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Moving From Sports Radio to Sports Television

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Mike Maniscalco was a staple of sports radio in Raleigh, NC for nearly a decade. He was one of the voices that launched 99.9 the Fan, which has become a ratings powerhouse. He also worked at Buzz Sports Radio first with Mark Thomas and Chris Morris, and then with Lauren Brownlow and Demetri Ravanos.

So many of us enter the world of sports media with hopes that someday we will be on SportsCenter or Baseball Tonight or one of dozens of other ESPN shows. For some, that dream becomes a reality. For others, their paths diverge, sometimes to other aspects of sports media, sometimes to other fields entirely.

In this piece Mike writes about an opportunity he thought would never come. He had been let go from Buzz Sports Radio and had settled in nicely to a new show at IMG College. It required a long commute, but as Mike writes, he was happy. Then he got a call and was offered a chance to move from behind a mic to in front of the camera.

Moving From Sports Radio to Sports Television

The call came on a Saturday morning in September, it was a call that I had reconciled years ago would never happen.

“Would you be interested in the Carolina Hurricanes television host job?”

I was living in Raleigh, NC and had just started a job with IMG College. It was a great place to work and a job that I could see myself staying at for a while because of the people and the vision for the show I was hosting. I wasn’t looking for a job in television when the call popped up on my cell that morning. I had been a full-time radio host since 2000 and involved with radio in some capacity since 1994 – that was what I did.

As appearances go, I’m not going to be confused with George Clooney, so a transition to television was definitely not on my radar.

This doesn’t mean I didn’t think about or want to be on television. Back in my college days of the mid 1990’s, I had the dream that pretty much all of us in the industry had – I was going to host SportsCenter and have a long TV career. I interned and even worked in TV for a brief stint as the weekend sports producer for the ABC affiliate in Buffalo, NY with Matt Yalloff anchoring the shows. He was outstanding to work with, as I learned more from Matt than I can write here, and Sports Director John Murphy was the kind of boss any of us would hope to work for. I figured that would be my path until there was a full-time opportunity in radio that I couldn’t turn down.

So fast forward to that September Saturday morning, and the door that was closed almost 20 years ago was now back in front of me. Without too much hesitation, I told then Hurricanes director of broadcasting Kyle Hanlin I was interested. He said to be ready, as this would come together fast.

Could I make the jump to TV where people could see me saying these things I had been saying on radio for years?

So in the few days that passed I did my due diligence, talking to those I know in the industry and friends that have changed careers to something totally different. The input and insight varied from source to source.

The one question that took any doubt out of making the move came in a conversation I had with ESPN hoops analyst Chris Spatola. Chris had guest hosted on radio with me in Raleigh as he did TV work. He pointed out the benefits of stepping in front of the camera. But it was one simple question that he asked that really stuck – “Why wouldn’t you take it?”

I didn’t have a good reason to say no.

I was upfront with the people at IMG on the TV offer and they could not have handled the situation any better. That was one of my biggest fears, leaving a place that had world class management and good people to work with, the people that wanted to put together great radio shows. That was making my decision tough. Working there, with people looking for their break in the industry made it easier to see that this was my break and this opportunity might never come again.

Were there fears?  Of course, but it was no different than any fear I had for any radio job I had taken in the past.  Was I worried about how I would look on camera?  Yes, seeing I had a body built for/by radio and my suits are at the bigger end of the rack. I quickly reconciled it to insecurity, no different than “do people like my voice?”.

So when the offer came to take the job, I said yes.

As for making the transition, I did have an advantage when it came to the source material. I had hosted the pre- and post-game coverage and covered the Hurricanes in a reporter capacity for nine seasons on the radio station that carried the games. I knew the organization, the people, the league and had an idea of what the job would entail. The players and coaches knew me. The equipment staff had seen me around for years. I wasn’t going to be a stranger in a new town learning everything all at once.

On air, I would be working with play-by-play voice John Forslund and analyst Tripp Tracy. John would join the post-game show for all the years I hosted it, and I had gotten to know Tripp over the years as well. They are as good of on-air partners one can ask for.

The behind the scenes crew was a huge help. Having great people in TV that don’t get in front of the mic make a huge difference, like producer Jim Mallia, who said I just had to know my stuff and the we’ll handle the rest. It put me right at ease.

Prepping is still the same as a radio show. Relying on and trusting your producers is just as vital. That experience helped with putting together shows with pre-game producer Adam Holzman. Just like mapping out a three hour show, understanding what he is looking for and being able to provide input that makes it less nerve-wracking.

Yes, the video element is different, but it’s no different than turning on a mic and putting out a show.

When I got over the “people can see me doing this” it boiled down to the basic tenants of any broadcast:

  1. Do your prep work.
  2. Trust your coworkers.
  3. Use your voice.

But if there were any doubts about me making the switch it was John Forslund that ended them with a simple piece of advice. He told me to be myself, the guy I’ve been on the radio.

That’s what I did and three seasons later, that’s still what I do, just in front of a camera.

BSM Writers

Asking The Right Questions Helps Create Interesting Content

Asking questions that can get a subject to talk about their feelings is a much better way to get an interesting answer.

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USA Today

When ESPN’s Mike Greenberg interviewed Paolo Banchero in the lead-up to the NBA lottery on Tuesday, he asked what I’ve concluded is the single most maddening question that can be asked of any athlete preparing for any draft.

“Why do you believe you should be No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft?” Greenberg said.

Before I point out exactly why I have such a visceral reaction to such a harmless question, I want to point out the positives because Greenberg’s question avoids some of the most common pitfalls:

1) It is an actual question. That’s not as automatic as you think given the number of poor souls who are handed a microphone and say to their subject, “Talk about (whatever issue they want a quote or a sound bite on).” This is the mark of an amateur, creating the opening for an uncooperative subject to slam the door by saying, “What do you want me to say?”

2) Greenberg’s question can not be answered with a yes or a no. Questions that start with the word “Can you …” or “Did you …” may sound like they’re tough questions for the subject, but they’re actually fairly easy if the subject wants to offer an answer. Now, most interview subjects won’t take that one-word exit, but some will in a touchy situation.

The problem with Greenberg’s question has to do with the result. Why do we ask questions of the athletes we cover? Seriously. That’s not rhetorical. What’s the goal? It’s to get interesting answers. At least that’s the hope whether it’s for a quote that will be included in a story, a sound bite to be replayed later or — like in this situation — during an interview that is airing live. The question should be engineered to elicit interesting content, and there was very little chance that the question Greenberg asked Banchero was going to produce anything close to that.

I know that because I have heard some version of this question asked hundreds of times. That’s not an exaggeration. I attended the NFL scouting combine annually for a number of years, and if a player wasn’t asked why he should be the first overall pick, he’d get asked why he should be a first-round pick or why he should be one of the first players chosen at his position. Never — in all that time — have I ever heard what would be considered an interesting or informative answer. In my experience, players tend to talk in incredibly general terms about their own abilities and then seek to compliment their peers in an effort to avoid coming off as cocky.

Here’s how Banchero answered Greenberg’s question: “Yeah, thank you all for having me, first off., I feel like I’m the number one pick in the draft because I’m the best overall player. I feel like I check all the boxes whether it’s being a great teammate, being the star player or doing whatever the coach needs. I’ve been a winner my whole life. Won everywhere I’ve went, and when I get to the NBA, that’s going to be the same goal for me. So just combining all those things, and knowing what I have to work on to be better is a formula for me.”

There’s nothing wrong with answer just as there was nothing wrong with the question. It’s just that both are really, really forgettable. ESPN did put a clip on YouTube with the headline “Paolo Banchero: I’m the best overall player in the NBA Draft | NBA Countdown” but I think I’m the only who will remember it and that’s only because I’m flapping my arms and squawking not because there was anything bad per se, but because there was nothing really good, either.

First of all, I’m not sure why it matters if Banchero thinks he should be the number one overall pick. He’s not going to be making that decision. The team that holds the top draft pick — in this case Orlando — is. Here’s a much better question: “How important is it for you to be the number one overall pick?” This would actually give an idea of the stakes for Banchero. What does this actually mean to him? Asking him why he should go number one is asking Banchero to tell us how others should see him. Asking Banchero how important it would be go number one is asking him to tell us about his feelings, something that’s much more likely to produce an interesting answer.

The point here isn’t to question Greenberg’s overall competence because I don’t. He’s as versatile a host as there is in the game, and anyone else in the industry has something to learn from the way he teases ahead to content. What I want to point out not just how we fail to maximize opportunities to generate interesting content, but why. Interviews are a staple of the sports-media industry. We rely on these interviews as both primary content that will be consumed directly, and as the genesis for our own opinions and reaction yet for all that importance we spend very little time thinking about the kind of answer this question is likely to produce.

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BSM Writers

The Client Just Said YES, Now What?

We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES.

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One of the most significant moments in radio sales is when the client agrees to your proposal and says YES. But, when they do say YES, do you know what’s next? We better have an answer!

We spend a lot of time getting ready for clients with research, spec spots (thank you, radio sales trainer Chris Lytle-go to 22:30), proposals, and meetings. All of our focus is on getting the client to say YES. We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES. For example, getting newer sales reps to sell annual advertising contracts would be ideal for building a list. They would have less pressure, more job security, and could spend more time making the advertising work for their clients. But, since most newer reps don’t know the business yet, they don’t bite off more than they can chew and sell a package of the month.

When a client says yes to the weight loss promotion, it’s pretty clear how to write the ads, what the promos will say, etc. BUT, if a newer sales rep starts selling annual contracts to a direct local client who needs a resource, how will that work? Let’s make sure we paint the picture right upfront. More experienced reps know that they need to assume the client will say YES to the weight loss promo and have a plan accordingly.

They have the next steps to building copy and promos, a credit app or credit card payment form, and any other detail the client must provide. But, when we ask a direct local client for an annual advertising contract, watch out! You have just made a partnership. Why not lay out, upfront, what that will look like. And I understand not every local client needs the same level of service.

A car dealer has the factories pushing quarterly promotions, agencies producing ads, and in-house marketing directors pulling it all together sometimes. Other clients need your help in promotions, copywriting, or idea generation. Make a plan upfront with your client about when you will meet to discuss the next quarter’s ad program. Include your station’s promotions or inventory for football and basketball season, a summer NTR event, digital testimonials with on-air talent, etc., in your annual proposal. Go out as far as you can and show what you have to offer to the client and how you can execute it. This exercise is good for you and, once mastered, guides the client on how you will take care of them after the sale. It also opens your eyes to what it takes to have a successful client partnership inside and outside the station.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 74

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This week, Demetri is joined by Ian Casselberry and Ryan Brown. Demetri talks about the NBA Draft getting an ABC simulcast, Ian talks about Patrick Beverley’s breakout week on TV, and Ryan reminds us that Tom Brady may be the star, but Kevin Burkhardt is the story we shouldn’t forget.

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