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Hans Olsen Is Pretty Happy

“The Utah born fan base is extremely fanatical. It’s an underrated sports town and an underrated sport state.”

Tyler McComas

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What is success for a sports radio host? Is it all it about the size of the market you’re in? Is it about the number of zeros on the paycheck? Maybe it’s strictly numbers based and determined by how many listeners you have?

Could success be directly tied to happiness? Yeah, maybe success equals how much happiness you have with your current position. 

If that’s true, Hans Olsen of The Zone Sports Network in Salt Lake City is a successful show host for one more additional reason. He’s happy with the city he’s in, he’s thrilled to be able to talk sports for a living and he’s blessed that the relationships he’s formed on-air have led to eternal friendships. The man cannot believe how lucky he is.

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“I consider myself one of the most blessed men that’s ever lived in the United States of America,” said Olsen. “It truly is a passion and an honor to work for the best company and the best station in the state of Utah.”

Olsen is just one of the many success stories from individuals who landed in sports radio by a stroke of luck. All through high school and college, there was never once a thought about talking into a mic for an occupation. Instead, he pursued the sport he loved: football. Having three uncles who played in the NFL, including one Hall of Famer, Merlin Olsen, he was driven to match the success of his three family members. But soon after he was cut from the NFL, he realized what new future might be available to him. Seeing as uncle Merlin and Phil were great broadcast voices, it felt like the natural progression to exit football and enter into sports radio. 

“Hurricane Katrina had pushed me out of New Orleans and I ended up here with the upstart Utah Blaze,” said Olsen. “In my fourth year of the AFL they came to me and asked if I wanted to start doing some fill-in work on the radio. This is the old 1280 AM, and I said yeah I’d love to. I came on the air and just started to talk football.”

Today, Olsen and his co-host, Scott Garrard, have been dominant in the ratings, with Olsen bringing the former player perspective and Garrard, who also serves as the VP of Radio Operations at The Zone Sports Network, brings several years of radio experience to help perfectly compliment the duo. 

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Olsen’s love of the Salt Lake City market is quickly noticeable once you speak with him. It’s hard to blame him, seeing as it may be one of the more underrated areas of the country. The vast majority of the city’s population is made up of native Utahans, which means the number of extremely passionate Jazz, Utah and BYU fans are never in short supply. Though the number of transplants in the city may be smaller than most major markets, the ones who do call Salt Lake City their new home tend to be as rabid about their teams as the locals. 

“I feel like, whether it’s at a Jazz game, when the Lakers come to town, they pack in there,” said Olsen. “Over the last three years I feel like more transplants have been moving into the state, but you always have the USC fan base that’s moved into Salt Lake that will show up at Rice-Eccles Stadium. You always have a Denver Broncos fan base, they really attach themselves to Denver or to Oakland with the Raiders now moving to Vegas. You do you see a portion of those fans, but they pale in comparison to the locals and the Utah born fan base. They’re very powerful. The Utah born fan base is extremely fanatical. It’s an underrated sports town and an underrated sport state.”

Though the popularity of the Jazz, Utes and Cougars is still high, a recent shift in the market has slightly altered the way Olsen and Garrard divvy up time for each team. A decade ago, market research would have said BYU football was No. 2 in importance, behind only the Jazz. Utah football would have been back at No.3. But today, with the Utes having a 9-game winning streak of the Cougars, coupled with a move to a Power 5 conference, market research now dictates Utah football has now taken over the No. 2 spot. 

“In the Pac-12 when you’re taking on USC, UCLA, Oregon, this week they have Oregon State, especially later in the season, Utah‘s football schedule has really demanded the attention,” said Olsen.  “It really is about putting your ear to the ground. We do play close attention to the market research and we really try to deliver the news and information to the people that are most demanding of it. But we do everything we can to really give a fair and balanced opportunity to both universities.”

The recent struggles for BYU have made for an interesting dilemma for Olsen’s job. A former player for the Cougs, one of Olsen’s teammates in Provo was current head coach Kalani Sitake. The two didn’t just share a field together for four years, they were really good friends. In fact, they still are today. But no matter how you slice it, a job is a job. When BYU fans are critical of Sitake, it may lead to a tough situation for Olsen, but he feels he has the right approach to handle it. 

“I really take a research and educated angle towards it,” said Olsen. “I really want to be informed and try not to speak from my heart on it. In doing that, you have to understand the inner workings of BYU. You have to understand the administration, the hierarchy, how decisions are made, you have to understand the difficulties of fitting in, you have to understand the difficulties of what these coaches deal with when they’re at BYU and you have to really encapsulate all the knowledge you can on it and then try to make an opinion based off that knowledge. When you feel like your heart is getting involved a little bit, you have to attempt to step away from that.”

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It’s also that exact strategy Olsen uses when he feels he needs to be critical of the Jazz. No, he never played for the Jazz, but his station is actually owned by the team. Needless to say, that’s not something you see very often in today’s environment. 

“It truly is amazing because ownership and management do a great job in allowing us to navigate our opinions without getting in the way,” said Olsen. “That’s the truth. I’ve never had a Jazz opinion, whether it’s critical of Ricky Rubio‘s perimeter shooting, whatever critical component I have, I always try to be educated and fair. As long as you’re doing that, and you’re not taking personal shots, then everything’s game. Every opinion is respected.”

Though Olsen loves covering the Jazz and the NBA, he’ll still always be a football guy at heart. That’s very apparent when you see the Hans’ Film Study feature that’s posted on 1280thezone.com. Essentially, Olsen reviews every Utah and BYU game, then gives his thoughts and opinions on what went right and what went wrong. The feature has been so successful that it has around 985,000 views. It truly seems the people of Salt Lake City love Olsen. He seems to love them back equally as much.

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“This all started three seasons ago,” said Olsen. “What I would do is go back and review the films to have material for that day’s show. I started thinking, since I’m doing this, I might as well show people what I’m seeing and what I’m thinking. It’s given me a lot of credibility and it’s given me a lot of integrity, because now people hold me to it. They want me to watch it and they want me to break it down. It’s really helped me become a better analyst.”

BSM Writers

The NFL Hopes You’re Lazy Enough to Pay Them $5

“This app reportedly doesn’t even have any original content of it’s own. NFL Films produces content for ESPN+, HBO Max, Peacock, Tubi, Epix, Paramount Plus, and Prime Video. It has also reportedly had discussions about producing content for Netflix. Unless they plan to bring all of those shows in-house, what kind of shows could NFL Films produce for NFL Plus that you couldn’t already find on all of those other apps?”

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NFL Streaming

Corporate goodwill is a hard thing to ask for. It’s not something that is a requirement for any entity to engage in. But it can go a long way in establishing a deeper bond for the future. According to Sports Business Journal, NFL owners are contemplating launching a streaming service for the league.

The app would feature podcasts, content created by teams and radio content. It’s unknown where the podcast content will come from but one can assume it’ll include the various podcasts the NFL produces with iHeartRadio. Team content that is expected to be featured could come from videos and audio that is already posted on team websites and social media platforms such as YouTube.

Various organizations across the league have expanded their YouTube efforts over the last couple of years as the Google-owned site has slowly set itself apart as a leading source for viewership. My hometown team, the Baltimore Ravens, for example promotes a talk show with cornerback Marlon Humphrey where he interviews players and other key figures from the team about their lives and careers and how they got to where they are today.

The most important part of this app will be NFL games itself. On Sunday afternoons, whatever games are airing in the specific location you’re in while using the app, those are the games you have access to watch. If you’re in Baltimore and a Ravens game is airing on CBS while the Commanders are on Fox, those are the games the app will offer. If you’re in Boston and a Patriots game is on CBS while a Giants game is on Fox – you won’t have access to the Ravens game airing on CBS in Baltimore or the Commanders game on Fox in Baltimore even if that’s where you normally live. These games used to be a part of a deal with Yahoo Sports and Verizon – who distributed them on their apps for free.

JohnWallStreet of Sportico notes, “longer term, the existence of a league-owned streaming platform should help ensure broadcast rights continue to climb.” But at the end of the day, how does this help the fan? The increase of broadcast rights is going to end up costing viewers in the long run through their cable bill.

ESPN costs almost $10 per cable customer. The app, as of now, isn’t offering anything special and is an aggregation of podcasts, games and videos that fans can already get for free. If you want to listen to an NFL podcast – you can go to Spotify, Apple Podcasts and various other podcast hosting platforms. If you want to watch content from your favorite teams, you can go to their website or their social media platforms. And if you want to watch games, you can authenticate your cable subscriptions and watch them for free through your cable company’s app or CBS’ app or the Fox Sports app.

It’s nothing more than a money grab. Games are already expensive to go to as it is. Gas prices have reached astronomical highs. Watching content has become extremely costly and it’s debatable whether buying streaming services is cheaper or more expensive than the cable bundle. And now the NFL wants to add more stress and more expenses to their viewers who just desire an escape from the hardships of life through their love of a beautiful game? It seems wrong and a bit cruel to me.

The beauty of paying for content apps is that you’re going to gain access to something that is original and unique from everything else in the ecosystem. When House of Cards first premiered on Netflix, it was marketed as a political thriller of the likes we had never seen and it lived up to its expectations for the most part. The critically-acclaimed series led viewers to explore other shows on the app that were similarly a more explicit and unique journey from what had been seen on television before.

This app reportedly doesn’t even have any original content of it’s own. NFL Films produces content for ESPN+, HBO Max, Peacock, Tubi, Epix, Paramount Plus, and Prime Video. It has also reportedly had discussions about producing content for Netflix. Unless they plan to bring all of those shows in-house, what kind of shows could NFL Films produce for NFL Plus that you couldn’t already find on all of those other apps? Even YouTube has partnered with NFL Films to produce behind the scenes footage of games that is available for FREE.

If you’re going to force viewers to pay $5 to watch games on their phone, the least you could do is give fans access to speak with players and analysts before and after the games. Take NFL Network over the top so that we can wake up with Good Morning Football. Offer a way for fans to chat while games are being watched on the app. The ability to watch an All-22 feed of live games. A raw audio options of games. The ability to screencast. Even a live look at the highly paid booths who are calling the games.

Five bucks may seem small in the grand scheme of things but it is a rip-off especially when the content is available for free with a few extra searches. Goodwill and establishing a person to person online relationship with fans could go a long way for the NFL. It’s not going to work using these tactics though. And after facing such a long pandemic, offering it up for free just seems like the right thing to do.

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BSM Writers

Sports Talkers Podcast – Danny Parkins

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Danny Parkins opens up to Stephen Strom about why he is so passionate about defending Chicago. He also gives his best career advice and explains why a best friend is more important sometimes than an agent.

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BSM Writers

Marc Hochman is The Lebron James of Miami Sports Radio

The Hochman and Crowder Show with Solana isn’t like anything you’ll hear in most major markets. But they wear that distinction with a badge of honor. They’re not interested in breaking down why the offensive line can’t get a push on short-yardage situations, they want to make you laugh, regardless if it’s sports content or not. They’re perfectly Miami sports radio. 

Tyler McComas

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Marc Hochman

There’s 30 minutes to go until Marc Hochman’s summer vacation and he’s suddenly overcome with emotion. Instead of staring at the clock, he’s staring at an article from The Miami New Times, which has just named him Best Talk Radio Personality in its “Best of 2022” awards issue. It’s an incredible honor in a city that has several worthy candidates, including the man sitting right next to him, Channing Crowder. 

But it’s not just the honor that’s catching Hochman’s eye, it’s also the paragraph where the newspaper compares him to Lebron James. No, seriously. Compliments are nothing new for the Miami radio veteran, but being compared to one of the best basketball players of all-time is new territory. Part of the paragraph reads like this:

“His current domination of the afternoon drive simulcast on both WQAM and 790 The Ticket (WAXY) is akin to Lebron playing for the Lakers and Clippers simultaneously. Could he do it? Probably. Does Hochman do this daily? Yes. Advantage, Hochman.”

Talk about incredibly high praise for a sports radio host. Especially one in Miami where there’s still a lot of hard feelings towards Lebron. But the praise is accurate, because the Hochman and Crowder Show with Solana airs on two different Audacy stations every day. It’s an interesting dynamic, especially for a market the size of Miami/Fort Lauderdale. 

“We have a joke that if you don’t like what you’re hearing on 560, feel free to tune in on 790,” laughed Hochman. “But it’s fun and I think in some strange way it’s increased our audience. As crazy as it is to say in 2022, there are people who listen to a particular radio station and don’t ever change it. I do think being on both stations has expanded our audience. We have fun with it. The show is on for four hours on 560 WQAM and three hours on 790 The Ticket.”

It’s cool to see Hochman get this type of honor during his 10th year of being an afternoon host on 560 WQAM. Especially since he’s originally from Chicago, but has carved out an incredible career in a city he’s called home since the late 80s. It’s funny to think Hochman had no interest in sports radio in 2004 when his college friend Dan Le Batard offered him a job as an executive producer at a startup station in Miami. Now, 18 years later, he’s being voted as the best to do it in the city. 

“Everybody likes to be recognized for what they do,” said Hochman. “We get recognized all the time by the listeners, but when someone out of your orbits writes their opinion of what you’re doing, and it’s that glowing of an opinion, it’s great. I’ve been compared to Lebron before, but it’s always been my hairline. It was nice to be compared to him for another reason. That was super cool.”

The best part about all of this is how Hochman will use this as a funny bit on the show, because, above anything else, he’s instantly identified as someone who’s incredibly gifted at making people laugh on the air. There’s no doubt it will become a theme on the show, both with him and his co-hosts, Crowder and Solana. 

“The award came out about 30 minutes before I was leaving for my summer vacation, so I had about 30 minutes on the air to respond to it,” Hochman said. “So I’m sure it will become a bit on the show, I certainly will refer to myself as the Lebron James of sports talk radio in Miami. Although, there’s still some hard feelings here towards him.

That was the one part that jumped out, obviously, to me, Crowder and to Solana. I don’t think I’m Lebron James but Crowder said on the air that sometimes you have to acknowledge when you’re playing with greatness, and he said “I used to play defense with Jason Taylor and Junior Seau, now I’m doing radio and I will acknowledge greatness.”

With or without this honor, it’s pretty evident Hochman is the happiest he’s ever been in sports radio. He’s surrounded with two talented co-hosts, but the sentiment is that Hochman does an incredible job of putting both Solano and Crowder in situations to be the best versions of themselves on the air. However, Hochman sees it differently. 

“I think that’s more on the people around you,” he said. “If you have great teammates, they’re great. Crowder and Solana, those dudes, if you want to make a basketball comparison, we have ourselves a Big Three.

Solana is the best at what he does, Crowder is the absolute best radio partner I’ve had in my career. He’s so aware of what it takes to entertain but also has broadcast sensibilities at the same time. I actually think he’s the one that makes us sound better than what we really are. He has a really incredible knack for entertaining but also informing.”

The Hochman and Crowder Show with Solana isn’t like anything you’ll hear in most major markets. But they wear that distinction with a badge of honor. They’re not interested in breaking down why the offensive line can’t get a push on short-yardage situations, they want to make you laugh, regardless if it’s sports content or not. They’re perfectly Miami sports radio. 

“I would say Miami is the strangest sports radio market in the country,” said Hochman. “I grew up in Chicago so I’m intimately familiar with Chicago sports talk. Miami sports talk, which is Le Batard, who redefined what works. In Miami, that’s what it needed. It’s more guy talk than sports talk. We certainly can’t break down a third inning in a Marlins game and why a runner should have been running when he wasn’t, the way that New York, Philadelphia or Boston radio could.”

“That doesn’t work here. When Crowder and I go on the air everyday, we’ve always said, our goal is we want to laugh the majority of our four hours on the air. If we’re laughing, we assume the audience is laughing, as well. That’s our personality. We both like to laugh and have fun. I like to do it, no matter what is going on. That translates to the radio. Luckily, Miami is a sports radio market that embraces that, because I don’t think we could do a show any other way.”

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