Doing a self-evaluation is never fun, but Emmett Golden knew he had to do it for the betterment of his family. He’d already had several jobs: working at American Greetings in the shipping and receiving department, making plumbing supplies at a factory, even selling treadmills at Dicks Sporting Goods. He needed an actual career.
So at 29 years old with a wife and a family, Golden sat down and asked himself what he was good at.
“I couldn’t think of anything,” laughed Golden. “I thought to myself, well, I think I’m funny, so does that mean I’m going to be a comedian? No.”
The other thing that came to his mind was his ability to easily make friends. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a job title that existed where you just make friends. But then something clicked as he was listening to the Dan Patrick Show. If Golden considered himself funny and outgoing, then that’s exactly what Seton O’Connor, one of his favorite guys on the show, was.
“He’d jump in and crack a joke here and there,” said Golden. “I always thought that was cool. I don’t want to disrespect him, but I was thinking, maybe I could do that.”
Golden listened to ESPN Cleveland his entire life, mainly because of his father’s love for the station. The funny thing is he admits he hated the station when he was young and would often ask his dad to change the station to music. Golden’s dad never complied with the requests. But as the years went by, Golden started to acquire a taste for sports talk radio. When it came time to re-evaluate his options and look for a career, his father had been gone for close to five years. That’s when Golden heard the ad on ESPN Cleveland for a local broadcasting school. He was instantly intrigued.
“I just decided to do it,” Golden said. “I called and I enrolled. I was working and going to school and then I applied for several internships. I didn’t get any calls back.”
Golden followed up via email with ESPN Cleveland and the station invited him for an interview. When he walked in, he instantly noticed there was a vast difference between him and the interns in the building. Golden was a 29-year-old with a family, but everyone else was 20 and 21-year-old kids.
“I was convinced there was no way they were giving me an internship because I was too old,” laughed Golden. “Finally I got an email that offered me an internship.”
He walked into the building thinking he had made it, but what he soon realized is they had already hired their interns for the year, but a couple of people quit and they needed more. That’s why Golden was getting his shot. He didn’t take it personally, instead, he was grateful for the opportunity. He was ready to work harder than anyone else in the building.
For a guy that was trying to find a better financial situation for this family, interning at a sports radio station was probably the most questionable decision he could have made. Thinking about that now makes Golden laugh, but he made every sacrifice to make it work, including riding the bus to work every day.
“Everybody was like, man, he rode the bus to work every day,” Golden said. “To me, it wasn’t a big deal. We only had one car and there was no way in hell I was going to let my wife or kids ride the bus. Those rides were adventurous, to say the least, but it wasn’t a huge deal to me.”
The attitude early on was the same every day. He’d bus to work and ask to do anything and everything he could. It didn’t matter, because he had to make this work. Finally, he got the call he’ll never forget.
Golden went to an empty studio inside ESPN Cleveland and called his wife. When she answered, he had the best news he’d had in a long time. He was just offered a full-time position with the station as a producer for the afternoon show. Golden’s wife couldn’t contain the excitement.
“She was so happy,” Golden said. “I was like, OK, I have to run and get back to work. But my phone kept blowing up and I thought it was hilarious because she was so happy she went and told everyone about it. That was a big moment for us.”
Golden had made it as a full-time employee but he wasn’t satisfied. Just like everyone else, he wanted to be in the host’s chair. Finding your way as a producer to the opposite side of the glass can be one of the biggest challenges in the business, but Golden jokes he had a secret nobody else did.
“It’s a secret and I don’t want many people to know this, but I was just a terrible producer,” laughed Golden.” That’s how I did it. I’m good at coming up with ideas and having a feel for the audience, but I’m not an organized person at all. To be a producer, you have to be organized and I used to forget we were having guests on the show and all kinds of other things.”
Though Golden will joke it was because he was a terrible producer, it was really because Evan Cohen, Content VP at Good Karma Brands, instantly recognized his talent.
Cohen was sitting with Jerod Cherry during an aircheck and heard Golden’s voice because he was the producer of the show. Cohen asked Cherry who this Golden guy was. Cherry told him exactly who he was and what he did at the station. Cohen then asked a question that sounded more like a statement.
“Why isn’t this guy a host?”
Soon after, Cohen was grooming and preparing Golden to be a host at ESPN Cleveland. Co-hosting opportunities became more and more frequent and he found himself on the opposite side of the glass he was used to.
“Getting behind a mic and talking just came naturally to me. I like to talk to people and have fun. People started telling me to do exactly that, be yourself and have fun. I just try to walk in every day and have a good time.”
Golden is now the co-host of The Next Level with Emmett and Jerod on ESPN Cleveland. There may not be a better example in sports radio of how determination and hard work can create success and opportunities. It’s humbling for Golden to look back on his journey from a 29-year-old intern to a current-day show host, especially since he’s doing it all at his father’s favorite station.
“He’d be blown away,” Golden said. “I just know he would. We’d talk about sports anyway, but I can see him calling me with his sports takes. I can see him calling me before a show and asking what we were going to talk about that day.”
As crazy as it may sound, Golden still feels like an intern at ESPN Cleveland. It shows by the way he treats and builds relationships with the interns in the building. Golden is never too important to talk to anyone and it’s a huge reason why he’s such a valuable commodity to the station. He’s an expert at building relationships with people in the building and it’s why he’s one of the most well-liked media members in Cleveland.
But as genuine and nice as he is, he also shoots it straight with the young interns. He tells them it’s going to be hard. He tells them there’s going to be adversity and he tells them it’s going to be a grind.
“When they walk in I know exactly how they feel,” Golden said. “I know they’re both excited and nervous, especially when they don’t know anyone. I do everything I can to build relationships with them and give them advice.”
One of the most popular compliments Golden gets is how he’s the same guy off the air, as he is on the air. It’s a rare trait in sports media, but no matter the situation, Golden is the exact same guy.
“Why isn’t everybody like that?” laughed Golden. “I’m a guy that likes positivity, to have fun and laugh.”
It’s the reason why he’s been such a success at ESPN Cleveland. Golden is an extremely likable personality on the air that people gravitate towards. He’s authentic and honest, even when he doesn’t necessarily know the answer.
“One of the things I’ve always done is that I have a question about the business, I asked multiple people in the business the same question,” Golden said. “I feel like if I get different answers, there are no real rules on the way to do it, but if everyone tells me the same thing, then maybe that’s the way. I remember a few guys telling me, Emmett, it’s right or left. It’s black or white, you can’t straddle the fence and say I don’t know when you’re hosting a sports radio show. As much respect as I have for those men, that was the first time I really disagreed with something, because I felt like if I don’t know something, then I don’t know.”
Matt Fishman, Director of Content at ESPN Cleveland. has developed a great relationship with Golden. That’s important, seeing as the two need to get along and see eye-to-eye for the betterment of the station.
“I love Fish,” Golden said. “The first time we met it was over lunch and we instantly hit it off. I love that I can be frank and honest with him. He’ll shoot it straight to me and that’s all you want. If we disagree or he tells me no on something I know it’s from a good place. I love working for him.”
It’s hard to take this opportunity for granted when you’ve come from working odd jobs. Golden was able to elevate himself from a factory job creating plumbing supplies into a job where he’s been sprayed with champagne in the Cavs locker room and in the stadium for a World Series. You’ll never hear him be ungrateful or complain about his situation. Golden knows his situation is a great one, especially with the hype of this upcoming NFL season.
“It doesn’t get any better than this,” Golden said. “Cleveland is a Browns town. I did a 24-hour show before the playoff game against Pittsburgh and it was sold out. At 3 o’clock in the morning, normally, you’re listening to nothing but promos, but we had every spot sold out for 24 hours and I know it wasn’t because of me. It was because of the Browns. Not only is it a great time for fans, it’s a great time for advertising partners because everyone is listening to sports talk radio. Business is great right now.”
Now Is The Time To Build Your Bench
“There’s a good chance you have a producer, production person, or even a salesperson who has a big enough personality that they can hold your attention.”
As we crawl towards the Thanksgiving holiday week, many content managers are likely in the middle of figuring out what they’re going to put on the air.
Since most marquee talent take the entire week off, this can present scheduling headaches.
Some stations (who can) will pick up more syndicated programming. Hey, why not? It’s a cheap, easy solution that’s justified by the fact that business is slow in Q4, and your GM doesn’t want you spending any more money than what you have to.
Other stations will hand the microphones over to whoever happens to be available. This usually ends up being the same array of C and D listers who aren’t that great, but they can cover when needed and usually tend to be affordable.
Both of these decisions, while usually made out of convenience, are terrible mistakes. Quite frankly, it’s one of the many frustrations I have with spoken word media.
Content Directors should be using the holidays as an excellent opportunity for them to answer a particularly important question: DO I HAVE A BENCH???
One of the most common refrains I hear from other content managers is that they have no talent depth. Everyone constantly is searching for the “next great thing,” yet I find that very few people in management that take the time or the effort to seriously explore that question.
My response to them is always, “Well, how do you know? Have you given anyone in your building a chance yet?”
Often, the answer is sitting in their own backyard, and they don’t even know it.
Years ago, Gregg Giannotti was a producer at WFAN. Then Head of Programming Mark Chernoff gave him a chance to host a show because of how Giannotti sparred off-air with other hosts and producers in the building. Chernoff liked what he heard and gave his producer a shot. Now, he’s hosting mornings on WFAN with Boomer Esiason in what is considered one of the best local sports-talk shows in the country.
Carrington Harrison was an intern for us at 610 Sports Radio in Kansas City. He worked behind the scenes on Nick Wright’s afternoon show and had a fairly quiet demeanor. It was rare that we ever spoke to each other. On one of his off-days, Nick was talking about Kansas State Football and Carrington called in to talk to him about it. I couldn’t believe what I heard. Not only was his take on the Wildcats enlightening, but he was funny as hell. Soon after, we started working Carrington’s voice into Nick’s show more and eventually made C-Dot a full-time host. He’s been doing afternoons on the station for several years now with different co-hosts and (in my opinion) is one of the best young voices in the format.
There’s a good chance you have a producer, production person, or even a salesperson who has a big enough personality that they can hold your attention. Why not give them the opportunity to see what they can do? Honestly, what’s the risk of giving someone you think might have potential, a few at-bats to show you what they can do? If your instincts are proven wrong and they aren’t as good as you thought they’d be, all you did is put a bad show on the air during a time when radio listening tends to be down, anyways.
If you go this route, make sure you set them up for success. Take the time to be involved in planning their shows. Don’t leave them out on an island. Give them a producer/sidekick that can keep them from drowning. Be sure to listen and give constructive feedback. Make sure that these people know that you’re not just doing them a favor. Show them that you are just as invested in this opportunity as they are.
I understand that most Content Directors are overseeing multiple brands (and in some cases, multiple brands in multiple markets). Honestly though, using the holidays to make a potential investment in your brand’s future is worth the extra time and effort.
Treat holidays for what they are; a chance to explore your brand’s future. Don’t waste it.
Digital Platforms Should Signal The End Of Niche Linear Networks
“Whether it is niche sports or exclusive shows, the streaming platforms have proven to be valuable catch-alls. They haved turned hard-to-sell programming into part of what you get when you are motivated to subscribe by Premier League Soccer or UFC.”
CBS Sports Network just isn’t built to last. It seems obvious, but it was really hammered home for me on Friday when Jim Rome went off on the network for preempting the simulcast of his radio show for coverage of swimming.
“You idiots are going to preempt this show for swimming?” Rome said. “Stupid.”
You don’t even have to watch the video, right? You can just read the quote and his voice is immediately what you hear in your head.
John Skipper went off on a number of topics during Sports Business Journal’s Media Innovators Conference last week. Some dismissed it as sour grapes. Others said his comments were those of a man that is completely unencumbered by rights deals and corporate interests.
One thing the Meadowlark Media leader said that was dead on was that there are only a few properties in sports television that truly matter.
“Until you can get the NFL, or the SEC, or the NBA on a streaming service, it’s going to be marginal in this country,” Skipper said in a conversation with John Ourand.
He was answering a question about the relevance of streaming services, but the fact is, he could have been talking about any outlet in the world of sports television.
With that being said, it isn’t just CBS Sports Network that isn’t built to last. Comcast got this message last year. That is why NBCSN is about to go dark. Sure, every niche sport has its fan base, but can you build a profitable and powerful brand on swimming, lacrosse and 3-on-3 basketball? You probably can’t.
BSM’s Jeremy Evans recently wrote about life in the metaverse and what it means to sports media. So much happens digitally now. Think about the last time you felt like you HAD to have a physical copy of a movie or album. It always made sense that television networks would get to this place.
Peacock, ESPN+, CBS Sports HQ and Paramount+ all have plenty to offer. Whether it is niche sports or exclusive shows, the streaming platforms have proven to be valuable catch-alls. They haved turned hard-to-sell programming into part of what you get when you are motivated to subscribe by Premier League Soccer or UFC.
CBS Sports Network isn’t the only cable sports network whose existence may be on borrowed time. You know about FS1. Did you know there is an FS2? Did you know beIN Sports still exists? Don’t worry. It seems most major cable operators don’t know it either. The same can be said for networks with names like Eleven Sports, Maverick, and Pursuit.
In fact, when you look at that group of channels, CBS Sports Network is probably in the best shape. It may carry the low end of college football and basketball, but it at least has sports with large, national followings.
Radio simulcasts have always been cheap programming. Once the production costs are recouped, there is a straight-line path to profit. Sports networks on this level will always be interested in carrying radio simulcasts, and that is a good thing. It means better studios and more exposure for the hosts involved. When the suits can have a legitimate debate whether the live sports their network carries will draw as many viewers as the simulcast of a radio show, it may be time to rethink the path forward.
Streaming platforms weren’t built exclusively for niche sports. ESPN+ launched with college football and college basketball at its core. Now that streaming platforms are here to stay though, it should start a conversation and migration.
The cable sports network was never anything more than a prestige play. It was a way to show that a broadcast network was so serious about sports that the few hours it could devote to games would never do. The problem is that ESPN got that memo decades earlier and established a juggernaut.
Even FS1, which has major talent and rights to major college football and basketball and Major League Baseball, is behind the eight ball compared to ESPN. They got a 34 year head start in Bristol! CBS Sports Network is behind FS1 and it has college football, basketball and hockey. It also has the WNBA and the NWSL. Still, it seems like it is on borrowed time. What does that mean for networks that can’t get a league comissioners to take their call?
I like some of the programming on CBS Sports HQ. I think Paramount+ has been a valuable tool this college football season. There would be nothing wrong with CBS shuttering CBS Sports Network. It is just the reality of where we are headed.
CBS is run by smart people. I have faith they will see the forest thru the trees in sports media and find the right solution before they start losing money. Streaming means consolidation and unfortunately, that means there may not be room for the FS2s, Mavericks, Pursuits, and Eleven Sports of the world. That doesn’t mean the sports those networks carry cannot find a new home. They may even find a home that makes more sense for them and their fans.
Can Your Station Create Its Own Holiday?
“Did you see social media on Friday? Did you see any media at all leading up to Friday? Disney created a 24-hour commercial you could not escape.”
A belated happy Disney+ Day to us all!
Did you see social media on Friday? Did you see any media at all leading up to Friday? Disney created a 24-hour commercial you could not escape. The best part, from a marketing standpoint, is fans were captivated by it. They either didn’t realize it was a commercial or they just didn’t care.
The execution was masterful. Granted, we Star Wars fans were left wanting a bit, but Disney dropped teasers for series and movies we didn’t know were coming and showed the first footage from one we have been anticipating for more than a year now.
I started thinking how a radio station could do this. How could it go out and create its own holiday? How for one day, can we make our fanbase excited and glued to social media eagerly anticipating announcements about what is coming next?
This is going to take some creativity. Disney+ is a platform full of multiple brands with multiple fanbases buying in. A sports talk station is one brand. It has varying levels of fanbases, but largely, your dedicated audience are the people that not only love sports, but also like your programming enough to be called P1s. Is that enough people to build an event like this around?
Who cares if it is or not! Go for it.
One thing that Disney did masterfully on November 12 is it brought partners into the fold and made them a key part of Disney+ Day. Fortnite announced that Boba Fett was coming to its game. TikTok announced Disney character voice changers would be available on the platform. Disney found the kind of partnerships that could spread its holiday to even the Disney+ Day equivalent of Ebenezer Scrooge.
You can do the same. Surely you have a local brewery as a partner. Can they brew a one day only beer for you? Partner with a restaurant. Can they put your station’s name on the day’s special? Would other partners offer discounts and promotions for celebrating the day? There are a lot of options here.
Now, what are YOU doing on your holiday? Disney has a deep well of franchises. It could squeeze Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar, its own studio and more for content and announcements. Again, you are just one brand, but there is still a lot you can do.
Build the day around announcing your special contributors for the football season. Drop new podcasts and play an extended clip on air. Announce new podcasts, the kind of things that will only be available digitally.
Look at 99.9 The Fan in Raleigh. Joe Ovies and Joe Giglio have created great, multi-episode series that are events for their audience. Like any narrative podcasts, those don’t come together overnight. As long as you have enough audio to build a solid 90 second to 2 minute long preview, you have something worth bringing to the air as part of the celebration.
Do you have a contract you are waiting to expire to make a change in a prime day part? Make your station’s holiday the day that the new talent or show hits the air for the first time. You can do the same for new weekend programs. Whether it is someone new coming to the station or just a new pairing, put them on air for your prime time audience to meet and have your weekday hosts help create some buzz for them.
As for the shows that are on every weekday, you have to make them special that day. Give away a big cash prize. Make the guest list epic – I mean everyone that is on air that day has to be a home run.
The other thing that Disney did so well was work to get all of its divisions involved. Check out this tweet from the Disney Parks account. Every single park around the world lit their iconic building up blue in celebration of the streaming platform’s holiday.
Can you work with other stations in your building? Maybe they won’t give you full on promotion, but between songs, if a DJ brings up a sports topic, would the PD be willing to have them mention that their sister station is celebrating all day? Would a news/talk PD let your talent pop on air to talk sports with their hosts and promote what is happening on your airwaves today?
The answer to these questions could be no. You don’t know if you don’t ask though. Also, if the answer is no, there is nothing wrong with asking for a little backup from your market manager. A station holiday is a major sales initiative after all.
The final piece of this puzzle to take away from Disney is you have to be everywhere. Any local show you air from 6 am until midnight needs to be on location. Fans should have easy access to them. How can they celebrate you if they are not allowed to be where you are?
Use the broadcasts however the sales department sees fit. Take them first to long-established clients to celebrate their loyalty on the station’s holiday. Use them to draw in new clients. Show off what your station can create with its fanbase.
Money has a way of motivating everyone. So, even if your hosts don’t like leaving the studio, these would be remote broadcasts priced at a premium and should have larger-than-usual talent fees attached.
Finally, let’s do something Disney didn’t. I was shocked that a company with this many iconic characters at its disposal and with a CEO that came from the consumer products division, didn’t have a line of merchandise ready to go. Don’t make that same mistake.
Create cool station shirts (not the cheap giveaway crap). Throw the logo on unexpected things like water bottles, bottle openers, facemasks, whatever! Have a merch tent wherever you go. Maybe set up a site to sell it for the day. Make the people come to you to get this stuff.
Twitter is a huge part of promoting what you do. Constantly show off what you are offering and what you have created. That is how Disney sold their event to its most dedicated fans as something not to be missed.
What were we celebrating with Disney+ Day? Nothing. Disney wasn’t even really celebrating anything. It was just a series of commercials wrapped up in fun packaging. Actually, there are a lot of holidays that are just a series of commercials wrapped up in fun packaging.
Not every holiday has to celebrate something once in a lifetime. Not every holiday has to even be real. Building your own will take a long lead time, but it is doable. Get sales, promotions and programming in a room and build a plan together. If Disney+ Day taught us anything, it is a valuable way to motivate your fans to spread your message too.
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