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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.”

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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

Three Sports Marketing Trends You Need To Know

“Sports marketing is evolving at an extremely rapid pace and you’d best know where your competition lies or where opportunity exists.”

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#1 OTT’s RAPID EXPANSION  

Pay TV lost more than 5 million customers in 2020 and that trend is going to continue and the number is going to increase. With nearly 30% more Americans cutting the cord in 2021 and almost 87% of adults 18-24 preferring the OTT option, you’d better dive in and understand just how fast video consumption is changing; especially in sports. Platforms like ESPN+, Amazon, Peacock, Paramount+ and Facebook are diving head first into the sports rights market so that they can deliver LIVE sports where Americans are consuming video.  OTT provides that sniper riffle approach advertisers are looking for as they try to increase ROI and minimize waste. 

#2 AI … DATA-DATA-DATA

Without a doubt artificial intelligence is changing the way marketers are deciding how to go to market with their messaging and their products and/or services.  More data is available now than ever before and you’d better understand how your client is using it to help them make their buying decisions.  Most large advertisers are not only using one, but multiple vendors and are trying to obtain as much data as they possibly can so they can better recognize trends and understand their consumers behaviors and buying patterns

#3 eSports is BOOMING

Video games aren’t just for fun and entertainment at home anymore.  Gamers are now creating leagues, generating 6-figure endorsements and have multiple contests where they compete for HUGE cash and prizes.  Marketers are actively looking for ways to take advantage of this meteoric rise in popularity of eSports and that includes product placement, team sponsorships, individual gamer(s) sponsorships and tournament sponsorships.  If your station isn’t trying to create a sellable feature around eSports then you’re missing out on a huge and very sellable feature.  There are over 234 million eSports enthusiasts world wide and that number is only going to continue to climb. 

OTT, AI and eSports are rapidly changing the sports marketing landscape and these are trends that will only continue and grow over the next 5 years.  Digitalization of just about everything is changing how, where, when and on what kind of devices sports fans are consuming content.  Sports marketing is evolving at an extremely rapid pace and you’d best know where your competition lies or where opportunity exists. 

Be the expert in the room when meeting with agencies and/or clients, it will set you apart from the pack.  Understanding these rapidly evolving trends will help you have better and deeper dialog with your advertisers. 

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BSM Writers

What Should Radio Be Thinking About On Martin Luther King Day?

“Shouldn’t we be doing more than just waiting for resumes with “black-sounding names” on top of them to come across our desks?”

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Monday, January 17 is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. A lot of you will get the day off of work. Some of you will attend prayer services or civic events to honor the civil rights leader and his legacy.

Dr. King, like all humans, had his flaws but is undeniably a man worth celebrating. In a world where the divide between the powerful and the rest of us seems to be growing out of control, it is good to take a day to celebrate and think about a man that made a career out of speaking up for the little guy – whether that means black and brown people during the Civil Rights Era or it means workers in times of labor unrest.

Across the media landscape, we will see stations and networks running promos touting their “commitment to Dr. King’s dream!”. The sentiment is great, but I do wonder what it means to the people making those promos and the stations and networks airing them.

Look at the archives of this site. Think about the BSM Summits you have attended. How often have we been willing to shine a spotlight on the amount sports radio talks about embracing diversity versus actually putting plans into action? Jason has written and talked about it a lot. Every time, the message seems to circle back to him saying “I am giving you the data. You are telling me you recognize that this is a problem. Now do something about it.”

It’s something I found myself starting to think about a lot last year when Juneteenth became recognized as a federal holiday. Suddenly every brand was airing ads telling me how they have known how special this day is all along. And look, I hope that is true. It seems like if it was though, I would have been seeing those ads in plenty of Junes before 2021.

I am going to put my focus on the media because that is what we do here, but this can be said about a lot of companies. So many brands have done a great job of rolling out the yellow, black, red, and green promo package to acknowledge that it is Martin Luther King Jr Day or Black History Month or Juneteenth. I worry though that for so many, especially on the local level, that is where the acknowledgment ends.

That isn’t to say that those stations or brands actively do not want more minority representation inside their company. It just isn’t a subject for which they can say they have taken a lot of action.

Look, I am not here to debate the merits of affirmative action. I am saying in an industry like sports radio, where we thrive on fans being able to relate to the voices coming through their speakers, shouldn’t we be doing a better job of making sure minority personalities know that there is a place for them in this industry? Shouldn’t we be doing more than just waiting for resumes with “black-sounding names” on top of them to come across our desks?

WFAN went out and found Keith McPherson in the podcasting world to fill its opening at night after Steve Somers’s retirement. FOX Sports added RJ Young, who first made a name for himself on YouTube and writing books, to its college football coverage. 95.7 The Game found Daryle “Guru” Johnson in a contest. JR Jackson got on CBS Sports Radio’s radar thanks to his YouTube videos and when it came time for the network to find a late-night host, it plucked him from Atlanta’s V103, one of the best-known urban stations in America.

That’s two guys in major markets, another on national radio, and a third on national television. In all four cases, the companies that hired them didn’t just sit back and wait for a resume to come in.

Some of you will read this and dismiss me. After all, I am a fat, white Southern man. If I were a hacky comedian, I would say “the only four groups you are allowed to make fun of” and then yell “Gitterdone!”.

In reality, I point those things out because I know there is a large chunk of you that will call this whole column “white guilt” or “woke” or whatever your talking point is now.

Whether or not we are about the be a majority minority nation is up for debate, but here is a fact. America is getting darker. I look at the radio industry, one that is constantly worried about how it will be affected by new innovations in digital audio, and wonder how anyone can think doing things like we always have is going to work forever.

I’m not damning anyone or saying anybody should be losing their jobs. I don’t know most of you reading this well enough to make that judgment. What I am saying is that our industry has lived on the idea that this business is always changing and we have to be adaptable. I think it is time we do that, not just with the content we present on air, but in how we go about finding the right people to present it.

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BSM Writers

What’s The Bright Side Of a Losing Team?

“What are you supposed to do if the teams you rely on to buoy your product aren’t holding up their end of the bargain?”

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We’ve always said that winning is the great deodorizer in sports. Winning can take a dysfunctional locker room and make them functional, it can take an average coach and make him look great, and in our world it can make a bad product seem decent and a good product seem spectacular.

But what if the local teams you cover aren’t winning at all? What are you supposed to do if the teams you rely on to buoy your product aren’t holding up their end of the bargain? 

It’s such a weird position for a host or programmer to be in because sometimes the success of your radio station or your show is so dependent on things that you have no control over whatsoever. The difference between a good radio station and the bad ones are the ones that are able to make chicken salad out of chicken scratch and also those that are able to capitalize when teams are good.

Just look at the growth of 95.3 WDAE in Tampa or the strength of the Boston sports talk stations like WEEI or 98.5 The Sports Hub after Boston owned basically every major pro sport for a 5 to 10 year period. 

I’m the “Orlando Magic guy” on 96.9 The Game, the flagship of the Magic. We broadcast the games and I work on many of those broadcasts. I’m also the afternoon show host, so if you find your way to the arena that night and you want Magic talk, I guess I’m your guy. But as you can imagine, it is exceedingly difficult to pull good juicy topics out of a team that barely wins. There are so many markets that deal with this year after year.

Whether you’re in a multi-sports market that’s suffering like Detroit or a single pro sports town like Orlando or Sacremento, it can be incredibly frustrating. It wears on you because you know how different the landscape can be, particularly if you’ve experienced some level of success.

When I got into the sports talk radio scene in Orlando, the Magic were off the heels of an NBA Finals run and casual fans were everywhere in the city. Everywhere you looked someone was wearing a Magic shirt, the lady at the counter at your local grocery store wants to talk to you about point guard play, but when your team has less than 10 wins in January, casual fans have a convenient way of disappearing. 

Local radio thrives off the positive production of the teams in their market. But when your team isn’t any good and fans lose interest, people aren’t gobbling up tickets or hanging on your every word about the team, how are you supposed to survive that drought?

First things first: honesty. As hard as it can be, especially if you are partnered with these teams, you have to be straight up with your audience. You can’t sugarcoat what they’re seeing. That doesn’t mean you stoop down to the level of the most agitated fan, but you can’t act like all is good either. That approach has been covered many times on this site, but honesty and authenticity are important no matter the record of the teams you cover. 

As I look for the silver lining, here’s one that jumps out at me, ticket giveaways. There’s no shortage of available tickets when your teams aren’t winning and if there’s one thing I’ve learned about a radio audience, they love free stuff. I try and use this time as an opportunity to give away as much as I can, create memorable experiences for a dad and his kids that can’t typically afford to go to a game. They won’t care the team is bad, but they’ll remember that you provided that for them for years to come. 

It’s also a great time to extend the positive relationship you have with the team (or teams) that are struggling. Everyone wants to cover a winner, everyone wants to interview the star player who’s a shoo-in for an All-Star Game. If you show love when the team is down, you can create a bond that will help you maintain your good standing when that product heats up again.

Everything is cyclical and I don’t want to find myself in a position where I can be left out from all the cool opportunities and great guests because I stuck my nose up at the team while the chips were down. I’ll take an interview with the backup center, I’ll do the day-long media day dance, all of that is an effort to curry favor when things are trending up again. 

Then there’s draft talk! Lucky for us in the great U.S.A, our sports structure rewards bad teams with great picks. Fans might be down in the dumps during the season, but you can perk them right back up in the off-season when your team can provide something in the draft. It’s that magic four-letter word that keeps people on the edge of their seat: Hope. It’s the one thing winning teams don’t get to experience. 

More than anything, I just try and stay the course. I figure that when things do turn around, eventually, I will have built up the branding and credibility needed so my audience knows where to go when they suddenly find themselves interested again. Simply put, lay the groundwork while the team is bad, reap the rewards when things turnaround. 

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