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Under The Radar – March 14, 2018

Jason Barrett

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This week’s UTR includes a number of items related to the NCAA Tournament. As I state in each week’s piece, to be considered for exposure in an upcoming article, pass along any pertinent information via email to JBarrett@spoortsradiopd.com. Now on to the latest developments.

Entercom New York has named a new Market Manager to oversee some of the company’s most important and prestigious brands. New York native Susan Larkin will head back to the east coast, leaving San Francisco where she had been overseeing Entercom’s five Bay Area stations. Larkin also had regional oversight of Sacramento and a number of Southern California markets. To fill her absence in the Bay Area, Gregory Nemitz will be elevated to SVP/Market Manager. Los Angeles SVP/Market Manager Jeff Federman will also take on more responsibility adding regional oversight of Southern California markets, including San Diego, Palm Springs and Riverside. Although Larkin will be physically located in the big apple, she will continue as Nemitz’s direct report. Interim New York market manager John Fullam will now move to Denver where he was originally expected to be when he signed on with the company this past November.

If there’s one time of the year where you can learn a lot about a radio station’s creativity surrounding big events, it’s March. The NCAA Tournament becomes a key focus for many outlets but too often stations do the same thing. Sales requests a March Madness promotion to generate income, which is followed up by a station placing a bracket on its website, attaching a sponsor to it, supporting it with liners and promos and encouraging the audience to fill it out. The listener who produces the best bracket gets rewarded with a prize. Considering that sports fans receive the same exact options on TV and print media websites, it doesn’t stand out. To make noise, you’ve got to either offer an experience/prize that’s unheard of or do something outside the box. Fortunately, there are a few brands out there looking to capitalize on the buzz in unique ways rather than executing the same bland concepts.

For starters, the red carpet needs to be rolled out for Carrington Harrison of 610 Sports. The man deserves a moment in the spotlight for his creation of the Kanye Madness bracket. Harrison tapped into the passion of Kanye West fans by creating a bracket which highlighted 64 of the popular artist’s songs. It generated a massive amount of social buzz including feedback and participation from Chris Long, Cris Carter, Jordan Matthews, Bomani Jones, and coverage on Complex, Cincinnati.com, and the Kansas City Star among others. It even became a topic of conversation on MSNBC during an appearance by Havoc of Mobb Deep, who placed Harrington at the top of his ‘Real List’ and pushed for the song “Famous” to win the tournament since it was one of 2 songs he produced for Kanye. Whether you love Kanye’s music or not, the originality, social polls and video content created around the promotion was spectacular. As of last check, the original tweet had received 30,000 retweets and 81,000 likes. It also produced tons of shares and comments on Facebook. It was everything radio should be trying to create.

Although Harrison’s creation was impressive, it wasn’t the only bracket to strike a chord. The Spun did a fantastic job too by creating the 64 Most Annoying People in Sports Media bracket. If there’s a guaranteed way of generating buzz for a bracket, just include 64 people in the sports media business, and sit back, relax, and enjoy your popcorn as they flock to social media to mention their involvement in it. To see the bracket click here.

A few others which passed the creativity test include Barstool SportsPardon My Take which produced the 64 People Most Likely to Retweet This Bracket and Get Us More Followers bracket. CBS Sports Radio‘s Tiki and Tierney are giving one lucky fan the chance to host a segment with them on TV and Radio. Seth Harp in Jacksonville at Sports Radio 930 in conjunction with iHeart Radio Jacksonville rolled out Meat Madness, and Paige Dimakos and Zach Harper of FanRag Sports used the tournament as a connector to LeBron James‘ pending free agency.

Speaking of the tournament, SiriusXM is offering listeners nationwide comprehensive coverage of the 2018 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, airing every minute of every game on both satellite radios and the SiriusXM app on its exclusive 24/7 college sports talk channels. All Men’s NCAA Tournament game broadcasts are provided to SiriusXM by Westwood One, the official network radio partner of the NCAA and the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship.

Thursday is a big day for Jason Fitz. The network radio and television host will take over ESPN‘s Twitter account as part of Fitz’s Big Basketball Binge-A-Thon Bonanaza. Fitz will have a few special guests stopping by to watch games, converse, eat and spin the wheel of destiny including Jalen Rose, Jay Williams, Michael Smith, Molly Qerim and more. Plans are for Fitz to begin his tour of duty at Noon ET. He’ll remain at the controls until the buzzer sounds for the final game of the evening.

Sometimes technical malfunctions can turn into entertaining radio. There was no better example than in New York where Don LaGreca expressed his fondness for the radio station’s microphone collapsing into his hands during Tuesday’s program. After the ESPN New York afternoon host snapped and screamed “FIX THAT” while walking out of the studio during a segment, Michael Kay and Peter Rosenberg were left to try and regain their composure and explain what just occurred. YES Network did an excellent job of turning around the clip quickly, generating strong social sharing. To watch LaGreca’s meltdown click here.

It may have taken five years, but Chris Townsend is finally getting an opportunity to make a bigger impact on Oakland Athletics radio broadcasts. The 95.7 The Game talk show host has been named the network host for A’s pre and postgame shows. “Towny” as he’s affectionately known to local listeners will also be dropping in during game broadcasts with A’s announcers Ken Korach, Vince Cotroneo and Ray Fosse.

Tim Murray will be hosting a new show on SB Nation Radio starting this Sunday, “Destination NFL Draft.” The show airs 11a-1p ET for the next six weeks leading up to the NFL Draft. Each show will include appearances from draft experts, draft prospects, and local beat reporters from the teams atop the draft.

Meanwhile, one of Murray’s radio partners Steve Solomon, is making some news of his own. The SB Nation Radio host and producer of Steve Czaban‘s afternoon show on The Team 980 is running for Montgomery County Council. In the first unofficial poll, Solomon led the way, garnering 15 percent of the vote from more than 5,000 votes recorded in a Bethesda Magazine reader survey. That percentage was more than double the next closest candidate. Solomon says he’s gratified to see his campaign resonating with Montgomery County residents. The election takes place June 26, 2018.

WWL in New Orleans has cut ties with longtime host Deke Bellavia. Bobby Hebert‘s co-pilot on “SportsTalk” and the New Orleans Saints “Point After” postgame show last appeared on-air on Friday March 9th. Saints sideline reporter Kristian Garic has been filling in on an interim basis. Hebert is expected to continue in his normal role. A replacement has not yet been named for Bellavia.

Time has run out for Eric Williams at ESPN 850 WKNR in Cleveland. The producer and on-air contributor to The Really Big Show with Tony Rizzo and Aaron Goldhammer is looking for his next opportunity. To get in touch with him via Twitter click here.

In the podcasting space, congrats is in order for Howie Schwab. The ex-ESPner has created the Schwab Cast for Univision. The first two episodes featured appearances from Dick Vitale and Fran Fraschilla. To listen and/or subscribe click here.

In Kansas City, 610 Sports morning host Bob Fescoe has also taken the plunge into the digital space. Fescoe has launched “The KC Bobcast,” a show focused on conversations with people who make Kansas City special. The first two episodes include interviews with Kansas Head Basketball Coach Bill Self and Marlin Man. To subscribe or listen click here.

When time allows, check out the ‘No Limits’ podcast hosted by ABC‘s Rebecca Jarvis. Barstool Sports CEO Erika Nardini was a recent guest on the program, and during the conversation, it was learned that since joining the company, Barstool has increased its revenue by eight times the amount. The company has also enjoyed a seven hundred percent gain in brand advertising, and a three hundred percent lift in e-commerce. Whether you love or hate the Barstool brand, those statistics are pretty remarkable.

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Fescoe in the Morning: ESPN Has a History of Ignoring Non-Partner Leagues

“They are risking being ignored by ESPN now,” replied Klingler.

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Fescoe in the Morning

ESPN is out of the running for the Big Ten football and basketball media rights. Those will be awarded to a combination of other networks and likely a streaming service. ESPN appears to be focusing on NCAA Championships next.

Josh Klingler, co-host of Fescoe in the Morning on 610 Sports Radio in Kansas City, took time on their show on Tuesday to break down what that might mean for the Big Ten in terms of coverage.

“You’re (Big Ten) going to network television, which is better; more eyeballs and what have you,” noted Klingler. “But also, let’s not forget ESPN has a history of ignoring you when you’re not on their air. That’s the risk they are going to run.”

Klingler would add, “They are going to take the money. They are going to get network viewers, which is good. I guess the highlight and the hype and all those things that we are accustomed to doing that ESPN provides. We’ve already seen they ignore you if you’re not on their network.”

Bob Fescoe chimed in a reminder about another prominent league that chose not to partner with ESPN.

“Ask the National Hockey League what happened when they took the money from NBC and ran,” said Fescoe.

“They are risking being ignored by ESPN now,” replied Klingler.

“Right, but I think they are willing to do that for a billion dollars per year,” Fescoe responded.

Fescoe then said that the Big Ten might make up for the perceived shortcomings of not being on ESPN by being on network television.

“If you’re going to be on network TV in all three windows, Josh, quite honestly all your marquee games are going to be free,” said Fescoe.

“That’s exposure,” said Klingler.

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NESN’s Dave O’Brien Says National Networks “Blew It” By Not Hiring Dennis Eckersley

“I don’t know how they blew it as badly as they did but Dennis Eckersley should have been a national icon… they made a mistake on that. I hope somebody regrets it.”

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Dennis Eckersley

On Monday, Dennis Eckersley decided to make it known that this season would be his last with NESN in the booth. He mentioned that after 50 years in baseball, it was time to go be with the grandchildren in San Diego.

His broadcast partner for a lot of those years in the NESN booth was Dave O’Brien. On the latest Sports Media Mayhem podcast, O’Brien joined show host Alex Reimer to talk about the retirement of Eckersley. Reimer pointed out that it took awhile before Eckersley became the main color analyst for the team. O’Brien remembered the time well.

“When he started, he was pre- and post- and he did that most of his career at NESN,” said O’Brien. “It was really, only the last six or seven years that he really started to get on as a game analyst.”

O’Brien was named the lead play-by-play announcer for NESN’s Red Sox coverage in 2016 which is about the same time Eckersley slid into the role of game analyst. In the time since, O’Brien has seen the work of Eckersley up close and is floored that he was working for a regional sports network and not somewhere more nationally prominent.

“I think the national people totally blew it on Dennis Eckersley,” blurted O’Brien. “And that includes Turner. They had an opportunity, I can say that because a lot of those people there now didn’t make the decision. He should have been the lead analyst doing national games. He should have been on ESPN on Sunday Night Baseball or FOX. I don’t know how they blew it as badly as they did but Dennis Eckersley should have been a national icon… they made a mistake on that. I hope somebody regrets it.”

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Sal Paolantonio Not Interested In Trying Ayahuasca To Better Understand Aaron Rodgers

“Halucinagenics have been at the center of a lot of conversations about Aaron Rodgers lately.”

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Dan Patrick is a very good interviewer. He asks the questions he knows his audience wants answered. He also makes a habit out of throwing out questions to his guests that they never see coming. That was the case on Tuesday for ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio.

Paolantonio joined the Dan Patrick Show to discuss Pro Football Hall of Fame voting and the new NFL season. That is not what the host hit him with out of the gate.

The first question from Patrick to Paolantonio was “Just to relate to Aaron Rodgers, would you be willing to try ayahuasca?”.

Paolantonio was left speechless. All he could do was laugh and say “you got me on that one, Dan.”

Halucinagenics have been at the center of a lot of conversations about Aaron Rodgers lately. The Green Bay quarterback recently said on a podcast that experimenting with ayahuasca opened him up to be ready to succeed both on the field and as a leader. He credits the experience with laying the foundation for his 2021 MVP season.

Patrick pushed the issue challenging Paolantonio to beat Andrea Kremer to the experience.

“My money is on the fearless Andrea Kremer,” Paolantonio shot back.

For the record, Kremer responded to the challenge on Twitter.

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