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Adam Delevitt: There Is Life After Sports Radio

“There are times when you think as a PD that what is coming out of your speakers is the most important piece of content that’s out there, and what you sometimes forget is how small that bubble is that you’re in.”

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It is a little hard to believe Adam Delevitt isn’t with ESPN 1000 anymore. After more than 21 years with the station, he left the building in November 2019.

The Athletic, December 2019
The Athletic, December 2019

So what is he up to today? Delevitt just started a new position with Rush Street Interactive (RSI), which you probably know better as BetRivers. He serves as the Director of Broadcast and Streaming Media. It is the kind of role and company he knew he wanted even before he left ESPN 1000.

“When the Pro and Amateur Sports Protection Act was struck down by the Supreme Court in May of 2018, I knew that I wanted to be involved in this business,” Adam Delevitt told me via email. “I always tried to push sports betting content on air at ESPN1000, even to the chagrin of some hosts. It always ‘moved the needle’ in ratings and I always thought it was important for talent to know the lingo,  at the very least. This role will allow me to manage, create, and direct broadcast and streaming content for Rush Street Interactive. I also will be part of the marketing group, and fill needs where they appear when it relates to broadcast and streaming content. I’m thrilled to get to work with such an extremely talented group of people who all share the same vision on the bright future of the gaming industry, especially bright at RSI.”

I wanted to get his perspective on the broadcast industry and a number of things surrounding it, now that he is outside of the business and can still offer more than two decades of inside perspective. But this is an extra ordinarily busy time for Adam Delevitt. He just started this new chapter last month.

To accommodate the new reality and schedule, I emailed Adam a series of questions. Here

DEMETRI RAVANOS: What kind of audio content have you been consuming since exiting ESPN 1000?

ADAM DELEVITT: I love listening, always have and hopefully always will. I always have something to listen to and there is so much content out there. I’ve been consuming tons of sports betting content from so many great sources. General interest content, The Howard Stern Show, and I’ve been sampling lots of podcasts, from a variety of different industries. Also, I love listening to music and The Grateful Dead channel on Sirius is my go-to!

DR: How are you consuming it? Are you able to enjoy audio/radio as just entertainment, or is programmer’s brain hard to turn off?

AD: It’ll always be part of my routine, and yes, I enjoy it just as entertainment! Harder at first, but that came and went faster than expected! I am enjoying listening, but still take notes and do airchecks in my head but that’s where it ends.

DR: Now that you are outside the business, what advice would you give PDs about how their products fit into the audience’s world?

AD: I’d say don’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole. There are times when you think as a PD that what is coming out of your speakers is the most important piece of content that’s out there, and what you sometimes forget is how small that bubble is that you’re in. If PDs could step away from that everyday circus every now and again, it would be beneficial to them and their staff. Issues always seem so much larger than they really are behind those walls of a station.

PDs should try to take more listening days getting out of the station a day or two/month. Driving around and consuming content, like your everyday listeners, helps a lot.  It’s easy to get stuck in the office with the latest sales or marketing fire that you’ve been asked to deal with, but at the end of the day PDs are tasked with driving ratings and that should always stay top of mind. Shows and stations can only get better if feedback is provided in a timely manner. Also, it helps you adjust to your entire audience.

DR: How do you see the industry treating the PD role? Will we have more Mark Chernoff’s in the future or does it seem like the days of 20-25 year runs at a single station are over?

AD: Since I still have many friends who are still trying to be like Mitch Rosen or Mark Chernoff, I hope they all make it that long. What those two guys have done for NY and Chicago sports talk will have long lasting effects and is an amazing accomplishment. With media companies showing less patience than ever to produce, the industry could look like a mix of the old school and new school in the next few years.

Since I was fortunate to spend 21 years with ESPN Radio, I’m hoping the future of the industry still has room for long time station runs!

DR: How do you view the two Chicago stations’ lineups right now? We’ve seen a lot of change in the last 6-12 months.

AD: Some changes take time, but it looks like baseball will continue to give lifts to both stations.  Cubs obviously draw more attention than the Sox, and this coming from a die-hard White Sox fan. But it’s just the reality of it. I will say it is nice to see both teams playing on both sports stations currently.

I don’t listen as much as I thought I would, but I still like to hear what my former guys like Waddle, Silvy, Carmen, Jurko, and Kap have to say when it’s a big local sports news day.

DR: How much has your sports radio prepared you for this position with BetRivers? What is wildly different about the gig from programming?

AD: I think my overall time with ESPN prepared me tremendously for this type of role. My knowledge runs deep from the other side of media deals and can help assess value with current media partnerships as well as future strategic partnerships.  I also was part of the ESPN radio local push with our affiliates and making sure the network content and local O&O content all got funneled to the right people and in doing that, I was able to build many relationships around the country, and in the ESPN circle of networks.

The difference is with regular sports news cycle content, you really must serve many broad areas in terms of topics, especially when thinking local. Talking about sports betting and casino gaming comes easy to us because we know the audience here and we know how to serve them properly without veering into other areas of content. Being able to focus on this area and see all the growth potential is exciting and this company (RSI) has an amazing vision lead by President Richard Schwartz, COO Mattias Stetz, and Marketing Director, Terry Dugan!

DR: As sports betting spreads across states and the content becomes more widely available on broadcast platforms, what is the minimum knowledge that you feel programmers and talent need?

AD: The talent should at the very least know the lingo and ins and outs of sports betting. I believe the programmers need to know so much more, and even make it part of their daily routine. If their audience is thinking about it daily, why shouldn’t that station serve that up daily?

The United States of sports betting - Where all 50 states stand on  legalization
ESPN.com, April 2021

They also should familiarize themselves of their state’s gambling and sports betting laws. They need to be experts because they will get questions internally from everyone including salespeople to show producers, to listeners reaching out looking for advice, or help with a parlay. Programmers should make sure that they treat this market with smart, experienced staffs because this is the future and it’s here!

BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 54

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Demetri Ravanos welcome Jeremy Evans and Tyler McComas to the show this week. Topics include emergency programming, the streaming future of ESPN, and why the holidays is a good time to think about your upward mobility.

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BSM Writers

Breaking News Turned A Quiet Sunday Into The Busiest Week Of My Career

“We’ve set records at the station and listenership isn’t going down anytime soon. Plus, our social media following has boomed since Sunday morning.”

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It started off as a completely innocent Sunday, which, you married men know, meant an afternoon Target trip with my wife. Earlier in the day, I was texting with Demetri Ravanos about the grind of doing sports radio during football season. That also included talking about Oklahoma’s loss in Bedlam to Oklahoma State. OU’s loss the night before meant I wouldn’t be doing a pre or post-game show on conference championship weekend. Football season was essentially coming to a close for me. 

West Side Rag » Openings & Closings: Alexis Bittar, Target (Early Opening),  Bareburger, Cafe 71, Spear

And then it hit. First it was a text from Cody Stoots of ESPN 97.5 in Houston. I’m good friends with Cody and respect his knowledge of college football, so it surprised me when he texted, “Oh no. Bummer about Lincoln. Coaching searches are fun though!”

Wait, didn’t Cody hear Lincoln Riley adamantly say he wasn’t going to LSU just hours before? He’s a smart guy. What’s he talking about? 

I checked Twitter on a hunch. That’s when the madness officially started. I immediately knew it was true. We rushed out of Target. My crazy Sunday was just getting started. I cut an instant reaction video for my station’s Twitter page, where we have a sponsored segment called Sooners in 60. It’s a social media video that entails analysis and updates on everything OU. I uploaded it shortly after detailing my initial shock that Lincoln Riley was headed to USC. I couldn’t believe it. It was a complete shock to everyone. 

As I kept my eyes on Twitter, I realized a reaction video wasn’t enough. That’s when Josh Helmer and I decided to record a 15-minute podcast on the breaking news. So via cell phone and in the front seat of the car, I gave my thoughts on the shocking development. But just as quickly as it uploaded, we realized we needed to do more. Our listeners deserved that. 

Management at the station came together and realized we needed to get on the air. Granted, the postgame show the night before didn’t end until midnight, which meant Helmer and I would have to jump right back on the air, but this was too critical of a time to not be active. Especially since other stations in the market were rallying and getting people on the air. I had been looking forward to a calm Sunday, but I couldn’t be on the sidelines for this. Helmer didn’t want that either. We found a time that worked and decided we’d stay on the air until the bosses told us to stop.

At 5:30pm on Sunday evening, we hit the 94.7 The Ref and Sportstalk 1400 airwaves without a real plan. Sure, we’d take calls, but this was a show about natural reaction and how we felt in the moment. So as Helmer bumped us in with “California Love” we unleashed our anger towards Lincoln Riley’s decision. 

It’s an easy way to create compelling content in that moment. You’re playing to the audience and they’re deeply interested in the story. Helmer and I wanted to be real and genuine, which meant addressing the crazy rumors around Riley’s departure, and slamming him for some of the things that were starting to emerge. We were given total freedom by management, trusted to react as strongly as we saw fit. So we did. And so did a ton of callers and even other co-hosts at the station that hopped on. It was the most exciting 90 minutes of radio I’ve ever been a part of.

We looked up and it was 7:00. We couldn’t believe how quickly the time had gone by, but we had to shut it down, because the Cleveland Browns were playing the Baltimore Ravens on our airwaves in just 20 minutes. We’re the Oklahoma flagship for the Browns so honoring our commitment to our partners was important. That being said, we could have continued the show all night. The live, raw reaction was incredible.

We signed off and received a text from our owner, thanking us for hopping on with short notice. After giving up a Sunday to help with coverage, that simple message was greatly appreciated. The day of work was over, but we knew an incredible week was coming our way.  It was about to become a dream content scenario for talk show hosts in a crazed college football market.

Monday morning came with great news from management. The emergency show on Sunday night received the highest streaming numbers in station history. They were tracked from our app. The first real coaching search at OU since 1998 was starting to show its benefits. 

So, as a station, we did what everyone else would do. We decided to capitalize. Recently, our station launched a merch store that has t-shirts, beanies, hoodies, etc.. Each have our logo on it, as well as special items that center around show hosts and OU game results. In all of the madness, former OU head coach Bob Stoops stepped in as the interim head coach for the upcoming bowl game. He’s always been beloved by the fan base, but this was next level loyalty. And we decided to make a t-shirt about it.

‘Bob’s Got Our Back’ is what the t-shirt reads with a visor at the bottom. I created it via the Canva app in my car in the station parking lot before our Monday morning meetings. As you can imagine, they’ve sold very quickly. 

Monday’s day of radio was filled with anger towards Lincoln Riley, and excitement about who the next head coach will be. There was even a press conference that featured Stoops firing up the fans and ensuring everyone the program was going to be just fine. Sure, just two days before, an epic game between in-state schools broke out, but there was barely a mention of it. The bigger story had overtaken the actual game. It seemed like everyone in the state was listening to sports talk radio on Monday. I can’t speak for the other two stations in the market, but our listenership was so high, we maxed out the number of online listeners we could have via our app. We scrambled to find a way to expand the number of people that could listen to our stream at the same time. Thank God we did. 

The past few days have been awesome. Sure, it’s meant endless time on the phone and exchanging texts with various people to try and chase the story, but any sports radio host during a coaching search should absolutely love the attention. We’ve set records at the station and listenership isn’t going down anytime soon. Plus, our social media following has boomed since Sunday morning.

The exciting part is that this story isn’t just a two-day fling. Anger towards Riley hasn’t stopped, nor will it, anytime soon, and the search for the next head coach has brought an incredible amount of interest. Madness happened on Sunday afternoon and it won’t stop until a new head coach is hired.

Lincoln Riley Named New USC Football Head Coach - USC Athletics

Ok, now I have to go. I think Brent Venables or Matt Rhule is about to be named the next head coach at Oklahoma. And yes, we have a t-shirt ready to go if that happens. 

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BSM Writers

How Do You Break The Ice When A New Player Or Coach Comes To Town?

“How do you introduce yourself? What approach should you take? What’s the first thing you should do?”

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It’s a season of change in many sports these days. College football coaches are changing teams. The NFL will surely have some coaching vacancies of its own soon enough. Don’t forget it’s also free agency time in baseball.

Lincoln Riley's hiring a relief for those who cherish USC - Los Angeles  Times
Courtesy: LA Times

With all of that said, it’s also a crazy time for broadcasters. We need to start figuring out who the new players and coaches are and how to get to know these people as soon as we can. It’s as much about meeting the new folks as it is getting to know who they are in their jobs and as people. How do you go about this process? 

Working in the industry as long as I have, it’s almost a given that every few years, it’s out with the old and in with the new. When you work in Chicago it seems to happen more often than that. Sometimes, from a broadcast perspective, the change is good. Other times it can be a little more difficult to deal with. I’ve been witness to both. But what matters at the beginning is you need to do your best to understand the change and adapt to the new way things may be done. 

How do you introduce yourself? What approach should you take? What’s the first thing you should do? Well, it’s not that simple. Every case is quite different. Gathering information that will be useful to you is the best way to start the process. There are more than a few ways to accomplish this feat. 

One of the first steps I would take when working in baseball was to contact fellow broadcasters that may have interacted with the new player or manager. The team announcing crews usually have the best insight into the nuances and personality of the person you are wanting to meet. They will have knowledge of how that player or manager likes to be approached. Is the player routine-oriented? Does he/she like to get the media business out of the way first, or do they want to wait until they’ve prepped for the game? That is the kind of critical information to have to develop a healthy respect for one another. 

I also wanted to know from other broadcasters what their impressions of that player or coach were. Is this the kind of person you could joke around with or not? Was this a person that would open up to you, if they got to know and trust you? I would store this information in the back of my head, just so I was prepared. Even if a broadcaster told me to stay away from a particular guy, I would always try to find out for myself. I gave that new person the benefit of the doubt until they either proved the information about them was wrong or spot on. 

Another method to introduce yourself to the new guy/girl was to make sure I was at the team’s first media availability. Whether it be a fan fest or just an introductory press conference, it’s important to have that person start recognizing your face and name. 

I recall talking to one player that joined a team I worked for in particular at a fan convention. The informal setting of these events allows you to get some time with the new players and managers. In a casual conversation with this player, I wanted to find out when was the best time to approach him for pregame interviews. He told me that if he was seated at his locker facing away from the stall, feel free to approach. I’m so glad I was armed with that information, because I saw several fellow media members get turned away, when he wasn’t ready. I always tried to respect those wishes. The season went smoothly and he was a great ‘go to’ guy when needed because of that relationship we forged. 

If you’ve been in the business a long time, you probably know a few of this new player’s former teammates. Many likely played for the team you broadcast and with the access you’ve had, introductions can be made or arranged. It’s always a better ‘in’ or ‘edge’ in the beginning of a relationship to have that extra cache of being introduced by one of that player’s peers. Most of these players respect one another and if you’re deemed ‘cool’ or ‘good’ by one, others will give you that chance to at least prove them wrong. 

Max Scherzer Interview | Scherzer Talks About Joining the Dodgers - YouTube

Every once in a great while, a team will put on a ‘meet and greet’ for a new coach or manager. It’s a way for those that regularly cover that particular team to get to know a new leader in a very informal manner. I recall one such time an NFL team put together a lunch for those that regularly covered the team to meet the new head coach. It was a completely off-the-record gathering, filled with stories and a lot of pizza too. The unfortunate thing was, the guy we met that day was only himself for about 3 months, then he became ‘the coach’ and the relationship changed. Still, it was a unique idea and approach to allow some of the media, he would be seeing on a daily basis to have a chance to relax and break bread. 

Change is never easy to deal with, especially after establishing long relationships with previous players and coaches. But it is a fact of whatever game you’re covering, things are going to change and you must have the ability to change along with it. If not, you could get left behind and out of the information loop.

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