The city of Hamilton sits 45 minutes southwest of Toronto in the province of Ontario. To the city’s east at 65 miles, sits Buffalo in the far western corner of New York. Essentially, the port city of Hamilton sits almost equally distant to two major media hubs that reside in both Canada and the United States.
Those geographic details are important when it comes to Hamilton’s favorite team, the Tiger-Cats. Members of the East Division of the Canadian Football League, the Tiger-Cats have both an extremely loyal and extremely rowdy fan base that’s crazy about football. They also crave as much content as possible related to their favorite team. But with a shrinking media industry and two regional media hubs that are much more focused on the Bills, Sabres, Raptors, Blue Jays and Maple Leafs, coverage for the Tiger-Cats has been hard to come by in the past.
To curb that, the Tiger-Cats have created their own unique media platform that’s providing fans the on-demand content they’re craving. Thus, the Ticats Audio Network was created.
“We’re in a very busy media market and what that creates, is that no one is in a better position to cover our team and provide an unprecedented level of content better than the club itself,” said team president and C.O.O. Matt Afinec. “We conceived this strategy, frankly, to bring all of those content and production distribution in-house to allow us to service them in the manner our fans want. It also gives us full autonomy over the talent representation that’s representing the club.”
The Ticats Audio Network is a one-stop shop of content for the fans. Live-game broadcasts will be featured on the network, as well as exclusive gameday programming, podcasts, audio and several other features that will best-serve what the local fans are craving. The app controls all of the content featured on the Ticats Audio Network and is a user-friendly app for fans of all ages to enjoy.
It’s a bold venture for the Tiger-Cats, and one that’s extremely unique in the CFL, but even though it’s barely a week old, it’s already a huge hit with the fans.
“They absolutely love it,” Afinec. “We’re a week in, and the game broadcast last Thursday for our season opener was a huge success. Our view on how we can really win on this, is really the other six days of the week we’re not playing games. We want to service an unprecedented level of content and distribute it for on-demand consumption.”
Early signs say the Ticats Audio Network is going to be a massive success and something other teams across the CFL and beyond will try to emulate. The players on the roster are even excited about it and have inquired about podcasting possibilities on the network. The ceiling with this audio network is truly extraordinary.
Dave Cadeau is one of the many that believes Ticats Audio Network is destined for greatness. That’s saying something, seeing as Cadeau is easily one of the most respected programmers in all of Canada. He was on vacation when Afinec called him about the new project the team was taking on. Instantly, Cadeau liked it. Soon after, he found himself assisting with the audio network as the executive producer.
“Matt just described the project over the phone and I think my experience really fit what they were looking for,” Cadeau said. “The project sounded really cool and exciting. We’re creating something new for a pro sports team and frankly this is leading edge, in the sense that this is a direction a lot of teams are going to be taking down the road. I loved being at the forefront and working with these guys.”
What’s helped Ticats Audio Network create the quick momentum it needed is the talent that was hired. Veteran broadcaster RJ Broadhead and former player Luke Tasker handle the play-by-play duties as well as other content on the network. Other talent featured include CFL all-star Andy Fantuz, Louis Butko, Clint O’Neal, Tracy Lynn and many more. It’s truly an all-star lineup for an all-star idea of a network.
“Everyone we’ve put on that roster has a contribution to make relative to their talent and what they speak to,” said Afinec. “Not just football X’s and O’s but lifestyle, as well as people that have a connection to the local community and a local connection to our fans.”
As great as everything sounds, every new idea in broadcasting requires money. Most of the time, a lot of it. Adding so much talent was probably an expensive venture for the Tiger-Cats, but the money-making opportunities could be huge.
Creating on-demand content for the fans was at the forefront of the idea, sure, but like anything else in the business, so was the opportunity to bring in more revenue.
“At the end of the day, as a business, we have to continue to evolve and find new platforms to generate revenue,” said Afinec. “We also want to find innovative ways to take to the partnership market. Partners want to connect with our fans and I think this is the best new platform for them to connect with our fans. There’s absolutely a core business objective of doing this and perhaps a segment of corporate partners that we can work with. We want objectives that are different from traditional sponsorship assets, that this might service that market. That’s absolutely part of our thinking as well. We view the path to revenue on this project through corporate sponsorship.”
This could be the beginning of a monumental shift in how teams choose to select their coverage. If the Ticats Audio Network is a rousing success, expect other teams to adopt a similar strategy, especially those that aren’t in major media markets.
“Our ability to win on this, and where we’re seeing a lot of instant traction, is people’s response to get more Ti-Cat content, more information and more details,” said Afinec. “Obviously as this platform continues to grow, there will be more of that content to service.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
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.