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How Do Producers Make The Biggest Shows The Best?

“If your show sucks, if you turn in a bad show, or a show where the guys are just trying to get to the finish line, the audience will tell you that.”

Tyler McComas

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I’ve always felt John Stockton would have the characteristics to be a great producer in sports radio. He makes others around him better, he puts the stars in the best situation to succeed and he doesn’t demand the limelight. Doesn’t that sound like the producer of a successful radio show? The only thing I’m not sure of is if his short shorts would catch on.

Not a Passing Fancy - Sports Illustrated Vault | SI.com

There are so many John Stockton’s in this industry. People that don’t get the notoriety, attention or paycheck of the big names in radio, but without them, their absence would be massively felt.

Al Dukes, producer of Boomer and Gio on WFAN, is one of the many that serve as an intricate piece of his show’s success. But at the same time, working with two stars such as Gregg Giannotti and Boomer Esiason, that can mean the show almost writes itself on most days. So, even as the executive producer, where does Dukes find his space to program the show?

“We have a group text message with me, Boomer and Gio,” said Dukes. “It’s there if anyone ever wants to say something, tweet a story or anything like that. We do it a lot now, since we’re not all in the same spot and we don’t see each other face-to-face. Sometimes we’ll do some phone calls, but I’ve worked with Boomer now for 13 years and Gio for three, so we’re kind of already in sync with how we think the show is best run. It’s really been running pretty smoothly for a while, so we don’t do all that much altering of it.”

The Jerry Seinfeld-Al Dukes connection | Newsday

Beau Morgan, producer for Dukes and Bell on 92.9 The Game in Atlanta, is also on a two-man show that’s established as one of the best in Atlanta. The identity of a show can often dictate what a producer’s biggest role is. For Morgan it’s all about content.

“Content is king,” Morgan said. “When I first got in the business I was essentially a guest booker, because that’s the way it was where I was working. Producers book guests. I realized everything starts with content so I try to develop content. I wake up every morning and I put a show sheet together. I think about where we want to start the show and I have a conference call with Carl (Dukes) every morning at the same time.

“We go over how we want to start our show, where we want to go with the content, storylines, that kind of stuff. A secondary would definitely be that I don’t want to put guests above feedback. I think feedback is extremely important. But I’m always in those guys’ ear. Maybe it’s just a correction of, the stat was really this, or it was 2013 when this guy really did that.

“COVID-19 really changed how I produced. With less sports happening for a long time I booked more guests to help develop content. Carl and Mike can talk about the NFL Draft until they’re blue in the face but at some point you have to give the listener something different, so that’s where I use guests to break different angles. Then, there’s nothing wrong with creating content 2 to 3 days later from a soundbite that a guest said on your show. They all go hand-in-hand in someway. The longer I’ve been in the business, the more and more I believe that content is king.”

Content is king, but so are sales. Especially in a COVID world where just about every station in America has suffered some kind of cut. A producer needs to always be mindful of what sounds best on the air, but how also to make it profitbale. 

“My hands are involved in all aspects of the show,” said Greg Toohey, executive producer of The Herd on Fox Sports Radio. “Content, prep, sales, podcasts, guests, Jon Goulet and I are the bridge between Colin and the TV side to our iHeart/FSR Team. I work directly with our iHeart sales group ensuring we’re doing our part to keep the clients happy. I also enjoy collaborating with our talent booker on guests to decide who we want to go after each day and week.” 

Maybe you’re a producer like Morgan and believe content is king. Maybe your focus is more on scheduling high-profile guests. Regardless it’s all about how much you’re able to improve the show you’re on.

“I send a rundown by around 10:30 and from there we kind of fill in the gaps,” said Tyler Devitte, producer of Ordway, Merloni and Fauria on WEEI in Boston. “We basically know, from that run down, what the big stories of the day are, any potential guests, any local or national audio we want to use, I provide the framework. From there, they can insert any takes they want to have, any sound they heard, any stories they want to jump on. At our conference call at 11:15 that’s when we hash out those ideas. But a lot of it starts from that morning email.”

“Prep,” said Dustin Rhoades, executive producer at 670 The Score in Chicago. “Making sure we have all the right audio, stories and then twisting them into sports talk and making them relatable. Like, taking a national story and making it relatable to the local audience.”

Though the producer is normally the one making the host better, It can work both ways. Greg Toohey works with arguably the best host in America in Collin Cowherd. He’s a better executive producer because of the talent he works with.

Greg Toohey | FOX Sports Journalist | Muck Rack

“Colin’s unending quest to be the best of the best drives me and our staff to be our best and bring our “A” game each and every day.  His prep is second to none and I’ve always appreciated and respected the fact he’s willing to come in three hours before the show, sit down, discuss and debate ideas, to put the show together.  I’ve always known ‘your show is only as good as the prep and work you put into it,’ but, working on this show with Colin has taken that saying to another level. “

Pressure is a great motivator in many things, including sports radio. When producing in a large market, there’s a pressure to bring it every single show and fill segments with unique and fresh content. 

“Going from market No. 48 in Jacksonville, where I used to work, then being inserted into the pressure of working at WEEI, there’s a certain standard you want to live up to” said Devitte. “The audience in Boston, they demand a lot out of you and they’ll tell you when you suck. If your show sucks, if you turn in a bad show, or a show where the guys are just trying to get to the finish line, the audience will tell you that. They know if you’re mailing it in and they’ll tell you about it. A big part of my job is to present things to them that are fresh.”

Just like you should never take a legendary point guard for granted, a great producer should never be underappreciated. In many circumstances, nobody knows what’s best for the show, what the audience wants to hear, and how to handle ego, quite like the executive producer. 

Name a successful show and you’ll find a great producer that works their ass off behind the scenes to ensure the show is running at its maximum potential. One of the bigget keys to being the ultimate producer is knowing the strengths of the host and using them to enhance the show. 

Vector Illustration Of Radio Show Content Producer - Radio Producer  Illustration, HD Png Download , Transparent Png Image - PNGitem

It’s not always an easy job, frankly, it’s sometimes even thankless, but if you can get the most out of your hosts everyday, you’ll be the intrical piece of creative a show that’s special.

BSM Writers

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.

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WRONG BAD

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.

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BSM Writers

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.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

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.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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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.

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