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Jim Graci Wants To Learn & Teach At BSM Summit

“It’s my job to help talent be better and identify what kind of road blocks I can get out of their way to perform better.”

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Surely you’ve heard The Steve Miller Band’s song ‘Rock’n Me,’ right? You know, the one that goes, “I went from Phoenix, Arizona all the way to Tacoma, Philadelphia, Atlanta, L.A.” If that doesn’t ring a bell I’ll have to seriously question your knowledge of music. 

Jim Graci, the program director at 1020 KDKA and 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh, used to jokingly tell people that song was about his resume. If you didn’t know any better, you could see how it might be true, seeing as Graci’s radio career has taken him to just about every corner in the country, including the Pacific Northwest, Southwest, Deep South and now the Northeast. In reality, as many different cities are named in ‘Rock’n Me’ it’s pale in comparison to how many markets Graci has actually worked in. 

In two weeks, Graci will be one of the many talented industry professionals at the BSM Summit in Los Angeles. Along with others, he’ll be featured on the Evaluating Content and Talent panel. I can’t tell you how excited I am for this portion of the conference. The opportunity to learn from someone who’s been in the business since 1974 and developed talent in markets such as Dallas, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and others is a unique opportunity. Plus, I wouldn’t even mind hearing about his experiences as a public address announcer for both the Atlanta Hawks and Seattle Supersonics. 

Graci first dipped his toe into the sports radio industry at 16 years old. Since then, he’s gained a wealth of knowledge and experience that has turned him into one of the most well-known and respected program directors in the country. With the unique duty of being a PD at both a news talk and sports talk station, Graci has to equally balance time between both stations to make sure each is successful. Obviously, that’s easier said than done. 

Being a PD at two different stations probably means long days, constant coaching and countless planning and programming. It even means watching a long State of the Union address from President Trump, as Graci did on Tuesday night, seeing as he needed to be familiar with the speech, considering his daily programming duties with 1020 KDKA. But it’s still a blessing way more than it’s a curse. Graci knows this and looks forward to each task and challenge the everyday life in radio brings. 

Truly, its guys like Graci who will make the BSM Summit in a success. The ideas and suggestions that will come out of the summit will be invaluable to every host, producer, program director, etc. in attendance. But Graci isn’t coming to Los Angeles just to help out all his other comrades in the industry. He’s eager to learn, too. We talked about the BSM Summit and much more. 

TM: What do you look for when someone sends you their demo? 

JG: First of all, personality. Whether they sound confident, whether they’re a good story teller, whether they’re concise, whether they catch my attention, those are just the basic things of what makes a good talk show host. 

TM: Are there certain things you don’t like when someone sends you their demo? 

JG: When people send demos, they should send their demos with them right up top. They should lead off with their best foot forward, they should give us their A-game in the first 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Sometimes, people will wait 2, 3, 4 minutes into the demo until stuff starts hitting, whereas you’re never guaranteed that a program director is going to listen past the first 30 seconds. If you only get 30 seconds of their time at the very start, don’t you want to grab them with your best material? When I would build a demo I would think about how to keep the program director listening for the next 30 seconds of my demo. 

TM: Pittsburgh is always going to be a Steelers town. It’s always going to be football heavy. But the Penguins and NHL still have a big draw. Is it a requirement of a host that you hire to be able to talk hockey? Or do you think you can train a skilled talk show host that’s maybe lacking on that side of their sports knowledge?

Image result for pittsburgh penguins

JG: Well, I think you need to know what’s going on in your town. Certainly, hockey is important in Pittsburgh, as well as a lot of other northeastern cities such as Buffalo, Boston, Toronto, I can think of a lot of other cities where hockey is a relevant conversation during its season. But hey, if it were an NBA town, I’d expect them to know NBA.

If I was in Seattle or Atlanta I’d expect a host to be able to know about soccer. You have to know what your town’s fans are really enjoy to be able to relate and talk about it. So yeah, hockey is important in Pittsburgh, so sure I would expect anyone coming in here to know what they’re talking about with the sport, along with the Penguins. 

TM: You’re a PD of both Newsradio 1020 KDKA and 93.7 The Fan. Which station takes up more of your time and is it difficult to juggle both a news and sports talk format?

JG: Well, its talk so we’re all trying to relate in spoken word format, so there’s that similarity. It’s easier to be able to coach in that regard, because you’re approaching the same dynamic, whereas, if I was doing news talk or if I was doing a music station, I would coach the disc jockeys a little more differently than I would the talk hosts. But which one takes up more time?

That’s almost like asking which of my children I like best or which finger I would keep over the other, I can’t make those choices because I go by the day and coach by need, listen to both and try to spend as equal time as possible on each.

I’m blessed because I have two stations that are live and local from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. 7 days a week. That’s a lot of local programming, so for me, it’s a constant level of trying to relate to our talent on both the news and sports side. Which, both are very vibrant in Pittsburgh. 

TM: Is there a particular name or set of names you’re looking forward to hearing from at the BSM Summit? 

JG: I’ve been in this business so long, it’s hard to name just one. Really, I’m just excited to see everyone there. I am really excited though to meet some people I’ve never met before. Those are the fresh perspectives that I want to hear. 

TM: What do you hope to get out of the BSM Summit in Los Angeles?

Image result for los angeles

JG: I love sharing ideas. I love talking to my contemporaries and comrades. I love everything about the business of radio and everything that goes into what we do and how we do it. To talk to and see a bunch of my old friends, as well as talk to a bunch of people about how we can all make our radio stations better, because let’s face it, our industry, when we’re compelling, people will turn to us.

When there’s something that’s going on, people want to know and they’ll turn to us. To be the best we can be, is what we all strive for. The only way to be better than what you are today, is to use your mind with fresh ideas. That’s why I love going to sports radio conferences like this one, because I just love to remind myself of the basics, the blocking and tackling, but also what trick plays I can use down the road. 

TM: How would you describe yourself as a PD? 

JG: I try to be honest with whatever feelings I have with anybody. If it’s my opinion and how I feel, I’m going to tell you. But at the same time, I’m going to try to be sympathetic to delivering news that you don’t want to hear, but I think it’s beneficial to know what you’re dealing with. It’s my job to help talent be better and identify what kind of road blocks I can get out of their way to perform better. I look at constructive criticism as a way to remove intimidates rather than something that’s hard to do.

You still have to talk to people about accenting their strengths and showcasing what they do right as well as what they do wrong. I try to balance that out to help people be better at what they do. I would hope my bosses would do the same for me, point out my flaws that I need to work on and improve to be a better person and performer. 

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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