because their is an undeniable and always has been an incredibly uncomfortable racial context of the guys,” Wright said. “It’s mostly young black men from mostly really tough circumstances, generating billions of dollars. Who’s sharing in that?” Wright asked.
“An overwhelmingly white administration, an overwhelmingly white coaching staff, and an overwhelmingly white non-revenue sports. How do we pay for the tennis team and golf team, ah men’s football and basketball. What do they get? A scholarship. Be happy, we pulled you out the hood. Maybe you’ll have a better life if somehow you make the league or do something with your education.”
Gottlieb caught wind of Wright’s rant and let his disapproval be known. That resulted in a back and forth between the two sports personalities on Twitter.
Gottlieb continued, claiming the NIL rule puts exceedingly high expectations on the student-athletes before ever stepping on campus and are given something without having to “earn it.”
“The sad part is this push to pay SAs before they have even played a game, taken a class or assimilated to a school sets them up for failure in their post sports career. If you have been given before you earn, where is the motivation when you get to the real world?”
Wright then took a shot at Gottlieb, saying it always feels good that his take is the complete opposite of Gottlieb’s.
The dialogue continued with Gottlieb throwing shots at Wright, calling his take “embarrassing” and mentioning how he failed to point out the educational imbalance in society during his take. Wright asked Gottlieb what are some of the other “fake racism” takes that he claims are out in the media.
Gottlieb is no stranger to conflict with his FOX Sports colleagues. Troy Aikman called his opinion on Andrew Luck’s retirement “total bullshit” in a tweet from 2019. More recently, Gottlieb got into it with Speak for Yourself co-host Emmanuel Acho after Gottlieb ripped his brother Sam’s “Top 5 QB list” on First Take. He also called out Skip Bayless for name-calling.
Bob Cousy: ‘JJ Redick Is Untalented Using Me To Get Attention On ESPN’
“People with less talent will always try to make a name for themselves by criticizing other people and hopefully getting some attention and perhaps increasing their credibility,” Cousy said.
Celtics legend Bob Cousy was not too happy with J.J. Redick dissing his game and credibility as an all-time great player.
During an appearance on First Take, Redick got into a fiery debate with Chris “Mad Dog” Russo about whether Chris Paul deserves to be mentioned among the best point guards in NBA history despite another disappointing exit from the playoffs. Russo claimed that Paul is “no Bob Cousy” which prompted Redick to retort, saying Cousy couldn’t even dribble with his left hand and called the players he played against, “plumbers” and “firemen.”
“Bob Cousy won championships when there were eight teams in the NBA and you had to win two playoff series,” Reddick said. “Let’s celebrate Bob Cousy in his era, but you can’t compare pre-1980 with the modern NBA.”
The 93-old Cousy made an appearance on SiriusXM Radio where he went scorched earth on Redick, basically calling the ESPN analyst “untalented” while listing some of the players that he went up against in his era.
“People with less talent will always try to make a name for themselves by criticizing other people and hopefully getting some attention and perhaps increasing their credibility,” Cousy said.
“So when you respond to something like this, you play into their hands. I won’t do that, but I will defend the firemen and the plumbers that he referenced. And I’ll just give you a few of the names of these firemen that I played with and against during those years. How about Bill Russell, the aforementioned, not too bad a player. Wilt Chamberlain, remember that guy? He wasn’t bad. I guess he must have fought fires as well. But in any event, Wilt Chamberlain.
“Still the best, in my judgment, small forward that ever played the game, a guy named Elgin Baylor. A couple of point guards that weren’t too shabby, my colleague who also had an award created [in his name], guy named Oscar Robertson, who was pound for pound the best player perhaps in the game.”
Chris Paul is a 12-time All-Star compared to Cousy’s 13 appearances.
One thing Paul and Bob Cousy do have in common is their aptitude for leadership. Cousy developed and started the NBA players union in 1954, being named its first president. Paul served in that same role from 2013-2021.
The two men also share similarities off the court. Cousy was a stanch anti-racist advocate during the civil rights era 50s and 60s, when it wasn’t all that popular to so. Paul has also spoke out on issues regarding race, working with commissioner Adam Silver to address some of the issues facing the black community.
Maybe the two have more in common than either Redick or Russo would like to admit.
Cole Cubelic: ‘A Lot Of Media Wasn’t Prepared To Talk About Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher’
“There were multiple other messages that were attempted to be delivered by Nick Saban two nights ago that I don’t think anybody paid attention to, and I’m wondering if Jimbo paid attention to them.”
The comments from Alabama football coach Nick Saban regarding other teams allegedly “buying” their players through the new rules pertaining to name, image and likeness (NIL) deals has set the college football world abuzz.
In his comments, Saban directly accused Texas A&M Head Coach and one of his former assistant coaches at Louisiana State University Jimbo Fisher of unreasonably using NIL deals to recruit college football players, and remarked that the system as a whole has created a fundamental disadvantage for certain programs. Additionally, he stated that Alabama has never tried to lure a player solely based on these deals; however, he left the door open to potentially having to adjust his recruitment strategy to align with the actions of his competitors around him.
Much of the college football world weighed in on the comments, but the voice everyone was waiting to hear was that of Jimbo Fisher, including McElroy and Cubic in the Morning on Jox 94.5 FM in Birmingham, Ala. On Friday morning, the program opened with show co-host Cole Cubelic reacting to the candid response given by Fisher in a news conference carried on multiple media outlets in which Fisher called Saban a “narcissist.”
“When we’ve had coaching feuds before, we’ve had guys go back and forth; we’ve had guys go at one another, sometimes in a little bit more of a subtle way; sometimes maybe a less-confrontational way,” Cubelic said. “Jimbo even said it yesterday – he’s not afraid of confrontation; he’s not worried about it.”
An aspect of what has made this discordance between two highly-accomplished and eminent coaches a story being followed across the college football landscape is the fact that it has taken place within the public sphere. When Saban appeared on SiriusXM Radio and apologized for singling out Texas A&M in his comments from earlier in the week, there was not much emotion involved, according to Cubelic. Fisher’s remarks in his press conference though, were of a completely different sentiment – and may have escalated the situation altogether.
“Debates often turn to arguments as soon as emotions become involved,” Cubelic said. “…Jimbo Fisher yesterday at 10 a.m. – that felt emotional; that felt personal, and that one had to dig deep. Jimbo Fisher said yesterday he doesn’t anticipate things are going to be repaired. I don’t see in a way that these two sort of get things back in line.”
“The bridge is burned both ways,” added show co-host Greg McElroy. “They’ll probably shake hands; do what they need to do pregame. But as far as any love lost? Nah, that’s a wrap.”
A part of this story that remains seminal when reporting or commenting on it is listening to the full extent of the comments from both Saban and Fisher on the situation so as to more effectively contextualize and comprehend the situation. Cubelic said that he did multiple interviews on different programs yesterday, and some of the interviewers, as he anticipated, had solely listened to portions of the comments, rendering them not completely prepared to have a truly pertinent discussion about the topic at hand.
“We said it here on the show yesterday morning — right out of the gate — people are going to take the Miami; the Jackson State; and the Texas A&M stuff, and they’re going to clip it and they’re going to play it and they’re going to read it and that’s all they’re going to pay attention to,” said Cubelic. “There were multiple other messages that were attempted to be delivered by Nick Saban two nights ago that I don’t think anybody paid attention to, and I’m wondering if Jimbo paid attention to them.”
Jimbo Fisher and the Texas A&M Aggies visit Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide on October 8 in a matchup that will sure to be a primary topic of discussion in the weeks and months leading to kickoff.