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Suits Don’t Value Producers Like They Should

“The second a producer asks for a raise, no matter the amount of responsibility he or she holds for that certain show or shows, most of the time they are shot down or let go.”

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If you’ve ever wondered why some hosts don’t like taking calls from the audience, consider what the reality may be behind the glass. Great shows have great support staffs. If they aren’t taking calls, it may be because the hosts and producers have created something special and vibrant that doesn’t require old school audience participation.

What if that isn’t the case though? What if the host knows he needs another voice, but can’t take calls because he can’t trust the part time board op that runs his show to screen phone calls properly?

Producers add so much to a talk radio show. It isn’t absurd to wonder if they have a bigger influence on a show’s sound than the host does. Unfortunately, we learned this week that big corporations still are unable or unwilling to give producers the credit they deserve.

Adam Sager recently called it quits at iHeart in Houston, where he was the producer of The Sean Salisbury Show. Adam wanted a raise. His bosses said no despite Salisbury going to bat and explaining how important his producer was to the show’s overall success.That is how this industry loses great people.

BSM's Producer's Podcast – Adam Sager - SportsTalk 790 | Barrett Sports  Media

I asked Adam to write about what sports radio is getting wrong when it comes to producers. Read what he had to say and if you are in Chicago, reach out to have a chat with him. His is the kind of mind that can take a show to the next level.


The year 2020 has been devastating for a lot of businesses due to the pandemic and loss of revenue. It has caused companies to eliminate a lot of positions with mass layoffs and/or furloughing employees. The sports media business has not been spared in this.

Just this week we saw hundreds of hard working employees from ESPN lose their jobs due to a changing landscape in the sports media business. But there is one other thing that is going on especially in the sports radio landscape that I think is a massive mistake by the major companies around the country. 

I’ve been in sports radio really since I started interning at 670 The Score in Chicago during the fall of 2012 with Boers and Bernstein. Here’s where I began to learn the most important aspects of a great radio show. First and most obvious, is you must have a great solo host, duo or even a trio in some markets that have chemistry and a willingness to put ego aside. Another aspect of a great radio show is a variety of topics and different ways to attack said topic. The best shows find different angles to approach a subject and make it interesting to the listener. One aspect that can take a good show one day and make it a great show is a perfectly time guest that fits what’s being discussed that day. But the reason I’m writing this piece is what I consider the most overlooked part of a great radio show that has influence on each of the three aspects I mentioned above. That’s a great producer or producers on any given show. 

I moved down to Houston to begin my sports radio career on what was then Yahoo Sports Radio where I tried to bring what I learned from Chicago to a national level working with a variety of hosts. It’s not easy going from one host to the next when you’re working a long shift on the weekends or your weekday shift has multiple shows on it daily.

I’ve been very lucky in my time to work with some great, dedicated hosts that have helped me along the way get to where I am as a producer on and off the air. One in particular is Sean Salisbury, who I worked with starting about 5 years ago at Gow Media where I was a the executive producer for a national afternoon show and even did a simulcasted TV/radio show on BEIN network as well as what was then SB Nation Radio. Then when he left and went to iHeart to work on Houston’s Sports Talk 790, I eventually made my way over there to be his executive producer on the morning show because we had such a great working relationship on and off the air, that it was a no brainer. It’s what every great radio show has behind the scenes. 

I’ve talked to a lot of program directors, hosts and other producers around this business and they all tell me basically the same thing, great producers can take a good show and make it great with their skills, or they can take a great show and make it elite.

Look at what I consider the best sports radio show in the business, the Dan Patrick Show, Dan has his “Danettes” with Paul Pabst, Todd Fritz, Patrick “Seton” O’Connor and Andrew “McLovin” Perloff. Dan has four great producers that he’s surrounded himself with that he knows he can trust to get the job done in any situation on and off the air. It’s a dynamic that watch almost every day and I strive for with any host I work with. I felt like I was able to establish this with Sean in the almost 5 years of shows we did together. 

Dan gets Marconis for all the Danettes | DanPatrick.com

But there is one problem when it comes to this business for the producers. The high ranking executives in the big companies like ESPN, iHeart, Entercom, etc mostly feel like producers are replaceable at any moment. The second a producer asks for a raise, no matter the amount of responsibility he or she holds for that certain show or shows, most of the time they are shot down or let go. Producers just aren’t valued in this business like they should be and that is a shame.

I listened to Boers and Bernstein through my late teens and early 20’s which then I ended up interning for them, the obvious relationship that Dan Bernstein and Terry Boers had with Matt Abbatacola and Jason Goff was overwhelming coming through the speakers. That culminated in the middle of my internship when Goff got a chance to move to Atlanta to become a host full time. The emotions on his last day from all of them on that show and in the building showed me what a great producer can do for not only the hosts of that show, but the other producers, the other hosts on the station and the program director. 

I’m not saying that all executives think like this. But especially during the Coronavirus pandemic, great producers aren’t being valued and are moving on or are being let go when the companies should be fighting like hell to keep them because in a lot of cases, they can be a main cog that keeps a show moving forward. 

I know because I recently left The Sean Salisbury Show in Houston to move home due to executives that didn’t work in my building and probably had never even heard the show not valuing my place in the company because they didn’t know everything I did on a day in and day out basis. I’ve heard too many stories that sound exactly like this around the country especially if you work for a large company. It was a personal decision for my family and I to move back to Illinois to be closer to family, but I guarantee that if the company would’ve valued my place on that show, I would still be there. Working on that show was amazing because Sean Salisbury is one of the best hosts a producer could ever hope to work with. I know there are many other hosts that value what a great producer can bring to a show on and off the air as well.

This idea that producers can be replaced or just eliminated if there are multiple people working on the show was put to the test this past week with The Dan LeBatard show on ESPN Radio. A producer on the show, Chris Cote, was laid off during the latest round of ESPN cuts.

Dan, who knew nothing about his producer being let go was said “We were blindsided by him being let go. It’s the greatest disrespect of my professional career that I got no notice, no collaboration.” LeBatard goes on to say “We as a group are just something that somebody can lop off a head, it is just a number on the page, it is not anything human. Corporations don’t tend to be human, and if somebody had talked to me I would’ve pleaded on the idea of humanity.”

The move was widely criticized by fans of Dan LeBatard show and they voiced their displeasure on social media and ESPN support channels. Well, Dan decided to keep his team together by paying Chris’ full salary himself and even giving Chris a raise. This is an incredible gesture by Dan, but it’s also something that not all hosts can do nor is it something that they should have to even consider. This is exactly what I’m pointing out that the executives of these large companies need to realize about producers and behind the scenes people. Fans know who they are and they have a very big impact on the show they’re on. 

ESPN layoffs: Chris Cote out at Dan Le Batard Show

I just want to reiterate something to all hosts, program directors and especially the executives at these big companies, producers aren’t just board ops or people that answer phones, producers can make a great show elite. There are so many men and women out there that could have a great impact on your station or stations with everything they know how to do behind the scenes and a lot of them, like myself, have an extensive on air experience and can become another avenue to bring in advertising dollars in multiple ways. 

I aspire to become a full-time sports radio host in the near future and the one thing I want to find for my show is a producer who I can forge a relationship with exactly like I did with Sean Salisbury. First it becomes a great working relationship, and the ultimate goal is to have the best sports radio show in the country. In the end it, becomes a great friendship with a respect from both sides where everyone is heard. Then when I do find that person, I will do everything in my power to build them up and keep them around as long as I possibly can just like Sean did for me. 

I know the pandemic has set things back in the sports media world, but we can’t forget about the importance of the producers not only in sports radio, but in sports television. 

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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