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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.”

Demetri Ravanos

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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

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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