As ESPN prepares for the August 17th launch of their new national radio slate, we have had a chance to familiarize ourselves with the talent and time slots for each show. The sheer amount of talent and depth on their roster is truly astounding. Demetri Ravanos spoke with Jay Williams, Brandon Contes spoke with Keyshawn Johnson, and I had the privilege of speaking with Chiney Ogwumike, host of Chiney and Golic Jr, on the opportunity, her future in the WNBA, and being part of a team that is shattering the backboard and glass ceiling for athletes and broadcasters, as they have become ‘the first’ in many respects.
ESPN’s Senior Vice President of Production David Roberts spoke on the duo. “They are relevant, youthful, energetic and committed to being the very best. Chiney is the first African-American woman on network sports talk radio Monday-Friday in the country. It’s a testament to her talent and unlimited potential.“
Chrissy Paradis: There is definitely this stereotype that exists as well that females aren’t helpful to one another or they can’t be a resource in a competitive industry. I’m like, that could not be like any further from the truth. Because, who doesn’t want for another female to succeed in a business setting?
Chiney Ogwumike: Big facts. And that hasn’t been my experience I just think until we have Enough numbers to tell that story, then that will change. We’ll do it one by one, right?
CP: Right! And, it’s interesting because you and I have a lot in common already, I know that you are a big Annalise Keating / How To Get Away With Murder fan…
CO: Oh my gosh. Don’t even play me right now—
CP: I struggle with if I could just hang out with Olivia Pope or Annalise Keating for a day, who would it be and I go back and forth. And when I was looking online and saw Viola Davis (who plays Annalise Keating on How To Get Away With Murder) followed you, I was thinking, ‘Okay, this interview was meant to be!’ When they did the crossover episodes. I think that Annalise did get that TKO in..
CO: Yes! Yes! The funny thing is that I used to tweet so much about Scandal, I was a live tweeter. I feel like, that, to me, was the biggest follow I’ve ever had on social media. I went nuts.
CP: And that actually is one of my questions, which three powerful, boss women, would you like to spend a day with, Viola Davis being one? Are there two others you’d like to add?
CO: Let’s see, the people that I’d love to hang out with. One is, obviously Viola Davis, and two, Naomi Campbell. Three, Beyoncé.
CP: That is a lot of talent and power in one room! I did want to start out with something serious. I was on your Instagram. The first feature piece that you had worked on with ESPN was the Breonna Taylor piece. What did and does that opportunity mean to you?
CO: Yeah, I think for me it was my first opportunity to provide a voice, for those who have been overlooked.
And I think it’s not just women, especially in sports, but black women in sports, and those women I know because I play in the WNBA. So, as we we’re coming to return to sports in the middle of these pandemics with coronavirus and racism and everything that is happening in society; by nature of my not playing the season because of my medical history, meaning my injuries, not having enough of a runway to play, I didn’t want to put my body in unnecessary risk after overcoming these injuries.
My first opportunity within the company was to help story-tell the league that was returning—basketball is back and the women came back first. The WNBA! But, this is the message that they want to show by playing, this is what they are feeling through their communities. And for me, I was moreso a vessel. I was sharing the mic with people that I love and care about that made a courageous decision to go into the bubble and leave their families and to, possibly leave the safety and security of their homes to do this. So, that’s where the genesis of this piece came from.
I thought that I was going to be in the bubble, playing with my sister but my own personal choice was supported by my team and coaches and organization. And I’m so lucky that my own personal choice, sort of created an opportunity for me to highlight them in a way that probably wouldn’t have happened if I were in the bubble.
The piece is celebrating the women of the WNBA who have been doing this, even though people do not know that. This is their purpose in the middle of this moment. I was just lucky and fortunate to be put in a position to execute that with ESPN.
CP: It’s a message that is so powerful. And you’ve done great work in bringing awareness to social issues, injustice, voting awareness. It seems that you are as transparent and genuine on air as you are off air. What is your process and school of thought on preparation?
CO: The first lesson I learned at ESPN, is that you have to be authentically yourself, because as humans we can tell when we are bottled up or we are not showing our entire selves. So number one, is me being authentic and speaking on the things that I care about passionately, authentically.
And then secondly, it’s about relationships. I think it’s all about relationships. The beauty of me getting this opportunity, is that I know about a lot of stories that are hidden in plain sight. Because I’ve been hidden in plain sight. I’m the 6’3 black woman that would pace the halls at ESPN—
CP: You’re selling yourself short, right now!
CO: Ahh, I know, I honestly would run from hit to hit just trying to get everything done! So, a lot of people, they knew me but they didn’t know my grind. My process is: preparation, being myself authentically, because if you’re not you can tell it and people know it, and then lastly, it’s speaking to the relationships that you know, and that you’re passionate about.
I think by nature of me having this opportunity at such a young age, and having a new perspective, I didn’t realize I when I said yes to this opportunity, I was the first black woman in this category or the first WNBA Player in this category with a national ESPN Radio show. I think the idea is that by being in the room, we’re now seeing what was hidden.
And that’s not just me, that’s my perspective that could create new stories that can come to the light. So, when I go into interviews, I know that we’re doing something special because we’re doing something different than what was before. We’re creating a new platform for others, like me to hopefully follow too. So, I think it’s all about authenticity and preparation and then, it’s just storytelling, from your real life experiences.
CP: I wrote down a tweet of yours during The Last Dance, ‘Every success requires sacrifice. Every win takes failure. Every star shines brightest in the dark.’
I enjoyed the reaction videos you made about the series because you do have so much to contribute in that you’re an expert in both arenas.
What advice would you have for young people, young women trying to break into the sports media industry that feel like they’re facing obstacles?
CO: Women, I understand the obstacles, because as much as there are obstacles for everyone, there are added obstacles for women because we are questioned on our opinion, especially in sports. It’s not limited to just one group of people or one gender of people, I think, the way I like to discuss these challenges is that now, we’re all in a special point in society where we have been forced to stop and to look at one another and to humanize one another, not just care about ourselves, our pastoral vision, and not just look at our phones, do our jobs, go home and not worry about your impact.
Now, we are all thinking about, and have time to breathe and digest the impacts that we have with words, with actions; and not just on ourselves but on our neighbors, our friends, our family and even the strangers that we meet in our day to day encounters.
I think one thing we realized is everyone in life has challenges. No matter how much you have or what you look like there are going to be challenges. If you aspire to do something more, because we’re all a part of this new rising generation, this millennial generation, where we’re not following in the exact footsteps of those who came before us, we are creating our own path.
Before, the ladder of success used to be ‘alright, for you to be successful you have to go to high school to go to college, and then you have to go to graduate school. You have to wait for your time and get tenure to get the opportunity. We’re in this technological generation, where we can fast track our own success based on our own creative genius.
You can create an app, or you can start a company, while you’re working at those steps on the ladder to get somewhere. You can have a hustle and also a side hustle, not realizing that your side hustle helps your main hustle. Through working and creating a platform, whether it’s academics being your main hustle, now having that platform helps your side hustle be even more successful.
So, for a lot of people that feel like these challenges are too much, understand that we’re in a generation where we aren’t doing things the same way. We are creatively finding ways to build our own cultural impact, our own financial impact, our own societal impact. And we’re not alone, there are so many. We’re the generation of the doers and the changers, the not ‘staying on autopilot’ type of generation.
Whether you’re a black woman, a white woman or whether you’re a man or a woman or however you identify as, every obstacle will be tough but everything can be achieved by seeing that you’re capable and finding allies that can help you enhance that. So that’s always been my message. Like through me doing the hard stuff, hopefully it will create an opportunity for an executive to say ‘oh she can do it. I’m gonna hire a whole slew more’. And now that I know what’s possible, we can open the door for so many others. And it’s not just one person, one look, one kind, it is all of us that are capable of doing things differently and creating change in real time, not just waiting for it to happen.
CP: As it does come back to authenticity and relationships, how is your relationship with Golic Jr. and what do you like the most about Mike’s style?
CO: I love everything about him, you can never let him know that though. I love everything about him. I love his family and I love how he treats people and I think that’s why I feel so great about this partnership. We are very similar.
We were the most different looking human beings, right? We’re opposites, but I think where we are friends is that we are the same in everything that matters and that’s where society is now.
We come from big loud boisterous, groundbreaking families. We both play sports; his football, mine basketball. We both care about having intellectual discussions, but also being authentically ourselves, as we are both millennials, in this generation. So, It’s a seamless partnership, it’s the seamless introduction of a new team and a new show. I think what people have seen, especially with Golic & Wingo’s last show, is that he has such a big heart.
He focuses on everything that matters and then uses sports to bring it all together. That’s what he learned from his father, his mother and his siblings. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that family? That’s why I’m really thrilled to work with him and I’m the lucky one because I have someone who I know is going to be my family in this.
There are not many people in this business that you will wake up at three in the morning to drive to get there at four to do a radio show with. You have to actually really like someone to their core to agree to do that. But for him, I would do that because there was something about him that I just really, really loved.
I think that everyone has seen that with his father and how we’re saluting his Hall of Fame career. I think now Junior’s going to step into his own shoes and show people his own impact and I’m so excited to have a front row seat, courtside to see all of that happen.
CP: I feel like Golic Jr. is the person you want on your team. He is the person who truly wants you to honor what is important to you, and still you can lean on him for advice or help. It seems like this makes for a very symbiotic relationship and very helpful dynamic should you resume playing basketball again?
CO: The cool thing about ESPN is that in this show, in this pair, you have two former athletes, right? And the cool thing ESPN, I think with me, took a unique role because I was doing both and they haven’t really had many people—I don’t know if there are many people that actually play and broadcast at the same time.
So, I think they saw it as an opportunity where we could have some really cool engagement and experiences. By playing, I’m around players in the WNBA and NBA. That allows me to say one thing on air and then get hit up by a player that’s been listening. The next thing you know that player is accessible to coming on air.
Between my relationships as a current athlete and his understanding of that, and ESPN’s valuing of that, it allows the show to be whatever we want to make of it and be creative in how we do it.
And the beauty of the WNBA, is that it’s during the summer so you know if the choice comes towards her to play during our show time, there can be creative solutions to anything.
I think even so much so that Jr. will probably be cool coming to LA to do a show and I would be cool to come into Connecticut. It’s all been very versatile, very mobile, very open minded because I think the realization has been that no one is a ‘one trick pony’ anymore. If we can figure out different ways to do different things, especially with these young people that are unashamed to try new things, why not experiment and see what happens? I think that’s where Junior‘s at in supporting me, where I’m at in supporting him and where the company’s at in supporting us.
CP: I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me. Congratulations! Can’t wait for the debut.
Mike Golic Jr. has a response to the same question I asked Chiney, in case you were wondering about the drive, respect and connection the partners share approaching the launch. Here is what he said about Chiney Ogwumike:
“As far as Chiney and I’s relationship, we are genuine friends which is such a cool thing to say about a person you’re getting to work with. So often you forge those relationships as shows get going and start growing. We’ve been friends off-air since she started at the company. Being peers age-wise helps that a lot, but we have so many similar interests in music, shoes and life. And what’s even cooler is we’ve been able to translate that friendship on-air in a way that isn’t always easy to do. She’s a blast to work with, has such great instincts and throws 100% of herself into this,” Golic Jr shared.
“My expectations for us as a team are to bring locker room conversations that we’ve both been a part of to the national stage. We have a unique background where both hosts on a show have a backgrounds in high level athletics. It’s going to be a fun, high energy shot of life for your car ride home. We can’t wait to get everyone involved from our friends, to the biggest names in sports, and everyone listening at home or in the car.”
It is incredibly rare to be a true fan of any show, from it’s inception. I feel incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to be a OG/CG fan with so many others who have been eagerly anticipating the unstoppable and incredibly dynamic duo of Chiney & Golic Jr.
Chrissy Paradis is a BNM columnist and veteran sports radio producer. She’s worked in Las Vegas, Washington DC, Raleigh and Hartford helping personalities such as Rob Dibble, Tim Brando, Steve Cofield, Adam Gold and Joe Ovies. You can contact her on Twitter @ChrissyParadis or by email at Chrissy.Paradis@gmail.com.
Jason Barrett Podcast – Dave LaGreca
How did Dave LaGreca convince the bosses at SiriusXM to let him talk about wrestling as a full-time job? He didn’t. He tells Jason why wrestling fans are the kind of loyal audience every show and network want.
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
Evan Roberts, Self-Professed Sports Maniac, Thrives at WFAN
From an early age, Roberts knew that radio was the medium through which he wanted to express his fandom, especially WFAN.
Evan Roberts made his first appearance on WFAN at just 10 years old, filling in for NBA play-by-play announcer Mike Breen delivering sports updates on Imus in the Morning. The opportunity came after he sent a letter on a whim to the station asking for a job since he enjoyed listening to the station with his father. Desiring to become a radio host was the result of dynamic career aspirations that transitioned from wanting to work as an architect to trying to become the play-by-play announcer for his favorite baseball team, the New York Mets.
“Listening to Mike and Chris, and Benigno in the overnights and Somers – I was like ‘That’s what I want to do’,” Roberts recalled. “….It couldn’t be any more specific when I’m listening to the Fan saying ‘I want to be on the Fan.’ About a decade and a half later, I was able to get it done and I’ve been there ever since.”
From an early age, Roberts knew that radio was the medium through which he wanted to express his fandom, especially WFAN. As a native New Yorker, Roberts connected with the teams in the area and sought the chance to talk about them for a living on a sports radio station with a storied history in the area.
Since 1989, WFAN has been one of the pillars of New York sports coverage and a place that helped pioneer the sports talk radio format. Getting there, though, required that Roberts had deft knowledge of sports, an ability to connect with fans, and experience that ensured he was ready for an opportunity in the number one media market in the world.
While attending school, Roberts was hosting a radio show called Kidsports on WGBB, a radio station based in Freeport, N.Y. serving Nassau County on Long Island. He then moved to Radio AAHS to host What’s Up With Evan Roberts and Nets Slammin’ Planet, the latter with famed high school basketball player Albert King and NBA insider Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson. Aside from being able to refine his hosting skills, Roberts made valuable connections in these roles including one that would help him land his first job out of high school: Danny Turner.
Before he was named the senior vice president of programming operations at XM Satellite Radio in Washington, D.C., Turner served as the engineer for Roberts’ shows on Radio AAHS. He helped to coordinate the technology associated with broadcasting since the shows were done remotely rather than from out of a studio.
“[He] ended up working at XM Radio and heard one of my tapes as it went on and said ‘I remember him. I like him,’ and then sent it to the right person and they ultimately hired me,” said Roberts. “It was my first real, real job working out of high school, and that was about meeting someone earlier on and remembering who that person was and sending as many tapes as I could.”
As a graduate of Lawrence High School, Roberts quickly made the move from Cedarhurst, N.Y. to Washington, D.C. to begin working at XM Satellite Radio, a place he would stay for the next two years. Then, he made the move down I-295 from D.C. to Baltimore, Md. where he worked at 105.7 The Fan WJFK-AM and had to adjust his sports consumption to align with the interests of those listeners. It taught him the importance of research and preparation, important aspects of working in sports media that he still utilizes to this day.
“When I was in Baltimore, I had to be Baltimore,” said Roberts. “I had to understand what makes the Orioles fan tick; what makes the Ravens fan tick. I didn’t grow up as an Orioles fan or a Ravens fan. The Ravens had won the Super Bowl years earlier. I know nothing about winning Super Bowls; I’m a Jets fan.”
At 21 years old, Roberts made the move back to “The Big Apple” when he was hired by WFAN as an overnight host, a role he stayed in for the next two-and-a-half years. Simultaneously, Roberts was working on Maxim Radio doing a night show on the Sirius Satellite Radio channel. Balancing those two roles, while it may have seemed daunting, gave Roberts the chance to broadcast in his home market and talk about the teams he grew up rooting for; the aforementioned Mets and Jets, along with the then-New Jersey Nets and New York Islanders.
Then in 2007, Roberts got his big break when he was named the midday co-host with Joe Benigno on the program Benigno & Roberts in the Midday. Benigno, who got his start on WFAN as a regular caller, had grown a rapport with listeners since joining the station in 1995, making the task for Roberts, a 23-year-old at the time, more difficult in terms of fitting in. Roberts is grateful that Benigno, a host he grew up listening to on WFAN, was accommodating and amicable towards him – plus it helped that they aligned in their rooting interests as Mets and Jets fans.
“He was very welcoming, and he didn’t have to be because I was a lot younger; he had no idea who the hell I was,” said Roberts. “….Right out of the gate, I think he saw my passion [and] my knowledge; he saw a little bit of himself in me, and we were able to bond right away.”
To make a name for himself in the new midday time slot, Roberts stuck to the principles that had been given to him from his early days of radio; that is, to be himself. From the start of his foray into sports media, Roberts and most people around him knew that he was, in his own words, “a sports maniac”, and he needed to maintain that genuine identity on the air. His relatability and passion for the teams as a fan made him an ideal fit for the station synonymous with New York City bearing those iconic call letters and an unbeatable afternoon duo.
“I think as time [went] on and Joe and I developed even more and more chemistry, the audience knew who we were,” said Roberts. “They certainly knew who he was, but they learned ‘Evan’s a die-hard Mets fan. He doesn’t miss a game.’”
While it was important for Roberts to emulate his fandom for the teams he roots for, he quickly developed a cognizance for trying to talk about other teams impartially while on the air. It is a challenge, to a degree, to maintain objectivity daily with intrinsic fandom for certain teams, but being able to understand how other fan bases feel after monumental victories or crushing defeats renders the art of appealing to the listening audience easier. It also upholds WFAN’s commitment to serve as an outlet for all New York sports fans rather than just certain cohorts of them.
“We’re trying to appeal to everybody,” said Roberts. “We want everybody listening. Not just Yankees fans; not just Mets fans; not just die-hard sports fans; not just casual fans. How do you keep every single person wanting to listen to the radio?”
When Roberts first joined the station in 2004, most New York sports teams were rebuilding aside from the Yankees. Today, the preponderance of professional teams in the New York Metropolitan area are contending or at least have the chance to appear in their league’s playoffs, something that is exciting for fans like Roberts but presents a challenge in doing effective sports radio that accurately depicts the emotions of listeners.
“I think what’s going to be a real challenge… is [when] the Mets are in the playoffs, the Yankees are in the playoffs, the Jets look competent, and the Giants look competent, and it’s a Monday,” Roberts expressed. “You’ve got four monstrous fan bases that care about their team. How the hell do you find a way to keep them all entertained?”
To express the true extent of his fandom for niche sectors of the audience, Roberts turns to another form of aural consumption: podcasts. There has been much discussion over the ability of traditional radio and podcasts to coexist in this digital age of media; however, Roberts believes that the two mediums provide a unique combination that was previously nonexistent.
In his opinion, podcasts are a method to delve deeper into topics or teams that do not garner as much time on the radio, specifically those that do not generate as large of a market share or which are not as representative of the interests of the majority of listeners.
“I do a Mets podcast specifically – I called it Rico Brogna because I loved Rico Brogna as a kid and I figured ‘Why the hell not?’”, Roberts said. “…I do an hour breaking down the Mets in a hard-core way that I’m not going to do on WFAN for an hour. I may do it for a couple of minutes. I think those two things work perfectly side-by-side.”
Still, most listeners, according to Roberts, will likely turn to terrestrial radio to get their sports fix, especially if they do not express allegiance to solely one team.
“The majority of people are still going to turn on WFAN and say ‘Okay, entertain me. I don’t know what I want to hear. You just entertain me’,” said Roberts. “I think those two forms of entertainment can work side-by-side. That’s why we do it.”
When Mike Francesa signed off WFAN in December 2017, the station had to make changes in the afternoon drive-time slot which it did with the debut of Carlin, Maggie & Bart. The show was eventually disbanded though when Francesa ended his retirement just over four months later, returning to afternoons. His return to WFAN did not last long though, departing the station again in December 2019. Again, WFAN had to make a change in afternoons, this time moving Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts to do a 2 to 6:30 p.m. show renamed Joe & Evan.
For Roberts, the opportunity to host in the afternoon slot that he had grown up listening to Mike Francesa and Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo make famous with their program Mike and the Mad Dog was an opportunity he did not hesitate to accept. Yet the change in time also required a change in approach regarding topic selection; after all, since the show would be starting later in the day, it was more important to preview the forthcoming action than recap that of the previous day.
“Even though you’re doing the same thing because you’re the same person, you’ve got to realize the audience is thinking about things a little bit differently; they’re not always analyzing what happened last night,” said Roberts. “I always find that interesting [trying to] balance the two [and] it’s almost like a game.”
When Benigno retired from the station in November 2020, Craig Carton made his return to the New York City airwaves pairing with Roberts to form the new afternoon duo Carton & Roberts. Carton had previously been with the station hosting mornings with Boomer Esiason on Boomer and Carton from 2007 until his arrest in 2017. He served time in prison for fraud-related charges, and ultimately sought and received help for addiction related to gambling.
Since his return to WFAN, Carton has been vocal about his struggle to overcome addiction and the lessons learned from his time serving in prison, hosting a special weekend program titled Hello, My Name Is Craig to discuss these issues in-depth. On Carton and Roberts, the duo has experienced immense success, recently topping ESPN New York 98.7 FM’s The Michael Kay Show in the spring ratings book. From the onset of Carton and Roberts working together though, there was some trepidation as to whether their personalities would blend well together on sports talk radio.
“I remember the first time I was told ‘Hey, there’s a possibility of you and Craig together.’ I was like ‘What?,’” Roberts said. “My first reaction was ‘Really?’”
Now nearly two years in, Roberts enjoys working alongside Carton and learning more about his perspectives and thoughts on the radio industry. Following advice he was given from both Russo and Esiason on working with Carton, Roberts has let him take the lead and discover how the show can effectively inform and entertain its vast listening audience.
“Let’s take a step back; don’t have an ego,” Roberts recalls thinking when he started the new show. “Watch this magician figure out how this show is going to work and then lean into it. I think that’s what I did and it has worked, and I feel very comfortable, I know he feels very comfortable and we’ve got a successful thing going on now.”
Roberts views Carton as an informed talent in the radio industry, aware of the changing nature of the medium and the potential it has to serve its audience. Roberts indeed experienced success in his previous roles, most notably when working in middays with Benigno; however, he is always willing to try new things and form new approaches towards jaded industry practices and show formats.
“I know that I have a guy who I’m working with who knows the medium as well as anybody,” said Roberts. “If he has a vision on how this could work with his personality and my personality, I’m going to listen; I’m going to follow along.”
WFAN and SportsNet New York (SNY), the flagship network for the New York Mets and New York Jets, agreed last year to simulcast Carton and Roberts from 4 to 6 p.m. on weekdays. While the move, which has been made with various other WFAN programs over the years including Mike and the Mad Dog and Boomer and Gio puts the radio program on a visual medium, Roberts’ approach to the show did not change.
The thought always was that he would be doing a radio show with the curtain pulled back, giving longtime listeners the chance to see the two co-hosts during their discussions and on-air interactions.
“They’re listening to the radio, and it’s cool sometimes when you get to peek in and say, ‘Oh, look at Craig’s expressions. Look at Evan’s expressions. Look at the way they’re looking at each other. Boy, they hate each other right now,’” Roberts said. “I think it’s people looking in on a radio show, and that’s what I always try to remind myself. It’s on TV – that’s great – but we’re a radio show first, and I think a lot of people kind of like to eavesdrop on that.”
One of the challenges of doing a radio show whether or not it is simulcast is in taking calls, and various hosts and producers have differing opinions when it comes to their value on the air. Still, while the hosts, producers, and caller themselves may enjoy their interactions, it is fundamental awareness is placed on the audience that does not call in and their enjoyment of listening to a caller.
“I think when you’re talking [to] somebody, you’re not just thinking about the conversation you’re having with them,” said Roberts. “You’re thinking about the 98% of the audience that doesn’t call in and if this is entertaining or not; if this is informative or not; what are they getting out of this?…. I love callers – it’s a big part of WFAN – but as I interact with them… I think the thought that I always try to have is ‘How is everyone else listening feeling about this discussion?’”
While Carton and Roberts continues to do well in afternoon drive among the demographic of men 25-54 years old, the way the ratings are interpreted by each person and entity in radio differs. Something the Nielsen ratings do not take into account is the number of people listening to the show on-demand as a podcast or watching its simulcast on SNY. During his time with Benigno, Roberts scrutinized the numbers, looking at copious and exiguous details, similar to how he consumes professional sports.
The difference is that while it may be good to have a complete understanding of show performance, getting caught in the minutiae of ratings and trying to improve in weaker areas can sometimes be, according to Roberts, a means without an end.
“I think I realized as time went on that’s going to give you a headache and it’s not going to really help anything,” said Roberts. “I think I learned a little more that you still look at numbers but maybe with a broader view of things; not as specific. I look at [them] a lot, but sometimes it’s tough. I don’t think you want to alter a show too much based on what you think is a pattern but may not necessarily be a pattern.”
This fall, both Carton and Roberts will be starting new roles in media while continuing to host their afternoon show. Carton is going to begin hosting a new national morning show on Fox Sports 1 with a co-host yet to be determined, a move that will place him primarily on television in mornings against WFAN and CBS Sports Radio’s simulcast of Boomer & Gio. Roberts will continue to stay on WFAN, adding a new Saturday program with his former co-host Joe Benigno beginning on September 10.
“It’s like getting back on a bicycle,” Roberts said of working with Benigno. “It’s always comfortable…. It’s going to be [like] our old show – just once a week on a Saturday.”
WFAN was the sound of Evan Roberts’ childhood, and a large reason he became as invested in professional sports as he considers himself to be today. Throughout his time at the station, he has worked with various hosts and recently welcomed new program director Spike Eskin to the station. He says the contrast between Eskin and previous program director Mark Chernoff is stark – yet they are similar in where it matters most: being able to effectively lead WFAN.
“I think they both very much understand radio, and that’s the most important thing,” said Roberts. “You’re the program director of WFAN; I think you have an idea of what good radio is… [They are] both very, very intelligent radio guys that I trust, but everything else about them is probably polar opposite.”
For aspiring professionals looking to pursue a career in sports media, Roberts advises them to take advantage of the innovations in media and communications especially when it comes to podcasts. With widespread evolution and progression in technology coupled with altering consumption habits and means thereof, putting in the time allows novices to hone their skills and position themselves well in sports media. That and always being willing to learn and study to be the most prepared and informed host as possible – especially when talking to listeners, many of whom have seen teams in their ebbs and flows.
“My wife knows that I’m going to watch every pitch of the Yankees and Mets game,” said Roberts. “I may do it on DVR, and I may do it at 2 in the morning because we need to have a life; I don’t want to get divorced, and I want my kids to love me, but she also knows that I want to be as informed as anybody on the radio and that’s not going to stop.”
Derek Futterman is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. In addition, Derek serves as a production manager, broadcaster, voiceover artist, technical director, audiovisual editor, and media engineer for Hofstra University’s WRHU. He has also worked on New York Islanders radio broadcasts. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @DerekFutterman.
Jake Paul, Betr Pair Micro-Betting With Media
There are plenty of hurdles, though, that still need to be overcome before this takes over the betting landscape.
I’ll be completely honest: I can’t get into TikTok. I’m closing in on 40 years spent on this planet, and it’s simply not my thing. It’s not meant to be, though. The current generation is one with shorter attention spans, the kind that wants a quick highlight of a sporting event so they can shift their focus to something else. When I tell folks a decade younger than me stories about how I–and others of my age group–would sit around and watch an entire SportsCenter, they look at me like I’m crazy. Not sure how they’d look at me if I told them we used to often watch the rerun an hour later, but that’s another discussion.
It’s a big reason why micro-betting is considered the “next big thing” in sports betting. Similar to in-game betting, micro betting goes a step further and focuses on individual events within a sporting event, such as the outcome of a drive, whether a baseball player will get a hit in his upcoming at-bat, or even something such as a coin toss at the Super Bowl. A perfect example of micro-betting is the rise in popularity of betting on whether or not a run will be scored in the first inning of a baseball game. For a generation that wants a quick resolution to their bets, it makes total sense. You place a bet, you find out how it did, and then you move on–whether that’s to another bit of action or something else entirely.
Something else I can’t get into is the whole hoopla surrounding the Paul brothers. Logan and Jake Paul have built an empire for themselves on the back of YouTube, with Jake Paul having more than 70 million followers on social media. For various reasons, I’m not a fan of either individual. Again, though, they aren’t coming after my demographic. Like them or hate them, you have to respect their grind –and you have to admire their business acumen — as they parlay their notoriety and success into sports entertainment by way of boxing and the WWE, as well as a new sports drink company that has already partnered with Premier League side Arsenal.
Monday’s announcement by Jake Paul of a new micro-betting site simply furthers the narrative and does so in a manner that can’t be ignored by those in the sports betting space. Betr, a joint venture between Paul, sports betting entrepreneur Joey Levy, and the sports betting company Simplebet, was announced yesterday morning. Backed by a $50 million investment from multiple venture capital firms, the new company is backed by ownership groups of franchises such as the Boston Celtics and San Francisco 49ers, and also has financial backing from current and former NFL players including Dez Bryant, Ezekiel Elliott, and Richard Sherman. Musician Travis Scott has also put his financial backing behind the product.
The other very interesting tidbit from the press release was the announcement of a media company that would feature, among other shows, “BS w/ Jake Paul”. Their new YouTube channel, which already has over two million subscribers despite not a single video being posted as of Monday afternoon, will feature sports-betting content from Paul and other content creators and will focus on micro betting. In an interview with Axios, Levy said that consumers can “expect 10+ videos a day from emerging content creators we’ve brought into the company,” but that things would begin with a focus on “premium content natives, starting with Jake’s show.”
Sports radio and television have long been focused on making their products more appealing to younger generations. Just take a look at ESPN, where they’ve long been doing “SportsCenter” episodes on Snapchat. This could be a game-changer, provided they can help drive micro-betting into a wider market.
There is plenty of potential in the space, a big reason Paul was able to acquire such high amounts of funding. Just last year, JP Morgan estimated that more than $7 billion per year would be wagered on micro bets by the year 2025. And earlier this year, the CEO of Oddisum stated in an interview that micro-betting would account for the majority of wagers placed on sporting events within the next three years. Even DraftKings CEO Jason Robins has talked about plans on how his company expects to embrace the trend.
There are plenty of hurdles, though, that still need to be overcome before this takes over the betting landscape. The biggest one is the delivery of data. As we move more towards a society that streams sporting events and other digital content, the delay between real life and what shows up on your mobile phone can be the difference between placing a wager or not. For some services (I’m looking at you, Peacock) there’s often a delay of more than 90 seconds, which means the play I want to bet on is still two or three plays away from being seen with my own eyes. That makes it difficult to place a bet with any sort of confidence.
The other major obstacle will be getting their gambling service legalized. In their press release, Betr stated they will start as a “free-to-play” app in all 50 states, and eventually they will add real money gambling services as they become licensed to operate within individual states. That’s not going to be so simple, though, as gambling addiction concerns continue to rise and multiple state legislatures are already having discussions regarding the matter.
As addictive as betting on sporting events can be, micro-betting is often exponentially more. A study last year from CQ University in Sydney, Australia indicated that micro bettors are more likely to be younger players and that they usually “have high trait impulsivity”. An author of the report also stated, “there’s a very strong link between micro betting and gambling problems”, and pointed out that the short amount of time between placing a bet and having it resolved leaves little time to evaluate performance or track one’s bankroll.
Whether or not those things are overcome in every state possible is a discussion for another day. The fact is, micro-betting is more likely than not to become a huge growth market for sports betting companies over the next two to three years, and Paul and Levy have become the first big players to jump into the media space. It’s not a question of if, but when, others will follow them into the realm of micro betting sports content, but their announcement on Monday raises the stakes. It also reminds those of us in business, especially sports media, that while we may not fully understand the allure of what the younger generation enjoys, we ignore it at our peril.
Jason Ence resides in Louisville, KY and is fully invested in the sports betting space. Additionally, he covers Premier League and Serie A soccer, college football, and college basketball for ESPN Louisville 680 including serving as the station’s University of Kentucky correspondent, and co-host of the UK football and basketball post-game shows. He can be found on Twitter @JasonUK17 and reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.