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Radio Doesn’t Have To Tolerate Jerks

“While radio, like many industries, has worked to greatly improve the overall atmosphere of their workplaces, many of the toxic aspects remain.”

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As many of you know, I’ve had (and continue to have) a romance with the radio industry.  We’ve been together for nearly three decades now.  Not every moment has been great, but I wouldn’t trade it for all the bitcoin in cyberspace.

I Love Radio" Sticker by elishamarie28 | Redbubble

However, the industry continues to have a litany of different issues.

Both myself and my colleagues at Barrett Media have done a detailed job going over the challenges that our industry continues to face.  There is one major issue that I have yet to see touched.

In my opinion, it’s the biggest one and cuts to the very root of the matter.

Radio has, over the years, enabled some very toxic work environments.  These ugly tropes are not uncommon in many corners of corporate America. 

Dishonesty.

Misogyny

Homophobia.

Disrespect.

Harassment.

Backbiting.

Execs on power trips.

Lack of accountability.

I’ve either experienced or witnessed all the above at one point of another in my career.  If you’re reading this, you likely have as well.

While radio, like many industries, has worked to greatly improve the overall atmosphere of their workplaces, many of the toxic aspects remain.

Why?

It all boils down to one thing: far too many companies have failed to adopt a “no a-hole policy”.

I’ve resisted talking about my current gig with Good Karma Brands as Executive Producer of the ESPN 1000 Chicago White Sox Network for a myriad of reasons. Namely, the obvious potential implication of bias and conflict of interest.  But, since I’ve never considered myself a journalist, what the hell?

I can honestly say unequivocally that my current job is the healthiest environment that I’ve ever worked in.

The biggest reason?   There is a strict “no a-hole policy”.

This prevailing credo is pushed down by the leaders in the company and (unlike many other places I’ve worked) is not mere lip service.

You must have a certain attitude to work here, no matter HOW talented you might be. If you can’t be a good teammate, you won’t be let in the door.

No A-holes Sign Keep A-Holes Away DURABLE Aluminum NO RUST BRIGHT COLOR  SIGN 379 | eBay

This was apparent to me VERY early on.

I remember when I got the job.  I was both excited and nervous at the same time.  On one hand, it felt great to be EMPLOYED again, and working in sports.  On the other…well…I was going into what I thought could be a potential hornet’s nest of egos.

Why wouldn’t it be?  Three decades of working in radio had CONDITIONED me to think that way.

ESPN 1000, the flagship station, is full of veteran Chicago Market talent.  David Kaplan, Jonathan Hood, Carmen DeFalco, Jon Jurkovic, Marc Silverman, and Tom Waddle were (to me) larger than life personalities.  Hell, I grew up listening to them.  What kind of a challenge would it be to navigate these egos?  What “special rules” would I have to follow?   My questions were answered within an hour of getting the job.

Once the company-wide e-mail went out announcing my hiring, I got a message from David Kaplan.  He wanted to talk.  This was unusual as I wouldn’t be directly working with Kap (the station’s morning show host), and he and I had only met at a BSM Conference once before.  What was he scheming at?  My mind wandered in all different directions.  

All my pre-conceived notions evaporated once my phone rang.  Kap simply wanted to welcome me to the team.  We spent the next hour on the phone getting to know each other.  I mentioned all the old shows I used to listen to when he was on WGN, the mutual connections we had in the business, and (most importantly) the best steakhouses in the Windy City.

Once I got to walk into the office at State and Lake in the Central Loop, it got even better.

I quickly found that there wasn’t one person in that building, (talent, sales, or marketing) that I don’t enjoy working with.  There wasn’t one person that I would make a point to avoid.  To this day, even through several challenges, that has remained true.

That is a career first for me.  While I’ve enjoyed many of the people that I’ve worked with, there were always a handful that would fill me with dread if I had to even interact with them.

The people I work with are so enjoyable to be around…you WANT to help them win.  

What’s more, my teammates have shown me that you can be talented without being insufferable.  A great example of that is someone I work with on a nightly basis.

Len Kasper had just been named the White Sox Radio play-by-play voice a few weeks prior to me getting the job I now have.  It was quite the coup for the Sox, as Len had spent the previous 16 seasons on the North side of town calling games for the Cubs and was widely regarded as one of the best announcers in MLB.

Shortly after I got the job, I got Len’s cell phone number and shot him a text.  I briefly introduced myself and invited him to contact me at his convenience.  I was excited to talk to talk to him, but I also didn’t want to bother him.  

Within an hour, my phone rang.

We chatted for quite some time, and I was struck how down-to-earth, yet passionate Len was about his craft.  In no time, we dove right in and talked about how we wanted the broadcast to sound.  We covered everything: imaging, sellable features, engineering, etc.      

Even throughout the grind of the season, Len still has that “whatever you need from me” attitude.  There are no “special rules” and no matter what challenges we face; we know we’ll get through it.  The same attitudes are shared by Darrin Jackson (our color analyst) and Connor McKnight (our pre- and post-game show host).  Both are very talented at what they do, and don’t come with any headaches.

This gig has been refreshing and has made me a happier, more productive individual.  Yes, the days and nights get long during the baseball season.  I work 10-12 hours a day, 7 days a week.  There are no such things as nights, weekends, or holidays off.  My spouse lives 90 miles away and I only get to see him 1-2 times a month.  Despite all of that, it’s the workplace environment and my teammates that keep me going.  I wish everyone could have the same work experience that I’ve been having.  

May be an image of Ryan Maguire

All it took was a “no a-holes” policy.  

BSM Writers

Keeping Premier League Games Shouldn’t Be A Hard Call For NBC

“Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans.”

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NBC Sports is facing some tough, costly decisions that will define its sports brand for the rest of this decade.  A chance to connect with viewers in a changing climate and grow Peacock’s audience as well.  However, making the right choice is paramount to not losing to apps like Paramount+ (pun intended).

NBC is currently in the business of negotiating to continue airing the Premier League as their current deal ends after this 2021-2022 season.  NASCAR is contracted to NBC (and FOX) through the 2024 season.

NBC’s tentpole sports are the NFL and the Olympics.  

Negotiations for the EPL are expected to go down to the wire. Rather than re-up with NBC, the league is meeting with other networks to drive up the price. NBC has to then make a decision if the rights go north of $2 billion.

Should NBC spend that much on a sport that is not played in the United States? It’s not my money, but that sport continues to grow in the US.

If NBC re-ups with the Premier League, will that leave any coins in the cupboard to re-up with NASCAR? Comcast CEO Brian Roberts hinted that there might be some penny pinching as the prices continue to soar. This may have been one of the reasons that NBC did not fight to keep the National Hockey League, whose rights will be with Disney and WarnerMedia through ESPN and TNT, respectively.

“These are really hard calls,” Roberts said. “You don’t always want to prevail, and sometimes you’re right and sometimes you’re wrong, but I think the sustainability of sports is a critical part of what our company does well.”

Roberts was speaking virtually at the recent Goldman Sachs 30th Annual Communacopia Conference. He told the audience that between NBC and European network Sky, that Comcast has allocated approximately $20 billion towards these sports properties.

Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh spoke virtually at the Bank of America Securities 2021 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference and echoed that the company is in a good position to make some strong choices in the sports realm. 

“The bar is really high for us to pursue outright acquisitions of any material size,” Cavanagh added. “We got a great hand to play with what we have.”

While the European investments involve a partnership with American rival Viacom, the US market seems to have apparent limits.

Last Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series at Bristol Motor Speedway was seen by around 2.19 million people. It was the most-watched motorsports event of the weekend. That same week eight different Premier League matches saw over 1 million viewers. More than half of those matches were on subscription-based Peacock. 

Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans. A game of typical soccer fan is used to a sport that is less than two hours long. The investment in a team is one or two games a week. 

My connection to the Premier League began before the pandemic.  When I cut the cord in late 2017, I purchase Apple TV.  Setting it up, it asks you to name your favorite teams.  After clicking on the Syracuse Orange and the New Jersey Devils, I recalled that my wife has family based in London, England.  They are season ticket holders for Arsenal, and that family redefined the word “die-hard” fans.

I’ve long been a believer that sports allegiances are best when handed down by family. I love hearing stories of people loving the New York Giants because their parents liked them, and they pass it down to their children.

I’ve successfully given my allegiance to the Devils to my young daughters. 

By telling Apple TV that I liked Arsenal, I get alerts from three different apps when the “Gunners” are playing. The $4.99 is totally worth it to see Arsenal.

Whenever I told this story, I was amazed to see how many other American sports fans had a Premier League team. Students of mine at Seton Hall University rooted for Tottenham Hotspurs, while an old colleague cheers on Chelsea.

Global Is Cool': The Growing Appeal of Premier League Soccer in America
Courtesy: Morning Consult

This is not meant to say that NBC should sign the EPL on my account. The key for any US-based soccer fan is that between Bundesliga, Serie A, and other leagues, there will be no shortage of soccer available on both linear television and streaming services.

Besides, Dani Rojas did say that “Football is life.”  NBC, originator of the Ted Lasso character, should make keeping its Premier League US connection a priority.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 45

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Today, Demetri is joined by Tyler McComas and Russ Heltman. Tyler pops on to talk about the big start to the college football season on TV. Russ talks about Barstool’s upfront presentation and how the business community may not see any problems in working with the brand. Plus, Demetri is optimistic about FOX Sports Radio’s new morning show.

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BSM Writers

6 Ad Categories Hotter Than Gambling For Sports Radio

“Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life.”

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For years sports radio stations pushed sports gambling advertisers to early Saturday and Sunday morning. The 1-800 ads, shouting, and false claims were seedy, and some stations wouldn’t even accept the business at 5 am on Sunday.

Now, with all but ten states ready to go all in on sports gambling, sports radio stations can’t get enough of that green. Demetri Ravanos wrote about the money cannon that sports gambling has become for stations. Well, what if you are in one of those ten states where it isn’t likely to ever be legal like California or Texas? Where is your pot of gold?

A Pot of Gold Articles - Analyzing Metals
Courtesy: iStockphoto

Or, let’s face it, the more gambling ads you run, the more risk you take on that the ads will not all work as you cannibalize the audience and chase other listeners away who ARE NOT online gambling service users and never will be. So, what about you? Where is your pot of gold?

Well, let’s go Digging for Gold. 

The RAB produces the MRI-Simmons Gold Digger PROSPECTING REPORT for several radio formats. In it, they index sports radio listeners’ habits against an average of 18+ Adult. The Gold Digger report looks at areas where the index is higher than the norm – meaning the sports radio audience is more likely to use the product or service than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. The report, generated in 2020, indicates that sports radio listeners are 106% more likely to have used an online gambling site in the last thirty days. That’s impressive because the report only lists 32 activities or purchases a sports radio listener indexes higher than an average adult. I looked at those 32 higher indexes, and I think we can start looking for some gold.

Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life. The gambling companies who commit significant money to get results will continue advertising and chase the others away. So, the future of sports radio needs to include other cash cows.

If it is evident to online sports gambling services that sports radio stations are a must-buy, who else should feel that way?  I looked at the Top 32 and eliminated the media companies. ESPN, MLB/NHL/NFL networks, and others aren’t spending cash on sports radio stations they don’t own in general. But Joseph A Bank clothing, Fidelity, and Hotwire should! Here’s your PICK-6 list I pulled together that’s hotter than sports gambling:

  • Sportscard collectors, Dapper Labs, Open Sea- read about Sports NFT $.
  • Online brokerage firms-Fidelity, Charles Schwab, Robinhood, Webull, TD Ameritrade
  • Golf courses, resorts, equipment, etc.- we play golf at home and vacation
  • Hotwire.com, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Airbnb, Carnival Corporation, and Priceline.com- we’ve used Hotwire in the last year.
  • FedEx, UPS, U.S. Postal Service, Venmo, PayPal, Zelle-we wired or overnighted $ 
  • Jos. A. Bank, shein.com, macys.com, nordstroms.com- we went to Jos. A. Bank in last three months

The sports card/NFT market is 32% hotter than the sports betting market for sports radio listeners. Everything on the PICK-6 is at least 100% more likely to purchase than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. All listed are at or above indexing strength compared to sports betting. The individual companies I added are industry leaders. Bet on it! Email me for details. 

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