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A Conversation with Christopher Gabriel

Tyler McComas

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It’s 4:00 a.m. inside a smoky bar somewhere in Queens, New York. The year is 1986 and just like a scene straight out of a Martin Scorsese film, a crowd of rough and downright scary individuals with unorthodox ways of making money, have flooded into the after-hours establishment. The bartender, 28-year-old Christopher Gabriel, knew he didn’t need to be mixing it up or getting involved with the type of people he’s serving scotch to. However, the struggling actor needed money way more than he needed a lecture on who to be hanging around. 

The former Chicago sports nut never saw his life taking this drastic of a turn. Just a decade earlier, Gabriel was majoring in broadcast journalism at Temple University in Philadelphia, with the vision of being an anchor for the evening news. Far removed from the life of getting paid “under the table” to serve drinks in a shady bar. Trips to Wrigley Field, Soldier Field and Comiskey Park filled his childhood, but Gabriel’s desired career path didn’t begin with the intent on covering the athletes he grew up watching. In Gabriel’s eyes, the sports business just didn’t seem have the same draw as being a news anchor.

Fate seems to work in mysterious ways. Gabriel would learn that early on at Temple. While hosting his college radio show, a loud commotion came from the theatre office next door, totally throwing off what he had planned to deliver over the air waves that day. In a rage to see what had derailed his show, Gabriel stormed into the theatre office to confront whoever was responsible. What he found, was a woman behind the desk suggesting he would be perfect for the one of the roles in an upcoming show. After initially being caught by surprise, Gabriel agreed to an audition where he showed instant talent. The rest was history.

Gabriel’s change of fate would land him from Philadelphia all the way to Los Angeles to chase his newly found passion of being a theatre major at USC. By the summer of his last semester, he was back on the east coast in New York City where his acting career took flight. From there, Gabriel began to get casted in commercials as well as receiving Under-5 work, meaning he was given five lines or less on soap operas, including a recurring role on the hit show All My Children. A project known as the 1983 Commercial Olympics became Gabriel’s big break as he and the four other actors involved all signed with agents. Soon after, he would be performing in places such as the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland and working on stage with esteemed talent such as James Earl Jones and Julie Harris. 

Though he experienced the highs of working as both an actor and in theatre, he also suffered the lows. Trying constantly to make ends meet during his 20-year stint in New York City, Gabriel took jobs as a cook, caterer, bartender or anything else he could to make money. Every day was a grind and it was starting to take its toll.  

His escape wasn’t different than most males during the 90’s in New York City. While always keeping his passion for sports, Gabriel became enamored with Mike and The Mad Dog on WFAN. So much so, that the thought of doing sports radio crept into his mind for the first time in his life. A trip to Montreal for a Candiens playoff game would end with Gabriel stopping on the side of the road at 1:00 in the morning to call WFAN overnight host Steve Summers just to hear himself over the radio and to enjoy a few moments of sports talk. Sports on the radio had always been a big part of Gabriel’s life, but WFAN along with Mike and The Mad Dog would fuel a passion for the business that he never had before. 

In Gabriel’s words, trying to make a living off being in theatre is truly a grind. The process of getting an audition in New York City would start as early as 5:30 in the morning without the guarantee of even getting an opportunity. After over 100 plays across the country, complete with thousands of hours of auditioning and rehearsing, Gabriel found himself burnt out and needing a fresh, new creative challenge. After a role in Tuesdays with Morrie, he met Mitch Albom, who later invited him to work on a production called “Duck Hunter Shoots Angel” at Jeff Daniels’ Purple Rose Theatre Company in Detroit. Over a cup of coffee, Gabriel voiced his frustrations about the grind of the theatre business with Albom. It’s then, when Gabriel found fate again. Albom suggested talk radio to Gabriel as a potential avenue to explore and even became a mentor to his success in the business. At the age of 47, Gabriel’s career in radio was finally about to begin. 

January 6th, 2006 became Gabriel’s first day as an intern at the formerly 100.3 KTLK in Minneapolis. At the time, the running joke across the station was that he was the oldest intern in radio. That may have been true. However, Gabriel immediately fell into a good situation by serving as a producer for the Pat Kessler Show. Pat opened up the whole world to Gabriel by letting him do a number of things within the show. His big break would come almost two months later on March 5th, as Minnesota mourned the passing of Twins legend Kirby Puckett. As the news broke, nobody was available at KTLK or its sister station KFAN to do a live hit from the Metrodome. That’s when KFAN program director Doug Westerman gave Gabriel his big chance by giving him the assignment on arguably the biggest sports figure in Minneapolis’ history. Not sure if he was ready or even capable, Gabriel was sweating nervously all the way to the Metrodome as he delivered an 8-minute report that turned out to be excellent. From there, more opportunities came along such as being selected by Andrew Zimmern, host of the TV show Bizarre Foods, to produce and contribute on-air for his show. 

Zimmern quickly took a liking to Gabriel’s work ethic and on-air talent. When it came time to travel the world to shoot new episodes of Bizarre Foods, the station wanted hosts such as Bobby Flay, Alton Brown or even Rachel Ray to host the show in Zimmern’s absence. But Zimmern fought for Gabiel to host while he was overseas. Management soon agreed and Gabriel now had the opportunity he was waiting on. There was just one problem. 

The on-air light flashed in front of Gabriel in studio as he set to host for the first time. The intro came to an end and…nothing. All was dead quiet. It was his time to shine, but Gabriel didn’t know what to say. He completely froze. That’s when his producer came over his ear and reminded Gabriel he now had to talk. Though he was 47 years old, he quickly experienced his ‘welcome to the business moment.’

Gabriel would host every brokered show that was offered on KTLK. Gardening shows, shows for motivational speakers, he did it all. The drive and work ethic that landed him so many acting and theatre opportunities had carried over into radio. All Gabriel wanted to do was get in front of a mic, learn from his mistakes and get into the business. He was going to do whatever it took to make that happen. 

After hosting any and every kind of show imaginable, Gabriel finally had a reel he could send to other stations around the country. In his words, he sent his resume and reel to everyone he could think of, including stations in Guam. He didn’t care where he was sending it, as long as people were listening to it. 

One station that was willing to listen was 970 WDAY in Fargo, North Dakota. On the air since 1922, WDAY was one of the first 35 stations in the United States. After several days of auditioning in May of 2009, Gabriel was offered a job on his birthday as an on-air host. Though it was a jump to another news talk station, Gabriel spent 6 years in Fargo as he dabbled, amongst many other topics, with North Dakota State athletics and Minneapolis pro sports on his show, which gave him the entry into sports radio.   

Gabriel’s time in Fargo came to an end after he was offered a job at a political station in Fresno, Calif., at Power Talk 96.7. However, the fit never matched and the two separated after 53 weeks. Though it was his first set back in the radio business, Gabriel considers it one of the best things that ever happened to him, because it allowed him to fill-in at numerous stations across the country. 

If you take anything away from this story, take away what last August proved to be for Gabriel. It’s never too late to chase what you truly love and are passionate about. When 940 ESPN in Fresno came calling, it was a dream realized. From being the kid that listened to every Chicago sports team on the radio to the 30-year-old that escaped his daily problems by listening to WFAN in New York City, Gabriel was now fulfilling a dream. Though it took him 59 years to make his dream possible, the long journey he took to the host seat at 940 ESPN is unlike any other in the business. Not only is Gabriel a success story, he’s an incredible story of perseverance that should be celebrated across the sports radio community. 

Today, you can hear Gabriel living out his passion on weekdays from 3-6 p.m. on 940 ESPN in Fresno.

TM: Let’s say you were able to bump into the 28-year-old version of yourself that was bartending in Queens. What do you think he would say to you if you told him in just over 30 years he’d be doing a sports radio show? 

CG: He would say, you’re pretty cocky to think you’re ever going to be able to do that. But you better learn some skills on getting in front of a microphone, because it’s not going to be like it is on stage. That’s what he would say. However, I’ve found out there’s not a whole lot of difference. As a sports talk show host, my job is to engage people, to entertain and inform them. My job is to tell stories and that’s essentially what we do in theatre. The only difference, is that I always envision doing it to one person instead of standing in front 1,500 people. 

TM: Do you think hosting gardening shows, shows with motivational speakers and other unusual programming helped you out a lot as a show host, in the sense that, if I can do that, I can do anything? 

CG: I thought, sure, I can do this. If I can do these kind of shows, then piece of cake. But what I learned is it’s not easy or a piece of cake. I’ve always been big on prep and you have to be prepped for wherever a conversation might take you. When I was doing gardening shows and I was talking to motivational speakers, I thought I was going to get in there and make jokes and entertain…no. This was much more serious than I thought it was. We have a great time and have a lot of fun but it’s much more serious than I thought it was and much more difficult. My respect level for this industry and the people who do it well, it just went through the roof because it requires so much preparation and the ability to think on your feet. Just like on stage, when the other person screws up, you’re the one that has to pick things up and carry it on. 

TM: You speak to a lot of groups and classes about your journey. What’s the message you really want to get across? 

CG: I really feel strongly that you have to be a person of your own convictions. You have to follow your passions and you cannot let anyone else validate or invalidate what it is you’re doing and where it is you’re trying to go. Only you know the journey you’re on. Only you know the limits you have and how to burst through them. Early in my radio career, I had a person once tell me that I’d never get a daily hosting job, it’ll take at least 10 years. Well, it took 3 years, 5 months and 2 days. That number 352 is inside my head. What I tell young students is that you have to be focused and have a mentality that allows you to get to your desired destination. There’s off ramps but there’s also always on ramps.

Some people don’t, but I look at my age as a bonus. I’ve been able to live in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Fargo and now Fresno. With more age comes more experience and hopefully I’m able to apply that. 

TM: What’s the best advice you received during your journey in radio?

CG: It would be from a host that told me, “be selected in your savagery.” What he meant was, you better be careful if you’re the ranting host. If you do that too much, people aren’t going to pay attention. You need to find layers of depth and go further and further. Don’t take the easy way out, find the nuance of the story and really press something out. Ask the questions your guests aren’t expecting. When you feel like going off on every caller – don’t. Be selective on how you handle things. It’s been great advice for me. 

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Jason Barrett Podcast – Dave LaGreca

Jason Barrett

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Evan Roberts, Self-Professed Sports Maniac, Thrives at WFAN

From an early age, Roberts knew that radio was the medium through which he wanted to express his fandom, especially WFAN.

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Evan Roberts made his first appearance on WFAN at just 10 years old, filling in for NBA play-by-play announcer Mike Breen delivering sports updates on Imus in the Morning. The opportunity came after he sent a letter on a whim to the station asking for a job since he enjoyed listening to the station with his father. Desiring to become a radio host was the result of dynamic career aspirations that transitioned from wanting to work as an architect to trying to become the play-by-play announcer for his favorite baseball team, the New York Mets.

“Listening to Mike and Chris, and Benigno in the overnights and Somers – I was like ‘That’s what I want to do’,” Roberts recalled. “….It couldn’t be any more specific when I’m listening to the Fan saying ‘I want to be on the Fan.’ About a decade and a half later, I was able to get it done and I’ve been there ever since.”

From an early age, Roberts knew that radio was the medium through which he wanted to express his fandom, especially WFAN. As a native New Yorker, Roberts connected with the teams in the area and sought the chance to talk about them for a living on a sports radio station with a storied history in the area.

Since 1989, WFAN has been one of the pillars of New York sports coverage and a place that helped pioneer the sports talk radio format. Getting there, though, required that Roberts had deft knowledge of sports, an ability to connect with fans, and experience that ensured he was ready for an opportunity in the number one media market in the world.

While attending school, Roberts was hosting a radio show called Kidsports on WGBB, a radio station based in Freeport, N.Y. serving Nassau County on Long Island. He then moved to Radio AAHS to host What’s Up With Evan Roberts and Nets Slammin’ Planet, the latter with famed high school basketball player Albert King and NBA insider Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson. Aside from being able to refine his hosting skills, Roberts made valuable connections in these roles including one that would help him land his first job out of high school: Danny Turner.

Before he was named the senior vice president of programming operations at XM Satellite Radio in Washington, D.C., Turner served as the engineer for Roberts’ shows on Radio AAHS. He helped to coordinate the technology associated with broadcasting since the shows were done remotely rather than from out of a studio.

“[He] ended up working at XM Radio and heard one of my tapes as it went on and said ‘I remember him. I like him,’ and then sent it to the right person and they ultimately hired me,” said Roberts. “It was my first real, real job working out of high school, and that was about meeting someone earlier on and remembering who that person was and sending as many tapes as I could.”

As a graduate of Lawrence High School, Roberts quickly made the move from Cedarhurst, N.Y. to Washington, D.C. to begin working at XM Satellite Radio, a place he would stay for the next two years. Then, he made the move down I-295 from D.C. to Baltimore, Md. where he worked at 105.7 The Fan WJFK-AM and had to adjust his sports consumption to align with the interests of those listeners. It taught him the importance of research and preparation, important aspects of working in sports media that he still utilizes to this day.

“When I was in Baltimore, I had to be Baltimore,” said Roberts. “I had to understand what makes the Orioles fan tick; what makes the Ravens fan tick. I didn’t grow up as an Orioles fan or a Ravens fan. The Ravens had won the Super Bowl years earlier. I know nothing about winning Super Bowls; I’m a Jets fan.”

At 21 years old, Roberts made the move back to “The Big Apple” when he was hired by WFAN as an overnight host, a role he stayed in for the next two-and-a-half years. Simultaneously, Roberts was working on Maxim Radio doing a night show on the Sirius Satellite Radio channel. Balancing those two roles, while it may have seemed daunting, gave Roberts the chance to broadcast in his home market and talk about the teams he grew up rooting for; the aforementioned Mets and Jets, along with the then-New Jersey Nets and New York Islanders.

Then in 2007, Roberts got his big break when he was named the midday co-host with Joe Benigno on the program Benigno & Roberts in the Midday. Benigno, who got his start on WFAN as a regular caller, had grown a rapport with listeners since joining the station in 1995, making the task for Roberts, a 23-year-old at the time, more difficult in terms of fitting in. Roberts is grateful that Benigno, a host he grew up listening to on WFAN, was accommodating and amicable towards him – plus it helped that they aligned in their rooting interests as Mets and Jets fans.

“He was very welcoming, and he didn’t have to be because I was a lot younger; he had no idea who the hell I was,” said Roberts. “….Right out of the gate, I think he saw my passion [and] my knowledge; he saw a little bit of himself in me, and we were able to bond right away.”

To make a name for himself in the new midday time slot, Roberts stuck to the principles that had been given to him from his early days of radio; that is, to be himself. From the start of his foray into sports media, Roberts and most people around him knew that he was, in his own words, “a sports maniac”, and he needed to maintain that genuine identity on the air. His relatability and passion for the teams as a fan made him an ideal fit for the station synonymous with New York City bearing those iconic call letters and an unbeatable afternoon duo.

“I think as time [went] on and Joe and I developed even more and more chemistry, the audience knew who we were,” said Roberts. “They certainly knew who he was, but they learned ‘Evan’s a die-hard Mets fan. He doesn’t miss a game.’”

While it was important for Roberts to emulate his fandom for the teams he roots for, he quickly developed a cognizance for trying to talk about other teams impartially while on the air. It is a challenge, to a degree, to maintain objectivity daily with intrinsic fandom for certain teams, but being able to understand how other fan bases feel after monumental victories or crushing defeats renders the art of appealing to the listening audience easier. It also upholds WFAN’s commitment to serve as an outlet for all New York sports fans rather than just certain cohorts of them.

“We’re trying to appeal to everybody,” said Roberts. “We want everybody listening. Not just Yankees fans; not just Mets fans; not just die-hard sports fans; not just casual fans. How do you keep every single person wanting to listen to the radio?”

When Roberts first joined the station in 2004, most New York sports teams were rebuilding aside from the Yankees. Today, the preponderance of professional teams in the New York Metropolitan area are contending or at least have the chance to appear in their league’s playoffs, something that is exciting for fans like Roberts but presents a challenge in doing effective sports radio that accurately depicts the emotions of listeners.

“I think what’s going to be a real challenge… is [when] the Mets are in the playoffs, the Yankees are in the playoffs, the Jets look competent, and the Giants look competent, and it’s a Monday,” Roberts expressed. “You’ve got four monstrous fan bases that care about their team. How the hell do you find a way to keep them all entertained?”

To express the true extent of his fandom for niche sectors of the audience, Roberts turns to another form of aural consumption: podcasts. There has been much discussion over the ability of traditional radio and podcasts to coexist in this digital age of media; however, Roberts believes that the two mediums provide a unique combination that was previously nonexistent.

In his opinion, podcasts are a method to delve deeper into topics or teams that do not garner as much time on the radio, specifically those that do not generate as large of a market share or which are not as representative of the interests of the majority of listeners.

“I do a Mets podcast specifically – I called it Rico Brogna because I loved Rico Brogna as a kid and I figured ‘Why the hell not?’”, Roberts said. “…I do an hour breaking down the Mets in a hard-core way that I’m not going to do on WFAN for an hour. I may do it for a couple of minutes. I think those two things work perfectly side-by-side.”

Still, most listeners, according to Roberts, will likely turn to terrestrial radio to get their sports fix, especially if they do not express allegiance to solely one team. 

“The majority of people are still going to turn on WFAN and say ‘Okay, entertain me. I don’t know what I want to hear. You just entertain me’,” said Roberts. “I think those two forms of entertainment can work side-by-side. That’s why we do it.”

When Mike Francesa signed off WFAN in December 2017, the station had to make changes in the afternoon drive-time slot which it did with the debut of Carlin, Maggie & Bart. The show was eventually disbanded though when Francesa ended his retirement just over four months later, returning to afternoons. His return to WFAN did not last long though, departing the station again in December 2019. Again, WFAN had to make a change in afternoons, this time moving Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts to do a 2 to 6:30 p.m. show renamed Joe & Evan.

For Roberts, the opportunity to host in the afternoon slot that he had grown up listening to Mike Francesa and Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo make famous with their program Mike and the Mad Dog was an opportunity he did not hesitate to accept. Yet the change in time also required a change in approach regarding topic selection; after all, since the show would be starting later in the day, it was more important to preview the forthcoming action than recap that of the previous day.

“Even though you’re doing the same thing because you’re the same person, you’ve got to realize the audience is thinking about things a little bit differently; they’re not always analyzing what happened last night,” said Roberts. “I always find that interesting [trying to] balance the two [and] it’s almost like a game.”

When Benigno retired from the station in November 2020, Craig Carton made his return to the New York City airwaves pairing with Roberts to form the new afternoon duo Carton & Roberts. Carton had previously been with the station hosting mornings with Boomer Esiason on Boomer and Carton from 2007 until his arrest in 2017. He served time in prison for fraud-related charges, and ultimately sought and received help for addiction related to gambling.

Since his return to WFAN, Carton has been vocal about his struggle to overcome addiction and the lessons learned from his time serving in prison, hosting a special weekend program titled Hello, My Name Is Craig to discuss these issues in-depth. On Carton and Roberts, the duo has experienced immense success, recently topping ESPN New York 98.7 FM’s The Michael Kay Show in the spring ratings book. From the onset of Carton and Roberts working together though, there was some trepidation as to whether their personalities would blend well together on sports talk radio.

“I remember the first time I was told ‘Hey, there’s a possibility of you and Craig together.’ I was like ‘What?,’” Roberts said. “My first reaction was ‘Really?’”

Now nearly two years in, Roberts enjoys working alongside Carton and learning more about his perspectives and thoughts on the radio industry. Following advice he was given from both Russo and Esiason on working with Carton, Roberts has let him take the lead and discover how the show can effectively inform and entertain its vast listening audience.

“Let’s take a step back; don’t have an ego,” Roberts recalls thinking when he started the new show. “Watch this magician figure out how this show is going to work and then lean into it. I think that’s what I did and it has worked, and I feel very comfortable, I know he feels very comfortable and we’ve got a successful thing going on now.”

Roberts views Carton as an informed talent in the radio industry, aware of the changing nature of the medium and the potential it has to serve its audience. Roberts indeed experienced success in his previous roles, most notably when working in middays with Benigno; however, he is always willing to try new things and form new approaches towards jaded industry practices and show formats.

“I know that I have a guy who I’m working with who knows the medium as well as anybody,” said Roberts. “If he has a vision on how this could work with his personality and my personality, I’m going to listen; I’m going to follow along.”

WFAN and SportsNet New York (SNY), the flagship network for the New York Mets and New York Jets, agreed last year to simulcast Carton and Roberts from 4 to 6 p.m. on weekdays. While the move, which has been made with various other WFAN programs over the years including Mike and the Mad Dog and Boomer and Gio puts the radio program on a visual medium, Roberts’ approach to the show did not change.

The thought always was that he would be doing a radio show with the curtain pulled back, giving longtime listeners the chance to see the two co-hosts during their discussions and on-air interactions.

“They’re listening to the radio, and it’s cool sometimes when you get to peek in and say, ‘Oh, look at Craig’s expressions. Look at Evan’s expressions. Look at the way they’re looking at each other. Boy, they hate each other right now,’” Roberts said. “I think it’s people looking in on a radio show, and that’s what I always try to remind myself. It’s on TV – that’s great – but we’re a radio show first, and I think a lot of people kind of like to eavesdrop on that.”

One of the challenges of doing a radio show whether or not it is simulcast is in taking calls, and various hosts and producers have differing opinions when it comes to their value on the air. Still, while the hosts, producers, and caller themselves may enjoy their interactions, it is fundamental awareness is placed on the audience that does not call in and their enjoyment of listening to a caller.

“I think when you’re talking [to] somebody, you’re not just thinking about the conversation you’re having with them,” said Roberts. “You’re thinking about the 98% of the audience that doesn’t call in and if this is entertaining or not; if this is informative or not; what are they getting out of this?…. I love callers – it’s a big part of WFAN – but as I interact with them… I think the thought that I always try to have is ‘How is everyone else listening feeling about this discussion?’”

While Carton and Roberts continues to do well in afternoon drive among the demographic of men 25-54 years old, the way the ratings are interpreted by each person and entity in radio differs. Something the Nielsen ratings do not take into account is the number of people listening to the show on-demand as a podcast or watching its simulcast on SNY. During his time with Benigno, Roberts scrutinized the numbers, looking at copious and exiguous details, similar to how he consumes professional sports.

The difference is that while it may be good to have a complete understanding of show performance, getting caught in the minutiae of ratings and trying to improve in weaker areas can sometimes be, according to Roberts, a means without an end.

“I think I realized as time went on that’s going to give you a headache and it’s not going to really help anything,” said Roberts. “I think I learned a little more that you still look at numbers but maybe with a broader view of things; not as specific. I look at [them] a lot, but sometimes it’s tough. I don’t think you want to alter a show too much based on what you think is a pattern but may not necessarily be a pattern.”

This fall, both Carton and Roberts will be starting new roles in media while continuing to host their afternoon show. Carton is going to begin hosting a new national morning show on Fox Sports 1 with a co-host yet to be determined, a move that will place him primarily on television in mornings against WFAN and CBS Sports Radio’s simulcast of Boomer & Gio. Roberts will continue to stay on WFAN, adding a new Saturday program with his former co-host Joe Benigno beginning on September 10.

“It’s like getting back on a bicycle,” Roberts said of working with Benigno. “It’s always comfortable…. It’s going to be [like] our old show – just once a week on a Saturday.”

WFAN was the sound of Evan Roberts’ childhood, and a large reason he became as invested in professional sports as he considers himself to be today. Throughout his time at the station, he has worked with various hosts and recently welcomed new program director Spike Eskin to the station. He says the contrast between Eskin and previous program director Mark Chernoff is stark – yet they are similar in where it matters most: being able to effectively lead WFAN.

“I think they both very much understand radio, and that’s the most important thing,” said Roberts. “You’re the program director of WFAN; I think you have an idea of what good radio is… [They are] both very, very intelligent radio guys that I trust, but everything else about them is probably polar opposite.”

For aspiring professionals looking to pursue a career in sports media, Roberts advises them to take advantage of the innovations in media and communications especially when it comes to podcasts. With widespread evolution and progression in technology coupled with altering consumption habits and means thereof, putting in the time allows novices to hone their skills and position themselves well in sports media. That and always being willing to learn and study to be the most prepared and informed host as possible – especially when talking to listeners, many of whom have seen teams in their ebbs and flows.

“My wife knows that I’m going to watch every pitch of the Yankees and Mets game,” said Roberts. “I may do it on DVR, and I may do it at 2 in the morning because we need to have a life; I don’t want to get divorced, and I want my kids to love me, but she also knows that I want to be as informed as anybody on the radio and that’s not going to stop.”

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Jake Paul, Betr Pair Micro-Betting With Media

There are plenty of hurdles, though, that still need to be overcome before this takes over the betting landscape.

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I’ll be completely honest: I can’t get into TikTok. I’m closing in on 40 years spent on this planet, and it’s simply not my thing. It’s not meant to be, though. The current generation is one with shorter attention spans, the kind that wants a quick highlight of a sporting event so they can shift their focus to something else. When I tell folks a decade younger than me stories about how I–and others of my age group–would sit around and watch an entire SportsCenter, they look at me like I’m crazy. Not sure how they’d look at me if I told them we used to often watch the rerun an hour later, but that’s another discussion.

It’s a big reason why micro-betting is considered the “next big thing” in sports betting. Similar to in-game betting, micro betting goes a step further and focuses on individual events within a sporting event, such as the outcome of a drive, whether a baseball player will get a hit in his upcoming at-bat, or even something such as a coin toss at the Super Bowl. A perfect example of micro-betting is the rise in popularity of betting on whether or not a run will be scored in the first inning of a baseball game. For a generation that wants a quick resolution to their bets, it makes total sense. You place a bet, you find out how it did, and then you move on–whether that’s to another bit of action or something else entirely.

Something else I can’t get into is the whole hoopla surrounding the Paul brothers. Logan and Jake Paul have built an empire for themselves on the back of YouTube, with Jake Paul having more than 70 million followers on social media. For various reasons, I’m not a fan of either individual. Again, though, they aren’t coming after my demographic. Like them or hate them, you have to respect their grind –and you have to admire their business acumen — as they parlay their notoriety and success into sports entertainment by way of boxing and the WWE, as well as a new sports drink company that has already partnered with Premier League side Arsenal. 

Monday’s announcement by Jake Paul of a new micro-betting site simply furthers the narrative and does so in a manner that can’t be ignored by those in the sports betting space. Betr, a joint venture between Paul, sports betting entrepreneur Joey Levy, and the sports betting company Simplebet, was announced yesterday morning. Backed by a $50 million investment from multiple venture capital firms, the new company is backed by ownership groups of franchises such as the Boston Celtics and San Francisco 49ers, and also has financial backing from current and former NFL players including Dez Bryant, Ezekiel Elliott, and Richard Sherman. Musician Travis Scott has also put his financial backing behind the product.

The other very interesting tidbit from the press release was the announcement of a media company that would feature, among other shows, “BS w/ Jake Paul”. Their new YouTube channel, which already has over two million subscribers despite not a single video being posted as of Monday afternoon, will feature sports-betting content from Paul and other content creators and will focus on micro betting. In an interview with Axios, Levy said that consumers can “expect 10+ videos a day from emerging content creators we’ve brought into the company,” but that things would begin with a focus on “premium content natives, starting with Jake’s show.”

Sports radio and television have long been focused on making their products more appealing to younger generations. Just take a look at ESPN, where they’ve long been doing “SportsCenter” episodes on Snapchat. This could be a game-changer, provided they can help drive micro-betting into a wider market. 

There is plenty of potential in the space, a big reason Paul was able to acquire such high amounts of funding. Just last year, JP Morgan estimated that more than $7 billion per year would be wagered on micro bets by the year 2025. And earlier this year, the CEO of Oddisum stated in an interview that micro-betting would account for the majority of wagers placed on sporting events within the next three years. Even DraftKings CEO Jason Robins has talked about plans on how his company expects to embrace the trend.

There are plenty of hurdles, though, that still need to be overcome before this takes over the betting landscape. The biggest one is the delivery of data. As we move more towards a society that streams sporting events and other digital content, the delay between real life and what shows up on your mobile phone can be the difference between placing a wager or not. For some services (I’m looking at you, Peacock) there’s often a delay of more than 90 seconds, which means the play I want to bet on is still two or three plays away from being seen with my own eyes. That makes it difficult to place a bet with any sort of confidence.

The other major obstacle will be getting their gambling service legalized. In their press release, Betr stated they will start as a “free-to-play” app in all 50 states, and eventually they will add real money gambling services as they become licensed to operate within individual states. That’s not going to be so simple, though, as gambling addiction concerns continue to rise and multiple state legislatures are already having discussions regarding the matter. 

As addictive as betting on sporting events can be, micro-betting is often exponentially more. A study last year from CQ University in Sydney, Australia indicated that micro bettors are more likely to be younger players and that they usually “have high trait impulsivity”. An author of the report also stated, “there’s a very strong link between micro betting and gambling problems”, and pointed out that the short amount of time between placing a bet and having it resolved leaves little time to evaluate performance or track one’s bankroll. 

Whether or not those things are overcome in every state possible is a discussion for another day. The fact is, micro-betting is more likely than not to become a huge growth market for sports betting companies over the next two to three years, and Paul and Levy have become the first big players to jump into the media space. It’s not a question of if, but when, others will follow them into the realm of micro betting sports content, but their announcement on Monday raises the stakes. It also reminds those of us in business, especially sports media, that while we may not fully understand the allure of what the younger generation enjoys, we ignore it at our peril. 

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