Sports betting is becoming an omnipresent element of sports media, with many networks introducing new programming geared towards the flourishing sector of the industry. In fact, MSG Networks recently announced an expanded sports betting programming lineup featuring the premiere of two new shows, Odds With Ends and The Bettor Half *Hour, along with the expansion of The Betting Exchange.
While she was always a sports fan, Katie Mox did not initially look to work in the world of sports and entertainment. As a graduate of The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and ardent fan of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, Mox originally sought to work in design and visual communications and found her career path in the field of public relations. Over fifteen years, Mox worked for various public relations firms, serving in managerial positions and communicating with clientele. It was not until recently that she began working in the world of digital content creation, which started through her Instagram account and helped land her a gig as co-host of The Betting Exchange on MSG Networks. She says the drastic career shift came as a result of her sports fandom and enthusiastic proclivity to make her insights and opinions known.
“I always wanted to be on-air and to do something hosting,” said Mox. “At first, it started as a passion project to talk about sports and gambling. In the pandemic, I saw… an opportunity to really go for it and make this transition for myself into sports broadcasting.”
Mox was laid off from her public relations job in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic because of a lack of work, an impetus that she avows hastened her subsequent transition into sports broadcasting. Yet she has a competitive advantage as a result of her background in public relations in that she knows how to effectively position herself as a brand among the assemblage of aspiring on-air personalities. In being able to work on a team, Mox is aware of the implications her actions have on others, and vice-versa, and possesses innate wherewithal to make informed, strategic decisions.
“I am so lucky to have worked in public relations for so long because I understand the other side of the business,” said Mox. “Being a content creator, I know what is expected from me from the marketing team; the public relations team, etc. Sometimes when you are working with influencers, they do not have the knowledge of the business side of it. I feel like it’s a benefit to me because I’ve been on the marketing side. I know how to make sure I’m doing everything I need to do to make the client happy.”
Following the nearly four-and-a-half-month pause on professional sports in the United States due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the popularity of sports betting began to significantly proliferate. With various new sportsbooks heavily advertising across radio and television, along with specialized programming created for bettors, it is a booming sector of the industry that shows no signs of slowing down. While the betting itself is centered on sporting events, Mox affirms that it is the entertainment it provides and camaraderie it cultivates that has made it wildly popular and profitable today, especially among younger audiences, something she and many others call “wagertainment.”
“There’s an entire community of people who love sports betting not just for getting skin in the game, but also for the community,” said Mox. “I do think sportsbooks are trying to figure out how to reach out to this millennial group of gamblers.”
One way to do that — through traveling. Mox serves as the host of the web series Ride with Katie Presented by Betfred Sports on the sports betting platform “The Gameday,” which combines the thrill of traveling to different sporting events around the country with sports betting. The content, which routinely has at least 10,000 views each week on YouTube, shows a different side of gambling that helps to eliminate the initial stigma surrounding it.
“It’s making [gambling] more accessible and demonstrating the camaraderie about it,” explained Mox, who began hosting the show in September 2021. “It’s also showing gambling in a different light and [that] it’s fun [and] doesn’t have to be scary. You certainly should be smart about it, but I think it reaches a new audience and makes it more fun and accessible to the young audience.”
Sports betting has adopted its own vernacular through use of terms such as “parlays,” “teasers” and “point spreads,” terminology that sports fans looking to immerse themselves in the world of sports betting may be unfamiliar with. Shows, such as Mox’s The Betting Exchange on MSG Networks, help to eliminate that boundary by explaining the nuances of sports betting through the context of current sports events. The show, which initially aired once a week, has broadened and is now live on MSG Networks Monday through Thursday at 5:30 p.m. E.S.T.
“I think MSG is bridging the gap between the younger generation of gamblers who want to be entertained with an easier access point that’s not as intimidating,” said Mox. “We explain parlays, teasers [and] how to use those [sic]. We give our best bets, we play games and provide some value with the picks as well.”
Along with Mox, The Betting Exchange is co-hosted by sports betting personality Jeff Johnson, and will feature former New York athletes, such as former Giants wide receiver David Tyree and former Jets safety Erik Coleman, to talk about sports betting.
“I think MSG is the only network that is putting former athletes on and talking about sports betting, which I think is really interesting to a younger audience,” expressed Mox. “Who knows more about the game than they do?”
Expanding the demographic of sports betting is a mission every sportsbook has embarked upon, frequently advertising on sports networks in creative, captivating ways to try to appeal to new segments of the marketplace. With a background in public relations, Mox knows that understanding that audience should be the number one priority in bolstering their reach.
“It’s understanding that [the audience doesn’t] want experts barking at them telling them what they should be doing,” explained Mox. “They want real gamblers and people in front of them providing education and value, but not necessarily taking themselves too seriously. As long as sportsbooks are looking to media companies, and they are understanding this new audience that wants to be entertained more so than [have] experts [bark things] at them, they want to ride the wave with you.”
As an on-air host and content creator, Mox does not try to masquerade herself as a consistent, undisputed winner in her betting practice. Rather, she is realistic with the audience in that success in “having skin in the game” is not a guarantee and a practice that, while it is consumed as a form of entertainment, is best done responsibly.
“The reality is that you’re not winning all the time,” said Mox. “People pretending to win all the time lose the new audience. I think MSG Networks and The Gameday do a great job of showing the reality of it.”
Some sports broadcasts have implemented live odds and talk about sports betting into the game broadcast, including MSG Networks. The network regularly promotes its newly-introduced “MSG Pick ‘Em” app during its game programming, which allows fans to win or split a jackpot based on the amount of points they earn answering questions about that night’s game before it happens. Mox, though, believes persistently trying to discuss sports betting during the live game action is perhaps taking it a bit too far for now.
“There is a fine line with in-game broadcasts,” said Mox. “That might be a little bit too much because you want to make sure everything is still fair.”
With all 50 states moving to legalize sports betting, sports consumption habits are shifting across multiple platforms in a direction indicative of betting’s sizable expansion. There are ostensibly no signs of this exponential growth promptly coming to a halt, especially within the National Football League, as sportsbooks are partnering with broadcast networks and professional sports leagues to create focused content tailored to the relevant demographics.
“I think sports betting content is going to be synonymous with sports in the next five to 10 years,” said Mox. “Everyone wants a piece of this pie because it’s a huge market. I think you’re going to see it everywhere.”
Asking The Right Questions Helps Create Interesting Content
Asking questions that can get a subject to talk about their feelings is a much better way to get an interesting answer.
When ESPN’s Mike Greenberg interviewed Paolo Banchero in the lead-up to the NBA lottery on Tuesday, he asked what I’ve concluded is the single most maddening question that can be asked of any athlete preparing for any draft.
“Why do you believe you should be No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft?” Greenberg said.
Before I point out exactly why I have such a visceral reaction to such a harmless question, I want to point out the positives because Greenberg’s question avoids some of the most common pitfalls:
1) It is an actual question. That’s not as automatic as you think given the number of poor souls who are handed a microphone and say to their subject, “Talk about (whatever issue they want a quote or a sound bite on).” This is the mark of an amateur, creating the opening for an uncooperative subject to slam the door by saying, “What do you want me to say?”
2) Greenberg’s question can not be answered with a yes or a no. Questions that start with the word “Can you …” or “Did you …” may sound like they’re tough questions for the subject, but they’re actually fairly easy if the subject wants to offer an answer. Now, most interview subjects won’t take that one-word exit, but some will in a touchy situation.
The problem with Greenberg’s question has to do with the result. Why do we ask questions of the athletes we cover? Seriously. That’s not rhetorical. What’s the goal? It’s to get interesting answers. At least that’s the hope whether it’s for a quote that will be included in a story, a sound bite to be replayed later or — like in this situation — during an interview that is airing live. The question should be engineered to elicit interesting content, and there was very little chance that the question Greenberg asked Banchero was going to produce anything close to that.
I know that because I have heard some version of this question asked hundreds of times. That’s not an exaggeration. I attended the NFL scouting combine annually for a number of years, and if a player wasn’t asked why he should be the first overall pick, he’d get asked why he should be a first-round pick or why he should be one of the first players chosen at his position. Never — in all that time — have I ever heard what would be considered an interesting or informative answer. In my experience, players tend to talk in incredibly general terms about their own abilities and then seek to compliment their peers in an effort to avoid coming off as cocky.
Here’s how Banchero answered Greenberg’s question: “Yeah, thank you all for having me, first off., I feel like I’m the number one pick in the draft because I’m the best overall player. I feel like I check all the boxes whether it’s being a great teammate, being the star player or doing whatever the coach needs. I’ve been a winner my whole life. Won everywhere I’ve went, and when I get to the NBA, that’s going to be the same goal for me. So just combining all those things, and knowing what I have to work on to be better is a formula for me.”
There’s nothing wrong with answer just as there was nothing wrong with the question. It’s just that both are really, really forgettable. ESPN did put a clip on YouTube with the headline “Paolo Banchero: I’m the best overall player in the NBA Draft | NBA Countdown” but I think I’m the only who will remember it and that’s only because I’m flapping my arms and squawking not because there was anything bad per se, but because there was nothing really good, either.
First of all, I’m not sure why it matters if Banchero thinks he should be the number one overall pick. He’s not going to be making that decision. The team that holds the top draft pick — in this case Orlando — is. Here’s a much better question: “How important is it for you to be the number one overall pick?” This would actually give an idea of the stakes for Banchero. What does this actually mean to him? Asking him why he should go number one is asking Banchero to tell us how others should see him. Asking Banchero how important it would be go number one is asking him to tell us about his feelings, something that’s much more likely to produce an interesting answer.
The point here isn’t to question Greenberg’s overall competence because I don’t. He’s as versatile a host as there is in the game, and anyone else in the industry has something to learn from the way he teases ahead to content. What I want to point out not just how we fail to maximize opportunities to generate interesting content, but why. Interviews are a staple of the sports-media industry. We rely on these interviews as both primary content that will be consumed directly, and as the genesis for our own opinions and reaction yet for all that importance we spend very little time thinking about the kind of answer this question is likely to produce.
The Client Just Said YES, Now What?
We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES.
One of the most significant moments in radio sales is when the client agrees to your proposal and says YES. But, when they do say YES, do you know what’s next? We better have an answer!
We spend a lot of time getting ready for clients with research, spec spots (thank you, radio sales trainer Chris Lytle-go to 22:30), proposals, and meetings. All of our focus is on getting the client to say YES. We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES. For example, getting newer sales reps to sell annual advertising contracts would be ideal for building a list. They would have less pressure, more job security, and could spend more time making the advertising work for their clients. But, since most newer reps don’t know the business yet, they don’t bite off more than they can chew and sell a package of the month.
When a client says yes to the weight loss promotion, it’s pretty clear how to write the ads, what the promos will say, etc. BUT, if a newer sales rep starts selling annual contracts to a direct local client who needs a resource, how will that work? Let’s make sure we paint the picture right upfront. More experienced reps know that they need to assume the client will say YES to the weight loss promo and have a plan accordingly.
They have the next steps to building copy and promos, a credit app or credit card payment form, and any other detail the client must provide. But, when we ask a direct local client for an annual advertising contract, watch out! You have just made a partnership. Why not lay out, upfront, what that will look like. And I understand not every local client needs the same level of service.
A car dealer has the factories pushing quarterly promotions, agencies producing ads, and in-house marketing directors pulling it all together sometimes. Other clients need your help in promotions, copywriting, or idea generation. Make a plan upfront with your client about when you will meet to discuss the next quarter’s ad program. Include your station’s promotions or inventory for football and basketball season, a summer NTR event, digital testimonials with on-air talent, etc., in your annual proposal. Go out as far as you can and show what you have to offer to the client and how you can execute it. This exercise is good for you and, once mastered, guides the client on how you will take care of them after the sale. It also opens your eyes to what it takes to have a successful client partnership inside and outside the station.
Media Noise – Episode 74
This week, Demetri is joined by Ian Casselberry and Ryan Brown. Demetri talks about the NBA Draft getting an ABC simulcast, Ian talks about Patrick Beverley’s breakout week on TV, and Ryan reminds us that Tom Brady may be the star, but Kevin Burkhardt is the story we shouldn’t forget.