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Finding Your Voice Can Be A Team Effort

“A programmer needs to empower both hosts and producers to express themselves in ways that benefit the show.”

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If you’re a pro in this business, you are not scared or nervous when that mic goes on. If you’re a pro, you don’t waste time worrying if listeners like you. You’ve got the job right? That means enough people like you for a company to turn a federally regulated air signal over to you for hours at a time.

I was having lunch with a friend in the industry over the weekend and talk inevitably turned to work. We talked about young broadcasters we liked and where we thought they were in their careers and where we thought they still may be able to grow and evolve to prepare themselves for the next step.

My buddy told me that one thing he can tell in both listening to and working with young broadcasters is when they haven’t figured out who they are on air yet. He says when you’re working with someone raw that hasn’t figured that out yet, it can be easy to spot because they are nervous about touching sensitive topics. And those can be anything from something dealing with questions of sports’ place in politics and society to a local coach or owner making a decision that warrants real criticism.

I thought about that observation as I drove home. What kind of coaching and encouragement is needed to help a guy find his on air identity and get him speaking from a place of confidence?

Another good example of a host not knowing or trusting his voice is his show prep is heavy on research and light on reasons to pay attention. Take for instance Kyrie Irvin’s comments last week that Kobe Bryant should replace Jerry West in the NBA logo. We’re going to do a thought exercise.

Host A is going to lay out Kobe and West’s career stats and achievements side by side. He isn’t going to tell you how to feel. He is just going to state the facts and let the phones and text line react.

Host B doesn’t care what the facts say. He believes that the NBA is a league with a younger, blacker core demo. It is the pro sport amongst America’s big 4 that has evolved the most over the last 50 years. The current logo features a guy that didn’t even play the same sport these guys do now. Even if it’s not Kobe, that is argument enough that the logo should change to honor a player people under 60 at least can picture in their minds!

Petition to make Kobe Bryant the new NBA Logo | KLFY

Which conversation are you more apt to stick with? Trust me, it is host B. Even if you think he’s nuts, he’s giving you a reason to react and care.

Every programmer has their favorite exercise. It can be Steve Reynolds’s Wheel of Content or Bruce Gilbert’s Topic Tree. Helping an up and coming broadcaster find his or her unique voice begins with forcing them outside of the comfort zone of going with the first idea. Then when they find the right, most interesting angle, you show them ways to get that second or third segment out of the topic by finding other good angles to build off the previous one.

Finding your voice as a broadcaster can sometimes mean first finding out you have your own voice. Now, it is so easy to find your role model in the business and say “I want to be the next ___”. If you think you are smart, you fill that blank by saying Cowherd’s name. If you want to burn the system down and make your own rules as you go, you fill that blank with Le Batard’s name.

For young broadcasters without much experience, it can be so easy to get caught up in trying to sound “the right way” that they lose sight of trying to do things their own way. Programmers and producers can make sure the ship is ready to leave on time and has a destination set. The host of the show is the captain though, and sometimes you just have to tell him to trust that the ship is stronger than the icebergs.

Great support is important for growth in any career in any industry. A programmer needs to empower both hosts and producers to express themselves in ways that benefit the show. That doesn’t mean that there can’t be boundaries or rules. It means your coaching should always start from a place of “I hired you because I know you can do this.” Remind them that if you wanted a national host in this spot, you would be running a national show.

There are plenty of times we put guys in a position to lead a show before they are a finished product. It can be in a smaller market or a less prime day part. When you’re a programmer with an on air opening, in certain situations putting faith in potential and promise can pay off.

It’s just like in sports. When a hot prospect gets called up from Triple-A, the only way to get used to facing Major League pitching is to rack up the ABs. But just like Dave Roberts or Kevin Cash, you have to accept that improvement takes guidance.

Roberts guides Dodgers to 1st World Series title in 32 years | Taiwan News  | 2020/10/28

These guys and gals are absolutely capable of finding their own voice. That requires love though. Sometimes it requires tough love or more hand-holding than you’d hope, but if you’re attracted to a talent because of his or her potential, you have to be willing to invest in that potential and massage it into a real identity.

BSM Writers

Does Tom Brady’s Salary Make Sense For FOX In a Changing Media World?

“The risk here doesn’t have to do with Brady specifically, but rather the business of televising football games in general.”

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FOX is playing it too safe when it comes to adding Tom Brady.

That’s going to sound weird given the size of Brady’s broadcasting contract. Even if that deal isn’t worth as much as initially reported, it’s a hell of a lot of loot, especially considering Brady has remained steadfastly uninteresting for a solid 20 years now.

Let’s not pretend that is a detriment in the eyes of a television network, however. There’s a long line of famous athletes companies like FOX have happily paid millions without ever requiring them to be much more than consistently inoffensive and occasionally insightful. Yes, Brady is getting more money than those previous guys, but he’s also the most successful quarterback in NFL history.

The risk here doesn’t have to do with Brady specifically, but rather the business of televising football games in general. More specifically, the fact that the business of televising football games is changing, and while it may not be changing quite as rapidly as the rest of the sports-media industry, but it is changing. There’s an increasing number of choices available to viewers not only in the games that can be watched, but how they are consumed. Everything in the industry points to an increasingly fragmented audience and yet by signing Brady to be in the broadcast booth once he retires, FOX is paying a premium for a single component in a tried-and-true broadcasting formula will be more successful. 

Think of Brady’s hiring as a bet FOX made. A 10-year commitment in which it is doubling down on the status quo at a time of obvious change. FOX saw ESPN introduce the ManningCast last year, and instead of seeing the potential for a network to build different types of products, FOX decided, “Nah, we don’t want to do anything different or new.” Don’t let the price tag fool you. FOX went out and bought a really famous former player to put in a traditional broadcast booth to hope that the center holds..

Maybe it will. Maybe Brady is that interesting or he’s that famous and his presence is powerful enough to defy the trends within the industry. I’m not naive enough to think that value depends on the quality of someone’s content. The memoir of a former U.S. president will fetch a multi-million-dollar advance not because of the literary quality, but because of the size of the potential audience. It’s the same rationale behind FOX’s addition of Brady.

But don’t mistake an expensive addition from an innovative one. The ManningCast was an actual innovation. A totally different way of televising a football game, and while not everyone liked it, some people absolutely loved it. It’s not going to replace the regular Monday Night Football format, but it wasn’t supposed to. It’s an alternative or more likely a complement and ESPN was sufficiently encouraged to extend the ManningCast through 2024. It’s a different product. Another option it is offering its customers. You can choose to watch to the traditional broadcast format with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman in the booth or you can watch the Mannings or you can toggle between both. What’s FOX’s option for those audience members who prefer something like the ManningCast to the traditional broadcast?

It’s not just ESPN, either. Amazon offered viewers a choice of broadcasters, too, from a female announcing tandem of Hannah Storm and Andrea Kramer beginning in 2018 to the Scouts Feed with Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks in 2020.

So now, not only do viewers have an increasingly wide array of choices on which NFL games they can watch — thanks to Sunday Ticket — they in some instances have a choice of the announcing crew for that given game. Amid this economic environment, FOX not only decided that it was best to invest in a single product, but it decided to make that investment in a guy who had never done this particular job before nor shown much in the way of an aptitude for it.

Again, maybe Brady is the guy to pull it off. He’s certainly famous enough. His seven Super Bowl victories are unmatched and span two franchises, and while he’s denied most attempts to be anything approaching interesting in public over the past 20 years, perhaps that is changing. His increasingly amusing Twitter posts over the past 2 years could be a hint of the humor he’s going to bring to the broadcast booth. That Tampa Tom is his true personality, which remained under a gag order from the Sith Lord Bill Belichick, and now Brady will suddenly become football’s equivalent of Charles Barkley.

But that’s a hell of a needle to thread for anyone, even someone as famous as Brady, and it’s a really high bar for someone with no broadcasting experience. The upside for FOX is that its traditional approach holds. The downside, however, is that it is not only spending more money on a product with a declining market, but it is ignoring obvious trends within the industry as it does so.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 73

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What do you think we are going to talk about today? Of course, it is going to be Tom Brady’s deal with FOX! Demetri breaks that down with Brady Farkas. Brian Noe pops by to talk about the NFL’s schedule release strategy, and Demetri weighs in on Bally Sports+.

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BSM Writers

Alec Drake Is A Yield Management Artist

“When you have a deep menu of choices to provide solutions for a client, you must pick carefully and not throw too much into a proposal.”

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Knowing what to sell, how much to charge and how to package it all are common problems in selling sports radio. Packaging Play-by-play, am or pm drive, digital, promotions, video, and merchandise are part of the art of the deal. Fortunately, Alec Drake is a revenue and yield management artist. 

Alec most recently served as the Director of Sales for Cumulus Dallas (including The Ticket) from 2009-to 2021. He now works as a consultant and produces content for the radio sales industry. Alec can help support any sales organization with revenue and yield management, revenue generation strategies, and improving sales performance. You can read his published articles in Radio Ink and get more details on him at www.alecdrake.com. He offers BSM some great advice below. 

Jeff Caves: Help us understand revenue and yield management? What are some case examples relevant to Sports radio? 

Alec Drake: Yield management focuses on getting the most revenue from your inventory, and revenue management looks at all the components in sales that generate revenue and how to maximize dollars. Let’s think about PXP, where you can have in-game inventory, shoulder programming, and merchandise elements. 

Depending on your agreement with the franchise, there are usually some pre-game, in-game, and post-game slots your team can sell. While you could sell this inventory as a stand-alone opportunity, it also can be bundled into a comprehensive season-long sponsorship that includes all assets available. 

Yield Management – Stand-Alone – A game day plan that provides billboards on specific game days for the client and 1 or 2 ads to run in-game. This inventory is priced higher based on the flexibility offered to the client in picking game days and the shorter-term commitment. 

Revenue Management – Season Sponsorship – This six-month program would require a much more significant dollar commitment and, at the same time, offer lots of value for the client. Elements in this sponsorship can include Pre/Post and In-Game ads, sponsorship of the “Coach’s or Players Show” each week, a bank of advertisements that would run in other dayparts (such as pm drive and weekends), and merchandise in the form of game tickets for the season.  

JC: What are your thoughts on giving annual discounts, raising rates, and bonus spots?

AD: Annual discounts can be productive if the terms and conditions attached to the agreement are favorable for both the client and the stations. Raising rates should always be a goal as expenses go up each year for stations, and revenues must go up too. How and where you raise rates is the key to keeping balance for market demand and what the station can deliver in results and solutions. Bonus spots are too much of a crutch in radio, and while used as goodwill during the pandemic, they must now be dramatically reduced or phased out. Strong brands and sales teams will be able to transition away from the bonus approach; weak players will find it challenging in a competitive marketplace.

JC: If you are a station consistently #2 in the format in a market, should you consider category exclusives?

AD: Giving an exclusive is a negative strategy and gives too much power to one client. They typically will not get you the value in dollars to replace what a strong sales effort could deliver for the category in the market, and it’s a sign of weakness in sales management. 

JC: To get them through the summer before Football, what are a few go-to sales strategies you had for stations? 

AD: The Ticket was brilliant in creating an annual promotion in June called “Summer Bash.” Broadcasting live on-site from about 12-7 pm at a venue with food, beverages, and entertainment creates an opportunity to bring in a variety of event sponsors and booth vendors and interface with listeners, a winning combination. The station would often find a location next to a lake or a multi-purpose footprint with a large swimming pool. One of the most original events for The Ticket was “Fight Night,” typically in August each year. These two events always lifted the summer billing, and combined with Football’s training camp period, they all built sales momentum into the fall.   

JC: What is one piece of advice any sports seller could use to improve their sales?

AD: When you have a deep menu of choices to provide solutions for a client, you must pick carefully and not throw too much into a proposal. Understand the natural passion a client may have for one element over another and look to match that with practical advertising programs that will deliver results. Avoid selling a client something they want to buy that will not work for their business goals. Remember, you are the media consultant.    

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