It’s a little bit of a buzz word isn’t it? “Buzz phrase” if you want to split hairs. If you want to split atoms feel free to make the drive to Palo Alto and visit Stanford.
For as long as San Francisco’s sat on the southern edge of the Bay’s Golden Gate to the Pacific she’s been on the forefront of just about everything. The cutting edge of American cultural, science and socio-economic development.
In that sense – especially over the last 20 years – “Bay Area” refers to much more than a metropolitan area in Northern California. Across the country the phrase pops up when discussing property value, tech news and most of all politics.
Of course this isn’t a political piece – but it illustrates the point that in 2020, the San Francisco Bay Area remains as intriguing as it did when men and women from across the world flocked to the area to find their fortune in the nearby foothills in 1849. Whether you like what’s going on here or not, just about everyone has an opinion.
Like it’s market as a whole, the San Francisco sports media scene is objectively interesting, especially over the course of the 21st Century. The last 20 years has seen 4 sports franchises relocate with some fascinating changes in each team’s broadcast booth. The market’s regional sports television network has been bought and rebranded 4 times since Y2K, and a number of legendary personalities have signed off for the last time paving the way for the next generation.
On the radio front, 2020 begins much like the century did – with KNBR on top. The Sports Leader had a sports talk monopoly in town since 1990 when the station committed to the format. As with any station in any market over 20 years, the programming schedule has seen a number of names come and go. The one man who has stood tall through two decades, literally, is Tom Tolbert.
Gary Radnich would be another name on the list if the Bay Area Radio Hall of Famer’s career lasted another 6 months or so. Radnich stepped away from the microphone last summer after an illustrious career leaving an overwhelming gap in the station’s midday slot. Fortunately – another household name in the Bay was available in Greg Papa.
Twenty years ago Papa was in the broadcast booth for the Raiders. During the Summer he was alongside Ray Fosse doing television for the A’s. Today he’s still doing NFL games – for the 49ers. Papa is wrapping up his first year with the red and gold after serving as the voice of the silver and black from 1997 to 2017. It was January of 2019 when the veteran play by play man officially crossed the Bay to work for the Niners in what might be the most overlooked sports media story of the year.
KNBR might still be in the poll position, but their lead isn’t as comfortable as it was in 2000. It was 2011 when 95.7 The Wolf switched formats to become The Game and KNBR’s first sports talk rival in the market. From the jump, 95.7 placated to a fan base that felt alienated for years by KNBR – A’s/Raiders loyalists. The startup station was able to lean on East Bay fans to find their footing in the market and battle their older, established brother down the road.
Today, much like 2000, live rights is the most powerful weapon in the eternal ratings war – and The Game secured some heavy artillery when signing with the Warriors in 2016.
On the topic of broadcast rights, the Oakland A’s have become trend setters of sorts with their approach to coverage.
2019 marked the launch of A’s Cast and it’s flagship show A’s Cast Live hosted by KNBR and 95.7 alum Chris Townsend. The digital network has allowed the team to receive and analyze real time data from listeners in the Bay Area and beyond. It’s been so successful, a number of teams around the league could be implementing similar networks very soon.
Embracing the digital world has proven fruitful for the decision makers at NBC Sports Bay Area, especially in recent years.
Back in 2000, when “digital” was just an adjective for a wrist watch, the highlight show was king and Fox Sports Bay Area was happy to give regional sports fans their fix. 20 years and a few name changes later and NBC Sports Bay Area is adapting with the times and they have the attention of the rest of the country.
“The Outsiders,” with Drew Shiller and Grant Liffmann was launched several years ago. The Warriors postgame show had no budget and was broadcast solely on Facebook Live – back when Facebook Live was a shiny new tool no one knew how to use. Today, not only is “The Outsiders,” on linear television – but there’s NBC Regional Sports properties across the country who have used the same formula to support their own teams.
Walk out of the NBCSBA newsroom, head to the elevator and go up one level and you’ll find the only independently owned conference network in America. The PAC-12 Network launched in 2012 – and unlike Fox’s Big Ten Network in Chicago or ESPN’s SEC and ACC Networks – it’s owned by the league’s 12 schools.
It’s no secret revenue hasn’t been what commissioner Larry Scott and the universities had hoped for in the first 8 years, but the trajectory of the unprecedented P12N has been and will continue to be a sports media case study.
As we stand on the ground floor of a new decade, it’s hard to imagine what the Bay Area market will look like in 2030. One trend you can track without question, like rising rent prices in the city, is the migration to digital space. How that space is filled is anyone’s guess – but those with the courage to explore and experiment will surely be rewarded. At which point, the rest of the country will take notice.
Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing
…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.
In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.
“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.
“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”
Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.
The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?
That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.
You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.
“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”
Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.
Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”
Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”
Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”
Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”
It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.
My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.
My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.
After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.
Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.
Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”
My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.
My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.
Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.
And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.
Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.
A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours.
But is that why you sell sports radio?
In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.
A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family.
Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.
I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.
Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important.
So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.