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Q & A with Matt Hochman of WEEI

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When you look for a sports media seller to profile, you might as well start with one of the most experienced. Matt Hochman started in media sales in 1987 and has been in the sports format, with WEEI in Boston, since December of 1995. For the math challenged, that’s thirty years in radio and coming up on twenty-two years in the sports format. That’s a lot of time and a lot of knowledge to tap into:

DG: Take me all the way back, how did you end up in radio?

MH: I started in radio in 1987. I graduated from UMass-Amherst and went to New York City for my first job which was going to be a buyer for Macy’s and I was going through their training program. I spent a year there and had my store set on fire by customers three different times, which was quite entertaining. After about a year I realized retail wasn’t something I wanted to do. I was contemplating my next move. I had done some stand-up comedy in New York and thought maybe radio would be something I might like.

DG: What did you know about radio at that point?

MH: Everyone I talked to about radio as a possible career painted this horror show, that it was a tough way to make a living. You are selling an intangible and it is really difficult. My first interview referred me to a gentleman at a talk radio station which was WRKO, right after they had the Celtics, for a number of years, with (Larry) Bird and (Kevin) McHale winning championships. So, I sold talk radio and the station was bought and sold by CBS and then Entercom. Since then, it has been pretty much all sports radio for me with talk shows, Celtics and Red Sox play by play and specialty programming for the Patriots.

DG: If someone asks you what you do, what do you tell them?

MH: Twenty years ago, it didn’t matter what type of format you were in, if you sold radio, you were a radio salesperson. Now, it is so different, with so many companies wanting to get involved in sports and brand their company with sports play by play, and with all the digital assets.

WEEI.com, over the course of a 24-hour period, can deliver over a million impressions on some days. The digital end is so big. I really feel like myself and my colleagues are really sports marketing professionals. There are so many different components to it that it really does need a little more clarification with what we do. Our industry isn’t that simple.

DG: How has selling radio changed since you started in 1987?

MH: It has changed immensely, but I tell you, I would not be in this business right now if I was not involved in sports. I feel so fortunate and I try and instill this to the folks I work with, especially the less experienced people, how fortunate we are to be in this marketplace where sports is so important and relevant. To be able to talk to companies now about a sports platform and have those companies understand the combination of sports radio with play by play and the digital aspect, it is so much more than just marketing, it’s a real relationship and partnership.

DG: Why are you good at what you do?

MH: There are others that have had successful runs and the common denominator for those of us in Boston that have been doing it so long, is the attrition rate is very minimal. When I am trying to do business with someone I am not talking about coming on board for two weeks and then let’s see what happens. Too many people that are involved in radio feel either a pressure, or they are scared, and they make a sale and the sale didn’t have an opportunity to work because there wasn’t enough thought put behind it to have something that was measurable. So many times, I think people in our industry don’t try and find out what the expectations of the client are and when the campaign is over, they aren’t on the same page as far as if the campaign was successful. I try to, minimally, put together a six-month program, and I feel very confident in the assets I have as well as the support people behind me that we are going to execute and deliver the deal.

DG: Why do you think so many people fail at media sales?

MH: I think sometimes we in the industry don’t put enough emphasis to our new people on the creative aspect of what we do. Somebody could know all the statistics about how many people are listening and where the reach is, but the magic is what’s coming out of that speaker. I try to get across to new people that it’s the creative end. I know that the biggest part of my success is because I am creative. I am not an analytical person, at all, but I can write a commercial in my sleep. If I can take a great piece of production, and we have great production people, to a client and say “how do you think this would sound on a Monday morning, fifteen minutes after Tom Brady has done his weekly appearance on WEEI?” Then I hit play and I’m quiet.

I don’t think that we in the industry emphasize that it really is simpler than we think. It’s the creative aspect, it’s the imagination, that’s the magic and I think that’s what we need to encourage people to keep doing more of.

DG: What’s your secret to prospecting and finding new business?

MH: The first thing, you have to know who your audience is. Part of prospecting is being able to share with a prospect, what you had in mind. The days of calling and saying you just want to come in and talk about their business are over. People don’t have time. The internet gives us a big advantage over those that started many years ago. Now, we can learn more about their business and we can have more of a valid reason for calling.

When you go in, these people are busy and are getting bombarded by all kinds of media. You have to get to the point and go in with a purpose. Many times, I have gone into a first call already with a spec commercial based on a conversation I may have had with the individual on the phone and then any reading I did about the company online.

DG: What advice would you give to a new seller about the keys to having success in our industry?

MH: You only get one chance to really prove yourself. I believe people can read through “bs” in a heartbeat. You are judged by clients and prospects more when something goes wrong. It is about how we in our industry respond, whether it be to an incorrect spot running or if a talent says something that isn’t overly complimentary of an industry or about a particular company. How quickly we are able to respond and make the situation better, that is how we get judged. I believe my clients know that I am a member of their team as well as the company that I represent. They know that when something goes wrong, which can happen, they won’t hear me blame anyone, I will be responsible and I will fix it.

The successful people are the ones that display great integrity and if you say you are going to do something, you do it. That’s so easy to say, but so many people don’t do it. People have so many options and they are buying you, the individual. We all have fine products and they can make a number of choices, but they have to feel comfortable with the individual before they start writing out checks.

Also – it’s all about treating people with respect. It doesn’t matter how new someone is to the company or what their job is, everyone needs to be treated with respect, dignity and appreciation. In our business, we need so many people behind the scenes to make things happen. Without all the support that I have had, I wouldn’t have been anywhere near as successful. This is not an “I” business, we can’t ever take the other people for granted.

DG: What is the creative idea you are most proud of?

MH: I once invested my own money on my radio station and bought my own advertising campaign for about four months. I did that because what better way to show potential prospects that I believe in what I represent than by putting my money where my mouth was. Now, I gave myself a great rate, but I spent thousands of dollars of my own money and recorded my own messages that were running on WEEI. To this day people still ask me about running those commercials.

What They Say:

“Matt is a rock star. I’m amazed by his continued energy and enthusiasm in this business after 30 years. More importantly, he is a good soul and an all-around good human being that people respect and look up to. He is gracious to everyone in our building. His clients trust him implicitly, 90% of his business is direct, and to date, he has achieved 10 out of 10 of his monthly goals. He is simply, the best of the best. I couldn’t be prouder to work alongside him. – Kelly Sutton, General Sales Manager, Entercom Boston

BSM Writers

Keeping Premier League Games Shouldn’t Be A Hard Call For NBC

“Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans.”

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NBC Sports is facing some tough, costly decisions that will define its sports brand for the rest of this decade.  A chance to connect with viewers in a changing climate and grow Peacock’s audience as well.  However, making the right choice is paramount to not losing to apps like Paramount+ (pun intended).

NBC is currently in the business of negotiating to continue airing the Premier League as their current deal ends after this 2021-2022 season.  NASCAR is contracted to NBC (and FOX) through the 2024 season.

NBC’s tentpole sports are the NFL and the Olympics.  

Negotiations for the EPL are expected to go down to the wire. Rather than re-up with NBC, the league is meeting with other networks to drive up the price. NBC has to then make a decision if the rights go north of $2 billion.

Should NBC spend that much on a sport that is not played in the United States? It’s not my money, but that sport continues to grow in the US.

If NBC re-ups with the Premier League, will that leave any coins in the cupboard to re-up with NASCAR? Comcast CEO Brian Roberts hinted that there might be some penny pinching as the prices continue to soar. This may have been one of the reasons that NBC did not fight to keep the National Hockey League, whose rights will be with Disney and WarnerMedia through ESPN and TNT, respectively.

“These are really hard calls,” Roberts said. “You don’t always want to prevail, and sometimes you’re right and sometimes you’re wrong, but I think the sustainability of sports is a critical part of what our company does well.”

Roberts was speaking virtually at the recent Goldman Sachs 30th Annual Communacopia Conference. He told the audience that between NBC and European network Sky, that Comcast has allocated approximately $20 billion towards these sports properties.

Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh spoke virtually at the Bank of America Securities 2021 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference and echoed that the company is in a good position to make some strong choices in the sports realm. 

“The bar is really high for us to pursue outright acquisitions of any material size,” Cavanagh added. “We got a great hand to play with what we have.”

While the European investments involve a partnership with American rival Viacom, the US market seems to have apparent limits.

Last Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series at Bristol Motor Speedway was seen by around 2.19 million people. It was the most-watched motorsports event of the weekend. That same week eight different Premier League matches saw over 1 million viewers. More than half of those matches were on subscription-based Peacock. 

Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans. A game of typical soccer fan is used to a sport that is less than two hours long. The investment in a team is one or two games a week. 

My connection to the Premier League began before the pandemic.  When I cut the cord in late 2017, I purchase Apple TV.  Setting it up, it asks you to name your favorite teams.  After clicking on the Syracuse Orange and the New Jersey Devils, I recalled that my wife has family based in London, England.  They are season ticket holders for Arsenal, and that family redefined the word “die-hard” fans.

I’ve long been a believer that sports allegiances are best when handed down by family. I love hearing stories of people loving the New York Giants because their parents liked them, and they pass it down to their children.

I’ve successfully given my allegiance to the Devils to my young daughters. 

By telling Apple TV that I liked Arsenal, I get alerts from three different apps when the “Gunners” are playing. The $4.99 is totally worth it to see Arsenal.

Whenever I told this story, I was amazed to see how many other American sports fans had a Premier League team. Students of mine at Seton Hall University rooted for Tottenham Hotspurs, while an old colleague cheers on Chelsea.

Global Is Cool': The Growing Appeal of Premier League Soccer in America
Courtesy: Morning Consult

This is not meant to say that NBC should sign the EPL on my account. The key for any US-based soccer fan is that between Bundesliga, Serie A, and other leagues, there will be no shortage of soccer available on both linear television and streaming services.

Besides, Dani Rojas did say that “Football is life.”  NBC, originator of the Ted Lasso character, should make keeping its Premier League US connection a priority.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 45

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Today, Demetri is joined by Tyler McComas and Russ Heltman. Tyler pops on to talk about the big start to the college football season on TV. Russ talks about Barstool’s upfront presentation and how the business community may not see any problems in working with the brand. Plus, Demetri is optimistic about FOX Sports Radio’s new morning show.

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BSM Writers

6 Ad Categories Hotter Than Gambling For Sports Radio

“Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life.”

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For years sports radio stations pushed sports gambling advertisers to early Saturday and Sunday morning. The 1-800 ads, shouting, and false claims were seedy, and some stations wouldn’t even accept the business at 5 am on Sunday.

Now, with all but ten states ready to go all in on sports gambling, sports radio stations can’t get enough of that green. Demetri Ravanos wrote about the money cannon that sports gambling has become for stations. Well, what if you are in one of those ten states where it isn’t likely to ever be legal like California or Texas? Where is your pot of gold?

A Pot of Gold Articles - Analyzing Metals
Courtesy: iStockphoto

Or, let’s face it, the more gambling ads you run, the more risk you take on that the ads will not all work as you cannibalize the audience and chase other listeners away who ARE NOT online gambling service users and never will be. So, what about you? Where is your pot of gold?

Well, let’s go Digging for Gold. 

The RAB produces the MRI-Simmons Gold Digger PROSPECTING REPORT for several radio formats. In it, they index sports radio listeners’ habits against an average of 18+ Adult. The Gold Digger report looks at areas where the index is higher than the norm – meaning the sports radio audience is more likely to use the product or service than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. The report, generated in 2020, indicates that sports radio listeners are 106% more likely to have used an online gambling site in the last thirty days. That’s impressive because the report only lists 32 activities or purchases a sports radio listener indexes higher than an average adult. I looked at those 32 higher indexes, and I think we can start looking for some gold.

Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life. The gambling companies who commit significant money to get results will continue advertising and chase the others away. So, the future of sports radio needs to include other cash cows.

If it is evident to online sports gambling services that sports radio stations are a must-buy, who else should feel that way?  I looked at the Top 32 and eliminated the media companies. ESPN, MLB/NHL/NFL networks, and others aren’t spending cash on sports radio stations they don’t own in general. But Joseph A Bank clothing, Fidelity, and Hotwire should! Here’s your PICK-6 list I pulled together that’s hotter than sports gambling:

  • Sportscard collectors, Dapper Labs, Open Sea- read about Sports NFT $.
  • Online brokerage firms-Fidelity, Charles Schwab, Robinhood, Webull, TD Ameritrade
  • Golf courses, resorts, equipment, etc.- we play golf at home and vacation
  • Hotwire.com, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Airbnb, Carnival Corporation, and Priceline.com- we’ve used Hotwire in the last year.
  • FedEx, UPS, U.S. Postal Service, Venmo, PayPal, Zelle-we wired or overnighted $ 
  • Jos. A. Bank, shein.com, macys.com, nordstroms.com- we went to Jos. A. Bank in last three months

The sports card/NFT market is 32% hotter than the sports betting market for sports radio listeners. Everything on the PICK-6 is at least 100% more likely to purchase than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. All listed are at or above indexing strength compared to sports betting. The individual companies I added are industry leaders. Bet on it! Email me for details. 

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