Just thinking about doing a five-hour show everyday is exhausting.
It requires exceptional prepping skills, the ability to dissect the main topic of the day in multiple ways and a stamina to be entertaining from start to finish. It’s not easy, but that’s the new task given to Josh Parcell and Nick Wilson at Sports Radio WFNZ in Charlotte, from 2-7 p.m. every weekday.
Don’t expect the duo of Wilson and Parcell to blink at the new assignment. In fact, this isn’t even necessarily uncharted waters for two.
“To be honest with you, if they asked me to do 10 hours of radio, I think I could do it,” said Parcell. “I’ve been doing five hours for a while, because before we went into the five hour show, we did four hours in the midday and then I was doing a solo hour every night from 6:00 to 7:00. It’s definitely a little bit of of a different cadence in rhythm, when you go straight from hour four right into the final hour, but I do think I have a lot to say and I do my best to try to stay as energized as possible, because the people listening at 6:30, they don’t care that you were on the radio four and a half hours ago. They are just getting into the car and you have to give them the best product possible. But it can definitely drain you some days.”
Prep work for a five-hour show seems pretty daunting, You could probably argue it’s much tougher than the show, itself. In this situation, trust and understanding between each host is invaluable. A great understanding of your strengths, as well as the strengths of your co-host, is key when trying to prepare for an afternoon show that spans multiple hours.
For Wilson and Parcell, both get in the station around noon and already have a strong feeling of where they want to take the show for the day. Guests are booked, the topics are mapped out over the course of the next 30-45 minutes and the anticipation builds until 2:00.
“I think our goal, when we’re prepping, is how we can take either the most important local story and have our own unique perspective or angle on the topic, or how can we take national stories and make them relevant to a local audience,” ParcelI said. “think both of us are on the same page, in terms of what we’re looking for. But I’m always prepping, really. I’m always thinking about different angles and topics that can involve our listeners. But by the time we meet at noon, we meet for about half an hour, put together our topics and then, from there, I’m kind of locked in for the last hour and a half before the show. I kind of go in my own world and I feel like I’m almost cramming for a final exam every single day like I’m back in college. I just wanna make sure I’ve poured through every last detail that I can to make sure I’m fully prepared.”
Like any show, you always need something light to break things up. This is especially true with a five hour show. You can talk extensively about Cam Newton’s legacy with the Panthers, but at some point, you need to take a lighter approach to a topic. One of the reasons why Wilson and Parcell has been so successful is because it has a secret weapon that no other sports radio show has.
That secret weapon is a Hacksaw.
Hacksaw, who’s real name is Stephen Helbig, is the third voice on the show and has become a lovable character with the audience. His personality, mixed with both Wilson and Parcell’s ability to rile him up, has been an unbelievable addition to the show since it began two years ago. In that time, Hacksaw has developed into an integral part of the show and one that it’ll need on a more regular basis, now that Wilson and Parcell has been extended to five hours.
When Hacksaw pops in, the mood of the show immediately changes. That’s his superpower. Wilson and Parcell could be in the heaviest of debate, but you just can’t help but smile when Hacksaw starts talking.
“Nick came up with the name Hacksaw right out of the gate,” Parcell said. “But the persona that has become Hacksaw really didn’t evolve until six months to a year into the show. You just saw his confidence start to grow. I told him a long time ago that his destiny in this business, if he wants it to be, can be as that outrageous character that everybody loves.”
In terms of handling topics at the top of the hour, it gets boring and repetitive at times to hit the same story multiple times. But as boring or repetitive as it sounds to the host, a new audience is coming and going at all times of the day.
“I’ve had someone tell me in the past it doesn’t matter how long your show is,” Parcell said. “For example, our show is five hours and we’re almost doing five, one hour shows. I think one of the biggest mistakes people make it’s feeling like, hey, I have 14 different stories today and I really want to talk about all of them, so, let’s make sure we hit on everything. In reality, the audience wants to hear about the three or four most relevant topics that day. Because the audience is constantly changing, we try to lead with the biggest story of the day and hopefully it’s relevant to the local audience.
“Occasionally, there’s just absolutely nothing happening in Charlotte and we’ll go a little bit more bigger picture. We try to recycle those topics between the ones we lead with at 2:00, we try to recycle those around 3:40 and 4:00 and then again at 6:00. We kind of break it into 90 minutes chunks. Then we sprinkle in our secondary topics around that, but I think one of the skills that Nick and I are both learning, and something I feel really strongly about, is you’ve got to be able to hit your A-list topic multiple times throughout the show. Even if it gets repetitive to you, you always have to remember the audience is changing every 15 minutes. It’s not about you, it’s about the listener.”
Ever since I first heard Nick Wilson hosting at night in Cleveland, I’ve been a fan. His radio voice and ability to drive are both supreme, but his ability to laugh at himself and see the lighter side of topics is something I think makes him extremely relatable. There’s no doubt Wilson’s personality is different from Parcell’s, and you can even make an argument they bring different skills to the table, but that, in itself, is what makes the two work.
“We are very different in a lot of ways,” Parcell said. “Just in terms of our interests, our sensibilities, our sense of humor, we just come from very different backgrounds. Nick is a little bit more, I’m not trying to put words in his mouth, but he’s more of the common man, laid-back, relaxed guy. I’d say I’m probably the more opinionated voice on the show and Nick is a little more of the personality and comedic relief that the show needs. It balances each other out. I think one of the things we’ve learned in two years, that I think makes us better, is understanding what the other’s strength is and helping the other bring them out. Letting the other person shine has been really, really important to us. It’s led to some of the success that we’ve had of late.”
Wilson and Parcell have the real opportunity to be a staple of Charlotte sports radio for years to come. WFNZ obviously feels the same way, seeing as they gave the show such a lucrative time slot, but the fundamental understanding the two have of how a radio show should sound and operate, tells me all the ingredients are there to be a mainstay at the top of the local ratings.
“People are going to hear what I’m about to say and they’ll take it the wrong way, but I think there’s a lot of days where I walk out of there and I don’t know if the show is very good,” Parcell said. “But that’s my mentality. I’m always looking to make it better. Maybe that’s a flaw of mine, but I constantly compare myself to the best in the business and I’m always striving for that. I never want us to have the mindset, even though we’ve gotten this great promotion, I never want us to feel like we’re satisfied with the job that we’re doing.”
Tyler McComas is a columnist for BSM and a sports radio talk show host in Norman, OK where he hosts afternoon drive for SportsTalk 1400. You can find him on Twitter @Tyler_McComas or you can email him at TylerMcComas08@yahoo.com.
The Future Is Now, Embrace Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+
As annoying as streaming sports is and as much as I haven’t fully adapted to the habit yet, Amazon and Apple have done a magnificent job of trying to make the process as easy and simplified as possible.
This week has been a reckoning for sports and its streaming future on Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+, ESPN+, and more.
Amazon announced that Thursday Night Football, which averaged 13 million viewers, generated the highest number of U.S. sign ups over a three hour period in the app’s history. More people in the United States subscribed to Prime during the September 15th broadcast than they did during Black Friday, Prime Day, and Cyber Monday. It was also “the most watched night of primetime in Prime Video’s history,” according to Amazon executive Jay Marine. The NFL and sports in general have the power to move mountains even for some of the nation’s biggest and most successful brands.
This leads us to the conversation happening surrounding Aaron Judge’s chase for history. Judge has been in pursuit of former major leaguer Roger Maris’ record for the most home runs hit during one season in American League history.
The sports world has turned its attention to the Yankees causing national rights holders such as ESPN, Fox, and TBS to pick up extra games in hopes that they capture the moment history is made. Apple TV+ also happened to have a Yankees game scheduled for Friday night against the Red Sox right in the middle of this chase for glory.
Baseball fans have been wildin’ out at the prospects of missing the grand moment when Judge passes Maris or even the moments afterwards as Judge chases home run number 70 and tries to truly create monumental history of his own. The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand has even reported there were talks between YES, MLB, and Apple to bring Michael Kay into Apple’s broadcast to call the game, allow YES Network to air its own production of the game, or allow YES Network to simulcast Apple TV+’s broadcast. In my opinion, all of this hysteria is extremely bogus.
As annoying as streaming sports is and as much as I haven’t fully adapted to the habit yet, Amazon and Apple have done a magnificent job of trying to make the process as easy and simplified as possible. Amazon brought in NBC to help with production of TNF and if you watch the flow of the broadcast, the graphics of the broadcast, NBC personalities like Michael Smith, Al Michaels, and Terry McAuliffe make appearances on the telecast – it is very clear that the network’s imprint is all over the show.
NBC’s experience in conducting the broadcast has made the viewing experience much more seamless. Apple has also used MLB Network and its personalities for assistance in ensuring there’s no major difference between what you see on air vs. what you’re streaming.
Amazon and Apple have also decided to not hide their games behind a paywall. Since the beginning of the season, all of Apple’s games have been available free of charge. No subscription has ever been required. As long as you have an Apple device and can download Apple TV+, you can watch their MLB package this season.
Guess what? Friday’s game against the Red Sox is also available for free on your iPhone, your laptop, or your TV simply by downloading the AppleTV app. Amazon will also simulcast all Thursday Night Football games on Twitch for free. It may be a little harder or confusing to find the free options, but they are out there and they are legal and, once again, they are free.
Apple has invested $85 million into baseball, money that will go towards your team becoming better hypothetically. They’ve invested money towards creating a new kind of streaming experience. Why in the hell would they offer YES Network this game for free? There’s no better way for them to drive subscriptions to their product than by offering fans a chance at watching history on their platform.
A moment like this are the main reason Apple paid for rights in the first place. When Apple sees what the NFL has done for Amazon in just one week and coincidentally has the ability to broadcast one of the biggest moments in baseball history – it would be a terrible business decision to let viewers watch it outside of the Apple ecosystem and lose the ability to gain new fans.
It’s time for sports fans to grow up and face reality. Streaming is here to stay.
MLB Network is another option
If you don’t feel like going through the hassle of watching the Yankees take on the Red Sox for free on Apple TV+, MLB Network will also air all of Judge’s at bats live as they are happening. In case the moment doesn’t happen on Apple TV+ on Friday night, Judge’s next games will air in full on MLB Network (Saturday), ESPN (Sunday), MLB Network again (Monday), TBS (Tuesday) and MLB Network for a third time on Wednesday. All of MLB Network’s games will be simulcast of YES Network’s local New York broadcast. It wouldn’t shock me to see Fox pick up another game next Thursday if the pursuit still maintains national interest.
- One of the weirdest things about the experience of streaming sports is that you lose the desire to channel surf. Is that a good thing or bad thing? Brandon Ross of LightShed Ventures wonders if the difficulty that comes with going from app to app will help Amazon keep viewers on TNF the entire time no matter what the score of the game is. If it does, Amazon needs to work on developing programming to surround the games or start replaying the games, pre and post shows so that when you fall asleep and wake up you’re still on the same stream on Prime Video or so that coming to Prime Video for sports becomes just as much of a habit for fans as tuning in to ESPN is.
- CNN has announced the launch of a new morning show with Don Lemon, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlin Collins. Variety reports, “Two people familiar with plans for the show say it is likely to use big Warner Bros. properties — a visit from the cast of HBO’s Succession or sports analysis from TNT’s NBA crew — to lure eyeballs.” It’ll be interesting to see if Turner Sports becomes a cornerstone of this broadcast. Will the NBA start doing schedule releases during the show? Will a big Taylor Rooks interview debut on this show before it appears on B/R? Will the Stanley Cup or Final Four MVP do an interview on CNN’s show the morning after winning the title? Does the show do remote broadcasts from Turner’s biggest sports events throughout the year?
- The Clippers are back on over the air television. They announced a deal with Nexstar to broadcast games on KTLA and other Nexstar owned affiliates in California. The team hasn’t reached a deal to air games on Bally Sports SoCal or Bally Sports Plus for the upcoming season. Could the Clippers pursue a solo route and start their own OTT service in time for the season? Are they talking to Apple, Amazon, or ESPN about a local streaming deal? Is Spectrum a possible destination? I think these are all possibilities but its likely that the Clippers end up back on Bally Sports since its the status quo. I just find it interesting that it has taken so long to solidify an agreement and that it wasn’t announced in conjunction with the KTLA deal. The Clippers are finally healthy this season, moving into a new arena soon, have the technology via Second Spectrum to produce immersive game casts. Maybe something is brewing?
- ESPN’s Monday Night Football double box was a great concept. The execution sucked. Kudos to ESPN for adjusting on the fly once complaints began to lodge across social media. I think the double box works as a separate feed. ESPN2 should’ve been the home to the double box. SVP and Stanford Steve could’ve held a watch party from ESPN’s DC studio with special guests. The double box watch party on ESPN2 could’ve been interrupted whenever SVP was giving an update on games for ESPN and ABC. It would give ESPN2 a bit of a behind the scenes look at how the magic happens similarly to what MLB Tonight did last week. Credit to ESPN and the NFL for experimenting and continuing to try and give fans unique experiences.
Jessie Karangu is a columnist for BSM and graduate of the University of Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland but comes from Kenyan roots. Jessie has had a passion for sports media and the world of television since he was a child. His career has included stints with USA Today, Tegna, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Sightline Media. He can be found on Twitter @JMKTVShow.
ESPN Shows Foresight With Monday Night Football Doubleheader Timing
ESPN is obviously testing something, and it’s worth poking around at why the network wouldn’t follow the schedule it has used for the last 16 years, scheduling kickoffs at 7 and then 10 on their primary channel.
The Monday Night Football doubleheader was a little bit different this time around for ESPN.
First, it came in Week 2 instead of Week 1. And then, the games were staggered 75 minutes apart on two different channels, the Titans and Bills beginning on ESPN at 7:15 PM ET and the Vikings at the Eagles starting at 8:30 PM on ABC and ESPN+. This was a departure from the usual schedule in which the games kicked off at 7:00 PM ET and then 10:00 PM ET with the latter game on the West Coast.
ESPN is obviously testing something, and it’s worth poking around at why the network wouldn’t follow the schedule it has used for the last 16 years, scheduling kickoffs at 7:00 PM and then 10:00 PM ET on their primary channel. That’s the typical approach, right? The NFL is the most valuable offering in all of sports and ESPN would have at least six consecutive hours of live programming without any other game to switch to.
Instead, they staggered the starts so the second game kicked off just before the first game reached halftime. They placed the games on two different channels, which risked cannibalizing their audience. Why? Well, it’s the same reason that ESPN was so excited about the last year’s Manningcast that it’s bringing it back for 10 weeks this season. ESPN is not just recognizing the reality of how their customers behave, but they’re embracing it.
Instead of hoping with everything they have that the customer stays in one place for the duration of the game, they’re recognizing the reality that they will leave and providing another product within their portfolio to be a destination when they do.
It’s the kind of experiment everyone in broadcasting should be investigating because, for all the talk about meeting the customer where they are, we still tend to be a little bit stubborn about adapting to what they do.
Customers have more choices than ever when it comes to media consumption. First, cable networks softened the distribution advantages of broadcast networks, and now digital offerings have eroded the distribution advantages of cable networks. It’s not quite a free-for-all, but the battle for viewership is more intense, more wide open than ever because that viewer has so many options of not just when and where but how they will consume media.
Programmers have a choice in how to react to this. On the one hand, they can hold on tighter to the existing model and try to squeeze as much out of it as they can. If ESPN was thinking this way it would stack those two Monday night games one after the other just like it always has and hope like hell for a couple of close games to juice the ratings. Why would you make it impossible for your customer to watch both of these products you’ve paid so much to televise?
I’ve heard radio programmers and hosts recite take this same approach for more than 10 years now when it comes to making shows available on-demand. Why would you give your customers the option of consuming the product in a way that’s not as remunerative or in a way that is not measured?
That thinking is outdated and it is dangerous from an economic perspective because it means you’re trying to make the customer behave in your best interest by restricting their choices. And maybe that will work. Maybe they like that program enough that they’ll consume it in the way you’d prefer or maybe they decide that’s inconvenient or annoying or they decide to try something else and now this customer who would have listened to your product in an on-demand format is choosing to listen to someone else’s product entirely.
After all, you’re the only one that is restricting that customer’s choices because you’re the only one with a desire to keep your customer where he is. Everyone else is more than happy to give your customer something else.
There’s a danger in holding on too tightly to the existing model because the tighter you squeeze, the more customers will slip through your fingers, and if you need a physical demonstration to complete this metaphor go grab a handful of sand and squeeze it hard.
Your business model is only as good as its ability to predict the behavior of your customers, and as soon as it stops doing that, you need to adjust that business model. Don’t just recognize the reality that customers today will exercise the freedom that all these media choices provide, embrace it.
Offer more products. Experiment with more ways to deliver those products. The more you attempt to dictate the terms of your customer’s engagement with your product, the more customers you’ll lose, and by accepting this you’ll open yourself to the reality that if your customer is going to leave your main offering, it’s better to have them hopping to another one of your products as opposed to leaving your network entirely.
Think in terms of depth of engagement, and breadth of experience. That’s clearly what ESPN is doing because conventional thinking would see the Manningcast as a program that competes with the main Monday Night Football broadcast, that cannibalizes it. ESPN sees it as a complimentary experience. An addition to the main broadcast, but it also has the benefit that if the customer feels compelled to jump away from the main broadcast – for whatever reason – it has another ESPN offering that they may land on.
I’ll be watching to see what ESPN decides going forward. The network will have three Monday Night Football doubleheaders beginning next year, and the game times have not been set. Will they line them up back-to-back as they had up until this year? If they do it will be a vote of confidence that its traditional programming approach that evening is still viable. But if they overlap those games going forward, it’s another sign that less is not more when it comes to giving your customers a choice in products.
Danny O’Neil is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously hosted morning and afternoon drive for 710 ESPN Seattle, and served as a reporter for the Seattle Times. He can be reached on Twitter @DannyOneil or by email at Danny@DannyOneil.com.
Media Noise: Sunday Ticket Has Problems, Marcellus Wiley Does Not
On this episode of Media Noise, Demetri is joined by Brian Noe to talk about the wild year FS1’s Marcellus Wiley has had and by Garrett Searight to discuss the tumultuous present and bright future of NFL Sunday Ticket.
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.