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Future Broadcasters in the NFL: Part 2

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With a new NFL season just around the corner, Barrett Sports Media decided to take on a big project. We reached out to hosts, PDs, and reporters in every NFL city in the country. The question we wanted answered was simple: Who on your team’s roster has the brightest future in the sports media?

We spent the better part of a month sending emails and texts asking folks to participate. Some gave us an answer right away. Some required a little poking and prodding. Some didn’t respond at all. What are you going to do, right? It’s a busy time of year for all of us in sports radio.

We will reveal a new batch of answers everyday from now until Friday. If you missed Part 1, you can find it here.

Here’s Part 2:

BALTIMORE RAVENS

Jerry Coleman  – 105.7 the Fan

Well, Terrell Suggs is going to be a guy that will aim to be in the media. He has participated on a few of the studio shows in the past. He continues to appear on shows like Ballers. I don’t think he has a lot to offer though, as someone that has interviewed him for the last 15 years. He’s mostly full of platitudes and cliches.

Justin Tucker is the kicker. Do they qualify for this? He would be a terrific candidate. Besides being a terrific kicker and singer, he is very well spoken. He may be really great. I just wonder how much a kicker can add to a broadcast in a game. How much are they really in those meetings and able to add perspective to situations involving quarterbacks, linebackers, or receivers?

CHICAGO BEARS

Laurence Holmes – 670 the Score

When he’s done playing football, Bears Guard #75, Kyle Long, will make one of the easiest transitions from playing to broadcasting that we’ve seen in a while. From the time that he was a rookie, Long has shown incredible personality in dealing with the media. He’s honest, loquacious, and charismatic. In some respects, Long has already been doing a form of broadcasting. He has thousands of followers already, on the gaming platform Twitch, where he does live videos while playing games. Honestly, that association will give him a leg up in growing the younger demo for a potential employer. He has credibility in a growing and desirable audience share.

In between the time of the Lovie Smith Bears and the team drafting Mitch Trubisky, Long has been the face of the franchise. That’s a weird thing to say about a Guard, but it’s true. On top of everything else, the Long family has shown that their personal charisma translates to the camera. It’s not a far leap to say that Kyle’s brother, Chris could run for political office someday and their dad, Howie is pretty much the standard for a national analyst. Kyle has many interests, but if he chooses to work in television or radio, he will have a ton of options, both locally and nationally.

HOUSTON TEXANS

Sean Pendergast – Sports Radio 610

If the question were “Which Houston Texan employee has the brightest future in media?”, my answer would be head coach Bill O’Brien, hands down, whenever that day may come. However, if we are keeping it focused strictly on players, my choice would be one of the newest Houston Texans, safety Tyrann Mathieu. In his short time with the team, the “Honey Badger” has impressed me with his thoughtful, intelligent answers to questions about both his background and the game itself.

When I am looking for content from former football players, I generally want the player to have good energy, a solid delivery, and most importantly, teach me something I don’t know. Mathieu’s energy is infectious, but more importantly, he has one of the highest football IQ’s in the league. Mathieu plays a position where the knowledge necessary to perform at a high level is the defensive equivalent of the quarterback’s necessary knowledge on the offensive side of the football. I feel like Mathieu would be incredibly versatile as a radio or TV personality, with the ability to convey an entertaining story in one segment, and then one segment later, give an X’s and O’s “chalk talk”.

Above all else, Mathieu has massive respect from his peers, fans, and media alike, so I think people would be preconditioned to like and enjoy him. Earning the respect of a TV or radio audience would have fewer barriers for Mathieu.

NEW YORK GIANTS

Chris Carlin – WFAN

Landon Collins has got a future in the media, if he wants it. The network executives are always looking for the same thing: someone who isn’t afraid to tell the truth. Though he’s been in the NFL a short time, Collins hasn’t been afraid to ruffle some feathers.

During the drama surrounding Eli Apple last season, it was Collins who was both critical of, and later supportive of Apple. He told the truth about what was going on, and in this rare instance, it was something his teammate needed to hear publicly. He is not only a terrific player and leader of the defense, Collins also has a terrific feel for the inner workings and politics of a locker room.
Landon’s also got a sense of humor, which goes a long way. In an appearance earlier in 2018 on “Boomer & Gio” on WFAN, Collins was relaxed and willing to “go there” when Gio brought up topics outside football. To put it simply, Collins “gets it.”

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

John Mamola – 620 WDAE

When posed the question to identify a single individual player on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that has the chops to one day have a future in sports media, you need to look at the results of the past. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber (now a top analyst for FOX Sports) inherits the intelligence of reading routes and schemes while delivering his analysis as smooth as he was when he stepped in front of wide receivers for one of his 47 career interceptions. You look at the leadership of former Buccaneers safety John Lynch, straight to the point with no filter attached which led him to being one of the most respected analysts in football paving his path in the front office for San Francisco.

Other notable former Tampa Bay Buccaneers have also graced the sports media landscape each with their own unique attributes that they carried with them from the field of play and into the media landscape. Keyshawn Johnson and Anthony McFarland with ESPN, Tony Dungy and Chris Simms at NBC Sports, and minus his off the screen transgressions, you can’t deny the energy and passion for the game of football Warren Sapp displayed when he was on the NFL Network.

In an age of on demand and short attention spans, you need to identify someone who can get right to the point of what they’re trying to say. Someone who identifies with the trends in social media and respects the benefits of it on all platforms, but also recognizes the pitfalls it could also lead to. You need someone with energy, passion for the sport, and someone who isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. A broadcaster that makes you think, points out the hidden, and is always trying to get better at whatever position they may play on the field (or in sports media). For me without question, that’s Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans.

Evans is entering his fifth season in Tampa Bay and already ranks among the great wide outs in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history with 32 touchdowns (2nd in franchise history) and over 1,000 yards receiving in each of his first four seasons in Tampa Bay. Off the field he’s a celebrated family man, husband and father.

But what would make Evans a great member of the sports media once his long career is over? His discipline to continue working at his craft, passion for the game of football and knowledge of the game are apparent each and every day in practice and during games. He is not afraid to express his views (see his comment on Twitter RT’ing Donald Trump with a dig at his USFL ownership), plus has great energy and is always direct with the media getting right to his point. With time, practice and the right coaching Evans could be the next in a line of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers that you see on the television screen every Sunday, or on the radio every afternoon on your drive home.

 

BSM Writers

Now Is The Time To Build Your Bench

“There’s a good chance you have a producer, production person, or even a salesperson who has a big enough personality that they can hold your attention.”

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As we crawl towards the Thanksgiving holiday week, many content managers are likely in the middle of figuring out what they’re going to put on the air.

The Power Of Dead Air
Courtesy: Jacobs Media

Since most marquee talent take the entire week off, this can present scheduling headaches.

Some stations (who can) will pick up more syndicated programming. Hey, why not? It’s a cheap, easy solution that’s justified by the fact that business is slow in Q4, and your GM doesn’t want you spending any more money than what you have to.

Other stations will hand the microphones over to whoever happens to be available. This usually ends up being the same array of C and D listers who aren’t that great, but they can cover when needed and usually tend to be affordable.

Both of these decisions, while usually made out of convenience, are terrible mistakes. Quite frankly, it’s one of the many frustrations I have with spoken word media. 

Content Directors should be using the holidays as an excellent opportunity for them to answer a particularly important question: DO I HAVE A BENCH???

One of the most common refrains I hear from other content managers is that they have no talent depth. Everyone constantly is searching for the “next great thing,” yet I find that very few people in management that take the time or the effort to seriously explore that question.

My response to them is always, “Well, how do you know? Have you given anyone in your building a chance yet?”

Often, the answer is sitting in their own backyard, and they don’t even know it.

Years ago, Gregg Giannotti was a producer at WFAN. Then Head of Programming Mark Chernoff gave him a chance to host a show because of how Giannotti sparred off-air with other hosts and producers in the building. Chernoff liked what he heard and gave his producer a shot. Now, he’s hosting mornings on WFAN with Boomer Esiason in what is considered one of the best local sports-talk shows in the country. 

Carrington Harrison was an intern for us at 610 Sports Radio in Kansas City. He worked behind the scenes on Nick Wright’s afternoon show and had a fairly quiet demeanor. It was rare that we ever spoke to each other. On one of his off-days, Nick was talking about Kansas State Football and Carrington called in to talk to him about it. I couldn’t believe what I heard. Not only was his take on the Wildcats enlightening, but he was funny as hell. Soon after, we started working Carrington’s voice into Nick’s show more and eventually made C-Dot a full-time host. He’s been doing afternoons on the station for several years now with different co-hosts and (in my opinion) is one of the best young voices in the format. 

There’s a good chance you have a producer, production person, or even a salesperson who has a big enough personality that they can hold your attention. Why not give them the opportunity to see what they can do? Honestly, what’s the risk of giving someone you think might have potential, a few at-bats to show you what they can do? If your instincts are proven wrong and they aren’t as good as you thought they’d be, all you did is put a bad show on the air during a time when radio listening tends to be down, anyways.

If you go this route, make sure you set them up for success. Take the time to be involved in planning their shows. Don’t leave them out on an island. Give them a producer/sidekick that can keep them from drowning. Be sure to listen and give constructive feedback. Make sure that these people know that you’re not just doing them a favor. Show them that you are just as invested in this opportunity as they are.

Drowning

I understand that most Content Directors are overseeing multiple brands (and in some cases, multiple brands in multiple markets). Honestly though, using the holidays to make a potential investment in your brand’s future is worth the extra time and effort. 

Treat holidays for what they are; a chance to explore your brand’s future. Don’t waste it.

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BSM Writers

Digital Platforms Should Signal The End Of Niche Linear Networks

“Whether it is niche sports or exclusive shows, the streaming platforms have proven to be valuable catch-alls. They haved turned hard-to-sell programming into part of what you get when you are motivated to subscribe by Premier League Soccer or UFC.”

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CBS Sports Network just isn’t built to last. It seems obvious, but it was really hammered home for me on Friday when Jim Rome went off on the network for preempting the simulcast of his radio show for coverage of swimming.

“You idiots are going to preempt this show for swimming?” Rome said. “Stupid.”

You don’t even have to watch the video, right? You can just read the quote and his voice is immediately what you hear in your head.

John Skipper went off on a number of topics during Sports Business Journal’s Media Innovators Conference last week. Some dismissed it as sour grapes. Others said his comments were those of a man that is completely unencumbered by rights deals and corporate interests.

One thing the Meadowlark Media leader said that was dead on was that there are only a few properties in sports television that truly matter.

“Until you can get the NFL, or the SEC, or the NBA on a streaming service, it’s going to be marginal in this country,” Skipper said in a conversation with John Ourand.

He was answering a question about the relevance of streaming services, but the fact is, he could have been talking about any outlet in the world of sports television.

With that being said, it isn’t just CBS Sports Network that isn’t built to last. Comcast got this message last year. That is why NBCSN is about to go dark. Sure, every niche sport has its fan base, but can you build a profitable and powerful brand on swimming, lacrosse and 3-on-3 basketball? You probably can’t.

BSM’s Jeremy Evans recently wrote about life in the metaverse and what it means to sports media. So much happens digitally now. Think about the last time you felt like you HAD to have a physical copy of a movie or album. It always made sense that television networks would get to this place.

Peacock, ESPN+, CBS Sports HQ and Paramount+ all have plenty to offer. Whether it is niche sports or exclusive shows, the streaming platforms have proven to be valuable catch-alls. They haved turned hard-to-sell programming into part of what you get when you are motivated to subscribe by Premier League Soccer or UFC.

CBS Sports Network isn’t the only cable sports network whose existence may be on borrowed time. You know about FS1. Did you know there is an FS2? Did you know beIN Sports still exists? Don’t worry. It seems most major cable operators don’t know it either. The same can be said for networks with names like Eleven Sports, Maverick, and Pursuit.

In fact, when you look at that group of channels, CBS Sports Network is probably in the best shape. It may carry the low end of college football and basketball, but it at least has sports with large, national followings.

Radio simulcasts have always been cheap programming. Once the production costs are recouped, there is a straight-line path to profit. Sports networks on this level will always be interested in carrying radio simulcasts, and that is a good thing. It means better studios and more exposure for the hosts involved. When the suits can have a legitimate debate whether the live sports their network carries will draw as many viewers as the simulcast of a radio show, it may be time to rethink the path forward.

Streaming platforms weren’t built exclusively for niche sports. ESPN+ launched with college football and college basketball at its core. Now that streaming platforms are here to stay though, it should start a conversation and migration.

The cable sports network was never anything more than a prestige play. It was a way to show that a broadcast network was so serious about sports that the few hours it could devote to games would never do. The problem is that ESPN got that memo decades earlier and established a juggernaut.

Even FS1, which has major talent and rights to major college football and basketball and Major League Baseball, is behind the eight ball compared to ESPN. They got a 34 year head start in Bristol! CBS Sports Network is behind FS1 and it has college football, basketball and hockey. It also has the WNBA and the NWSL. Still, it seems like it is on borrowed time. What does that mean for networks that can’t get a league comissioners to take their call?

I like some of the programming on CBS Sports HQ. I think Paramount+ has been a valuable tool this college football season. There would be nothing wrong with CBS shuttering CBS Sports Network. It is just the reality of where we are headed.

CBS aims to grow Sports HQ within its network of streaming channels -  Digiday
Courtesy: CBS

CBS is run by smart people. I have faith they will see the forest thru the trees in sports media and find the right solution before they start losing money. Streaming means consolidation and unfortunately, that means there may not be room for the FS2s, Mavericks, Pursuits, and Eleven Sports of the world. That doesn’t mean the sports those networks carry cannot find a new home. They may even find a home that makes more sense for them and their fans.

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BSM Writers

Can Your Station Create Its Own Holiday?

“Did you see social media on Friday? Did you see any media at all leading up to Friday? Disney created a 24-hour commercial you could not escape.”

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A belated happy Disney+ Day to us all!

Disney+ Day: Kareem Daniel Says “Momentum Building” At Streamer After 2  Years – Deadline

Did you see social media on Friday? Did you see any media at all leading up to Friday? Disney created a 24-hour commercial you could not escape. The best part, from a marketing standpoint, is fans were captivated by it. They either didn’t realize it was a commercial or they just didn’t care.

The execution was masterful. Granted, we Star Wars fans were left wanting a bit, but Disney dropped teasers for series and movies we didn’t know were coming and showed the first footage from one we have been anticipating for more than a year now.

I started thinking how a radio station could do this. How could it go out and create its own holiday? How for one day, can we make our fanbase excited and glued to social media eagerly anticipating announcements about what is coming next?

This is going to take some creativity. Disney+ is a platform full of multiple brands with multiple fanbases buying in. A sports talk station is one brand. It has varying levels of fanbases, but largely, your dedicated audience are the people that not only love sports, but also like your programming enough to be called P1s. Is that enough people to build an event like this around?

Who cares if it is or not! Go for it.

One thing that Disney did masterfully on November 12 is it brought partners into the fold and made them a key part of Disney+ Day. Fortnite announced that Boba Fett was coming to its game. TikTok announced Disney character voice changers would be available on the platform. Disney found the kind of partnerships that could spread its holiday to even the Disney+ Day equivalent of Ebenezer Scrooge.

You can do the same. Surely you have a local brewery as a partner. Can they brew a one day only beer for you? Partner with a restaurant. Can they put your station’s name on the day’s special? Would other partners offer discounts and promotions for celebrating the day? There are a lot of options here.

Now, what are YOU doing on your holiday? Disney has a deep well of franchises. It could squeeze Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar, its own studio and more for content and announcements. Again, you are just one brand, but there is still a lot you can do.

Build the day around announcing your special contributors for the football season. Drop new podcasts and play an extended clip on air. Announce new podcasts, the kind of things that will only be available digitally.

Look at 99.9 The Fan in Raleigh. Joe Ovies and Joe Giglio have created great, multi-episode series that are events for their audience. Like any narrative podcasts, those don’t come together overnight. As long as you have enough audio to build a solid 90 second to 2 minute long preview, you have something worth bringing to the air as part of the celebration.

Do you have a contract you are waiting to expire to make a change in a prime day part? Make your station’s holiday the day that the new talent or show hits the air for the first time. You can do the same for new weekend programs. Whether it is someone new coming to the station or just a new pairing, put them on air for your prime time audience to meet and have your weekday hosts help create some buzz for them.

As for the shows that are on every weekday, you have to make them special that day. Give away a big cash prize. Make the guest list epic – I mean everyone that is on air that day has to be a home run.

The other thing that Disney did so well was work to get all of its divisions involved. Check out this tweet from the Disney Parks account. Every single park around the world lit their iconic building up blue in celebration of the streaming platform’s holiday.

Can you work with other stations in your building? Maybe they won’t give you full on promotion, but between songs, if a DJ brings up a sports topic, would the PD be willing to have them mention that their sister station is celebrating all day? Would a news/talk PD let your talent pop on air to talk sports with their hosts and promote what is happening on your airwaves today?

The answer to these questions could be no. You don’t know if you don’t ask though. Also, if the answer is no, there is nothing wrong with asking for a little backup from your market manager. A station holiday is a major sales initiative after all.

The final piece of this puzzle to take away from Disney is you have to be everywhere. Any local show you air from 6 am until midnight needs to be on location. Fans should have easy access to them. How can they celebrate you if they are not allowed to be where you are?

Use the broadcasts however the sales department sees fit. Take them first to long-established clients to celebrate their loyalty on the station’s holiday. Use them to draw in new clients. Show off what your station can create with its fanbase.

Money has a way of motivating everyone. So, even if your hosts don’t like leaving the studio, these would be remote broadcasts priced at a premium and should have larger-than-usual talent fees attached.

Finally, let’s do something Disney didn’t. I was shocked that a company with this many iconic characters at its disposal and with a CEO that came from the consumer products division, didn’t have a line of merchandise ready to go. Don’t make that same mistake.

Create cool station shirts (not the cheap giveaway crap). Throw the logo on unexpected things like water bottles, bottle openers, facemasks, whatever! Have a merch tent wherever you go. Maybe set up a site to sell it for the day. Make the people come to you to get this stuff.

Twitter is a huge part of promoting what you do. Constantly show off what you are offering and what you have created. That is how Disney sold their event to its most dedicated fans as something not to be missed.

What were we celebrating with Disney+ Day? Nothing. Disney wasn’t even really celebrating anything. It was just a series of commercials wrapped up in fun packaging. Actually, there are a lot of holidays that are just a series of commercials wrapped up in fun packaging.

Valentine Day Digital Ads on Behance

Not every holiday has to celebrate something once in a lifetime. Not every holiday has to even be real. Building your own will take a long lead time, but it is doable. Get sales, promotions and programming in a room and build a plan together. If Disney+ Day taught us anything, it is a valuable way to motivate your fans to spread your message too.

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