11 months ago, 710 ESPN Seattle launched a new morning show with Danny O’Neil and Paul Gallant. It was a unique situation considering the preceding hosts are popular, successful, and remain with the station, but navigating a global pandemic, unrest in the city, and four months of cancelled sports surely forced the new duo to find their own style and connect with the audience quickly.
When I tuned into Danny and Gallant at the start of the month, the show had a familiar sound. The similarities between 710’s current morning show and its previous one, hosted by Mike Salk and Brock Huard, are plenty. Among those, were some recurring segments over shabby music beds.
This is becoming a common trend in my sports radio listening outside New York and I really want to see evidence of a desire for segments to be done over music beds sounding like a ‘90s video game. At times, I lose the hosts’ theme and have recalls of Charles Barkley Shut Up And Jam, an underrated classic by Sega Genesis.
O’Neil plays point guard for the duo, seamlessly driving the show in and out of topics. Both hosts are willing to laugh at themselves through plenty of lighthearted fun. Gallant will toss in a unique voice every now and then, O’Neil chuckles with the audience at his jokes and self-belittled ability to handle the power that comes with having a flashlight.
There’s little ego on the show, not to be confused with lack of opinion, because both O’Neil and Gallant are willing to make theirs known. Gallant a little more loudly, with enough passion and energy to keep you awake at 7am. I’m going to estimate a near 20-year age gap between the younger Gallant and veteran O’Neil, a generational difference which is good for referencing unique life experiences.
Strong opens were a frequent occurrence during my month of listening to Danny and Gallant. There was no need to exchange pleasantries or discuss how to start the show after they’re already on-air – they jumped right into content. If there was an obvious open, they took it, but they also demonstrated an ability to find topics of substance, even if it meant grabbing audio from outside personalities such as Emmanuel Acho, or my personal favorite Boomer Esiason.
When O’Neil and Gallant set the opening segment from early August by discussing perceptions of New York, my mind quickly raced as I scrambled to build a case for defending my city. But then the Seattle radio hosts offered sound from WFAN’s Esiason, which I somehow missed the week prior and admittedly cringed as I heard him attempt to play the role of psychologist and diagnose Jamal Adams.
Danny and Gallant responded with passion and some outrage as they called out Esiason’s ignorance in what was a fantastic segment of radio to listen to. Specific details of Esiason’s content aside, the framework of the conversation by Danny and Gallant featured examples, emotion and relatable scenarios for the audience.
The hosts will offer creative segments such as “laying a discussion to rest,” as they end talk of Jadeveon Clowney’s potential return to the Seahawks, doing so with the help of Billy Crystal’s “mostly dead” line from Princess Bride. Or Gallant’s created discussion of “popular excuses” that were made for the Seahawks in the last year, a topic built well for someone who can offer an unbiased opinion as a newcomer to the market.
But the show is also very regimented, which can lead to minimal spontaneity. I touted their opens, but on the days I listened, those never lasted more than 10 minutes. If a show has a strong opening thought or conversation, I don’t want to stare at the clock knowing I only have 10 minutes before it’s over.
At 7:10 they’re jumping from what might be a great discussion, into “What to Watch For,” followed by an interview with John Clayton. What if the initial conversation is just getting started? Now it’s buried for a minimum of two more segments. I enjoy discussions and topics that build. The best opinions might take time to develop and formulate, but over regimenting the show negates some of that development.
I’ll give a ton of credit to the station’s sales team though, “What to Watch For”, “Blue 42”, “Around the NFL”, John Clayton’s interview, and “Flag On The Play” are daily segments with sponsors. If that’s going to allow for more content and less in-show commercials, then I’m on board.
Danny and Gallant also prove there’s an art to agreeing. Too often with co-hosts, one personality feels the need to take a countering view even if it isn’t genuine. The desire for forced debate was thankfully missing from Danny and Gallant, who demonstrated an ability to agree on a topic, but still formulate interesting conversation around it.
The idea of Antonio Brown being a potential fit with the Seahawks needs to be discussed by a Seattle sports radio show. If it’s brought up in the pre-show meeting and both hosts agree “we don’t think he makes sense with the Seahawks,” there should be no obligation of turning it into a forced debate. Instead, the show plucked audio of Emmanuel Acho’s assertion that the Seahawks owe it to Russell Wilson to add the polarizing wide receiver. Danny and Gallant used the audio to jumpstart an interesting rebuttal, and further localize Acho’s comments by comparing false misconceptions that surround the Seahawks to misconceptions that define their city.
On the East Coast, the sports scene is quiet before 10am, but West Coast morning shows receive new content to discuss. The middle of O’Neil and Gallant’s morning show is noon on the East Coast, fresh stories have already developed and breaking news is always a possibility.
Having the general manager of a local team break that news isn’t common, but it happened this past month on Danny and Gallant. With Seattle Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto on the show, the hosts asked about a trade that was being reported on social media. Instead of declining comment, he surprisingly confirmed the transaction. It’s a small note, but Dipoto’s willingness to be transparent about the trade depicts the trust and positive relationship he has with 710 ESPN Seattle and their morning show.
Additionally, there was little focus on the NBA’s plan to resume the postseason, which was announced during their show and was one of the biggest national sports stories of the month. But maybe that would have been different if Seattle didn’t have the Supersonics sadly ripped away from them more than a decade ago.
To close this story, I’d like to compliment the way Danny and Gallant close their show. The “Flag On The Play” segment offers an opportunity to reflect, project and rant. The show lacks many communal contributions in terms of calls, texts or tweets, but this segment guaranteed the inclusion of multiple voices with Lydia Cruz and producer Jessamyn McIntyre. In the spirit of the show, I’ll raise a flag to their sendoff of Cruz from Aug. 21. After Cruz’s seemingly unexpected departure, the farewell from O’Neil, Gallant, McIntyre and others at ESPN Seattle was very classy.
Almost one year in the books for Danny and Gallant, and it sounds like they’re off to a good start.
Media Noise – Episode 44
This week’s episode is all about the NFL. Demetri explains why the league embracing kids is long overdue, Andy Masur stops by to breakdown the first Manningcast, and Ryan Maguire explains why some sports radio stations are missing a golden opportunity to shine on Sundays.
Interviews Thrive On Podcasts In A Way They Can’t On Radio
“Opportunities that a podcast creates open doors to audio that is simply superior to live radio.”
Live radio vs. podcasts seems to be a heavyweight fight that isn’t ending anytime soon. Podcasts are growing so much that companies that do radio are also now offering podcasts. This column is hardly about that fight.
Instead, this is about how a podcast interview is a better way to get the best out of the guest than anything live on a radio station. This is not about downloads or clicks or sponsors. Solely about the content that is being produced.
A podcast makes the guest more comfortable and is more intimate than a live radio show. Especially in sports.
Since 2015, I have hosted and produced 656 podcasts (yes it was fun to count them) and hosted many radio shows. My current shows are called Sports with Friends, Hall of Justice, and Techstream. That last one I host with tech expert Shelly Palmer.
On radio, there is a myriad of things the host has to do besides focus on the guest.
First, there are the IDs. Program directors have always told me ID the guest every chance I get. “We are talking with Eli Manning on WFAN,” is heard 7 times during an eight-minute segment.
On a podcast, the name of the guest is on the player or app that is playing the podcast. “Episode 1. Eli Manning, New York Giants” scrolls across smartphones, car radios, or other devices constantly. Never interrupt the guest with an ID.
Then, there’s the fact that it is recorded and not live. I have a standard preamble that I say to any guest before any record light turns on.
“I will push,” I explain. “I will see where the conversation takes us, but I do tend to push. However, I’m on your side. This isn’t some expose’. If something comes up that you don’t like your answer, tell me. I’ll take it out. If there’s something that I say that is bad or wrong, tell me, I’ll take it out. This is a conversation, not an interview.”
In 656 podcasts, only one player, Bryce Harper (then of the Washington Nationals) asked me to take something out of a podcast.
We were doing Episode 54 of Sports with Friends when the subject of Dusty Baker came up. He had just been hired to manage the Nationals. I mentioned in passing that Dusty had given the eulogy at my best friend Darryl Hamilton’s funeral.
Bryce was so intrigued that he recalled the comments I had made and asked if we could pause. We then spoke for a good 10 minutes about the kind of person Dusty was. Why Darryl held him in such regard. It was a really inciteful chat. Never was on the podcast.
Still, guests do relax when told that the editing option exists. They let their guard down. The host of a podcast can ask deeper questions.
“Who was the first person you called when you found out you were traded?”
“Have you seen a life for you after football?”
“How much do you hate a certain player?”
All questions, that if asked live, could seriously backfire. So not only does the guest have a guard up, but the interviewer also has to play it relatively safe, when they are not IDing the guest for the umpteenth time.
Time constraints also don’t exist in a podcast where they are beholden on live radio. The guest is just about to tell you they did cocaine during the World Series, and you are up against the clock.
I have hosted shows over the years where the guest was phenomenal, but I screwed up the PPM clock. That was the takeaway. The clock is important on a live medium that needs to get that quarter-hour.
I try to keep my podcasts short. You wouldn’t see it from looking at the lengths of my episodes. Still, I feel that if someone wants to talk and dive into a topic and it goes a little long, I will never cut the guy off.
Ken Griffey Jr. spoke for 45 minutes with a cigar and his feet up on the phone by his pool. He was telling jokes and stories. I wouldn’t have stopped that if a train was coming. When I hosted Mariner content at KJR in Seattle, our interviews usually last 5 minutes.
Jon Morosi broke down the future of clubhouse access and how he traveled during Covid. Then he told an amazing story of his wife working in the medical field and how that impacted all of his family. Shannon Drayer of 710 KIRO got so in-depth in her arduous journey from being a coffee barista to the Mariners on-field reporter. It was split into two episodes.
Former porn star Lisa Ann talked about her decision to quit the business. Even Jason Barrett himself was Episode 173 of Sports with Friends.
(When in the past has Jason Barrett been in the same paragraph as a porn star? Note to Demetri: please leave it in.)
The radio industry is seen to be cutting costs wherever it can. Mid-market stations are not doing night shows anymore, instead offering nationally syndicated programming.
Weekends are another avenue that perplexes me. Talent that is not deemed good enough to be on during the week is often given weekend shifts. Also, some Monday-Friday hosts add a weekend shift to their duties. Here’s a theory: play podcasts. Format them to hit your PPM time marks.
They don’t have to be my podcasts, but in the crowded podcast space, surely there are sports talk podcasts that are intimate, deep, and fun. Since we live in a data-driven age, let’s see how a radio station fares playing high-quality podcasts or portions of them, vs. weekend hosts.
Program directors often worry about the outdated nature of a podcast. That sells the podcaster short. As someone who has been in the podcast space since 2003, I know how to make them timeless, and companies make shows often enough, that rarely would they be outdated.
Quality shines through the speakers. The spoken-word audio format is continually evolving. Opportunities that a podcast creates open doors to audio that is simply superior to live radio.
The podcast industry is continually evolving. Radio needs to evolve as well. Then, it can be a fair fight.
National Voices Can Work For Local Clients
“Distance, like absence, can make the heart grow fonder.”
Selling personalities is one of the hottest trends in media today. Sure, most of the buzz is around social media influencers, but radio has long had a relationship with its audience based on personal connections between host and listener. And nobody has a better relationship with their audience than a sports radio host.
I am sure you are leveraging your local hosts by now. Live spots, testimonials, remotes, and promotions are all great tricks of the trade, as well as sponsored social media posts. But does your station carry syndicated shows? I am sure you do either from 7 pm-12 am Monday-Friday or on weekends.
In 2018, The Ticket in Boise, Idaho brought CBS Sports Radio host Damon Amendolara and his co-host, Shaun Morash, to town for a Boise State football game. Damon had just switched to mornings from evenings, and his show aired in Boise from 4 am-8 am Monday – Friday. His ratings were decent, but nothing that stood out considering the daypart. It was thought to be risky to sell him into sandwich shops, pizza places, appearances at local legend hangouts, and so forth.
Boise State head football coach and QB Bryan Harsin and Brett Rypien did a live shot on the show from the on-campus bookstore. At dark thirty. It all worked. DA and Morash were hits! Everywhere they went, lines and crowds awaited them and they hit spots in a two-county area. The few days of appearances worked so well that DA is back in Boise three years later, this time for a week. Now, DA is doing his show from resort hotels 2.5 hours away, taking riverboat adventure fishing trips in Hell’s Canyon, craft beer tours for his sidekick Andrew Bogusch and hosting college football viewing parties at brewpubs. Every station that carries syndicated shows probably has a DA success story waiting to happen.
Start by listening to the shows, know the benchmarks and quirks of the national personalities or call the affiliate rep and ask. Does the talent discuss their love of beer, BBQ, pizza, whatever? If they do, then go ahead and sell them to a local client. The national talent can do the spot and endorse your client. If it’s a product, send one to them. Figure out how to get them a pizza. If it’s a service, do a zoom call with the client and let them start a relationship. Include some social media elements with video. The video can be used in social media and can sit on the client’s website. Yours too!
If you want to bring the talent to town, do it for a big game, local event, or 4th of July parade, and the sponsors will follow. Run a promo during the talent’s daypart asking local sponsors to text in to reserve their promotional spot. Have the talent cut liners asking the same thing. Take the NFL Sunday morning host and sell a promo to a sports bar where the host zooms in to a table or room full of listeners, and they watch a portion of a game together. Or sell the same idea to a national chain and do an on-air contest for a listener to have a home watch party with the zoomed-in host complete with food and beverages from your sponsors sent to both locations. How about sending your #1 BBQ joint that handles mail orders and sends some food for the talent? They can videotape themselves reheating the BBQ and make some great Facebook and Instagram videos.
Distance, like absence, can make the heart grow fonder. Try selling a nationally syndicated host inside your market. I promise you’ll like it.
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