Well gang, we made it to the end of 2021. It is amazing how getting to do just slightly more than we could last year made this one fly by. Now, like many of you, all of us here at BSM are enjoying some well-earned time off.
Remember that exercise from jurnior high or high school where a teacher would have you exchange test papers with someone who sat next to you and you would then grade each other? Well, I asked our writers to do that.
We all went through the site in pairs, looking at every column we posted in 2021. We picked out our favorite things written by each other this year.
Here are the best columns of 2021 according to the BSM columnists.
WHERE ARE THE SPORTS RADIO PROGRAMMERS OF TOMORROW? by Jason Barrett
JB didn’t write much in 2021. We had a business to run, after all. But quantity doesn’t matter if the quality is undeniable. Maybe it is selfish, but my favorite piece he wrote came just two months ago when he asked where the next generation of PDs will come from. It’s selfish because A) I think it is my next step at some point and B) it touches on a problem that I have been pointing out for years. The support staff is an afterthought to an afterthought at a lot of companies. The format’s future is in jeopardy if we aren’t thinking about tomorrow right now. I am glad JB put a spotlight on the issue! – Demetri Ravanos
DON’T BE MARK ZUCKERBERG by Demetri Ravanos
I listed Demetri’s column “Don’t Be Mark Zuckerberg” as my favorite of his for 2021 because it shed light on the different ways executives handle big decisions. Some are built to face problems head-on, and willing to risk their professional status with a company to do what they believe is best for the brand. Then there are others who lack the courage and confidence to make tough calls, deferring to others, and trying to draw attention to other things that have a far less significant impact on a brand’s success.
Having seen this situation many times, first as a programmer, and now as a consultant, a brand’s ability to evolve and thrive often comes down to how its leaders tackle key issues. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair once said ‘the art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes‘ and I couldn’t agree more. Radio is a results-oriented business. Leading operations successfully requires an ability to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Mixed opinions will exist internally and externally so all you can do is review the information, weigh the pros and cons, look at the options available to improve a situation, and then trust your gut and make a call. Once you’ve made a decision, you do everything possible to support it and make it work.
What you can’t do is run from big issues or give people what they want just to avoid confrontation. That ends up hurting the brand worse in the long run and it shows weakness in a leader. For example, if a station can’t attract listeners because the hosts/shows are inferior, no changing of a clock, voice talent, imaging director or brand name is going to solve the problem. The solution is figuring out what the audience wants to hear, and then putting the right people in place to earn more of the public’s time. That was the point Demetri made with Facebook changing its name to Meta. If the biggest issue facing Facebook was a lack of trust from the public and leadership offering minimal solutions to regain their confidence, a silly video and new company name and logo did zero to fix the problem. You can put lipstick on a pig to try and disguise the issue, but people know a pig when they see one. – Jason Barrett
LANDRY LOCKER TAKES SOMETHING FROM EVERYONE by Brian Noe
Brian does an incredible job with these pieces where he interviews industry professionals. I always feel like I’ve added a new layer of insight after reading them, this is what this site is all about. Sharing our experiences- good and bad, coming together and trying to be better at this each day. Landry shares his journey through radio, work ethic, and the experiences that have allowed him to grow in a desirable sports market. We all want to be unique but in order to get better, you’ve got to take bits from everyone you admire along the way. Great read. – Brandon Kravitz
DOING NOTHING IS DOING SOMETHING FOR YOURSELF by Brandon Kravitz
Brandon Kravitz shared a great piece of advice in his November column, “Doing Nothing Is Doing Something For Yourself.” It’s important to take a break and live life instead of just being a sports or work junkie. The funny thing is that unplugging from sports to watch a movie or go to the zoo can still be utilized on a sports talk show. Examples of life experiences can be tied to sports topics and make hosts sound like — I don’t know — human freaking beings. Brandon cautions us to avoid burnout and diminished versions of ourselves, and promotes the art of a break. It’s great advice to follow. – Brian Noe
WHAT DOES LIFE IN THE METAVERSE MEAN TO SPORTS? by Jeremy Evans
The rapid expansion of the virtual world is both exciting and scary at the same time. The emergence of online interactive events, NFT’s, crypto and other recent innovations are creating not only a new world, but possibly a new reality. I hope that, as we continue to expand into this “Metaverse”, the stewards of this technology proceed with caution. Jeremy had a great line: “Being an ethical manager is just as important as being a great inventor.” – Ryan Maguire
SIX CHARACTERISTICS EVERY PODCAST SHOULD HAVE by Ryan Maguire
Ryan does wonderful work at keeping it simple, while explaining important business principles that apply to podcast growth and development. Good podcasting requires skill, content, and strategy, which Ryan highlights well. – Jeremy Evans
DAN DAKICH IS INDIANAPOLIS’S MOST FAMOUS DELIVERY BOY by Tyler McComas
Anytime a fellow Barrett Sports Media writer makes national news with his article on our site, it’s worth reading. Tyler McComas minded his own business hosting pm drive on SportsTalk 1400 in Norman, Oklahoma, when he wrote his weekly article for Barrett Sports Media. He had gotten a tip from his Barrett Sports Media partners and wrote a breaking story. Dan Dakich Is Indianapolis’s Most Famous Delivery Boy broke the news that the controversial Dakich, an ESPN basketball color man and radio host, was punishing himself by working for DoorDash. The article was quoted by Yahoo, Indy Star, and others. It is an excellent read about Dakich, who at the time, 5/20/21, was fresh off a controversy two months earlier about a Twitter fight he got into with a female college professor. – Jeff Caves
THE LETTER EVERY YOUNG SELLER SHOULD RECEIVE by Jeff Caves
I love this story by Jeff because it gives an accurate an realistic note to young sellers in the business. That can mean someone just entering sales on the radio side, or even a show host that’s really had the ambition to help on the sales side. One part that hit home was the message that experience will help you filter what to chase and what not to chase. I can see Jeff’s point. As a young seller, it probably feels like you’ll promise anything and everything to the buyer, even if it means if you’re not valuing the company and selling for a massively discounted rate. That can create a slippery slope, especially in smaller markets, where business owners talk. If one owner is getting one price, and the guy across the street has been a longer client but paying more for less, that can create an awkward and unfavorable situation. Jeff knows how to sell. But most importantly, he knows how to best use his time. That’s easily one of the most important thing in sales. – Tyler McComas
DICK VITALE IS GETTING BACK ALL THE LOVE HE GAVE by Andy Masur
My favorite piece of Andy’s this year was his recent story on ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale, who has been battling lymphoma since October after battling cancer previously. Andy tells the story of a longtime college basketball analyst, dedicated to his craft and the game, who helped grow ESPN into what it is today. Vitale has been open about his disease on social media, and often puts out inspirational messages for his followers to hear and updates about his treatment. Through his battle, Vitale has been able to return to the booth for select games, and has received standing ovations from crowds at each games and messages of encouragement and support during this tough time. Please enjoy this piece by Andy Masur titled “Dick Vitale is getting back all the love he gave,” and allow his story to inspire you to fight through your own battles, including this devastating global pandemic, by keeping a positive resolve and willingness to keep fighting. – Derek Futterman
FOUR HOSTS ANSWER FIVE QUESTIONS ABOUT FACEBOOK by Derek Futterman
I really enjoyed Derek Futterman’s article dated October 11, 2021 in which “4 Sports Radio Hosts Answer 5 Questions About Facebook”. With Facebook in the news quite a bit around that time, the immediacy of how the platform is used in the industry was extremely relevant. I’ve often contemplated the same question about how much access I let my listeners have of me on Facebook. The article also is a cautionary tale to those looking to get hired about what they post, giving a future employer a glimpse at the potential hire’s presence on the site. I thought the line of questioning was extremely balanced and the answers Derek got to these questions were insightful and helpful. – Andy Masur
The Future Is Now, Embrace Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+
As annoying as streaming sports is and as much as I haven’t fully adapted to the habit yet, Amazon and Apple have done a magnificent job of trying to make the process as easy and simplified as possible.
This week has been a reckoning for sports and its streaming future on Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+, ESPN+, and more.
Amazon announced that Thursday Night Football, which averaged 13 million viewers, generated the highest number of U.S. sign ups over a three hour period in the app’s history. More people in the United States subscribed to Prime during the September 15th broadcast than they did during Black Friday, Prime Day, and Cyber Monday. It was also “the most watched night of primetime in Prime Video’s history,” according to Amazon executive Jay Marine. The NFL and sports in general have the power to move mountains even for some of the nation’s biggest and most successful brands.
This leads us to the conversation happening surrounding Aaron Judge’s chase for history. Judge has been in pursuit of former major leaguer Roger Maris’ record for the most home runs hit during one season in American League history.
The sports world has turned its attention to the Yankees causing national rights holders such as ESPN, Fox, and TBS to pick up extra games in hopes that they capture the moment history is made. Apple TV+ also happened to have a Yankees game scheduled for Friday night against the Red Sox right in the middle of this chase for glory.
Baseball fans have been wildin’ out at the prospects of missing the grand moment when Judge passes Maris or even the moments afterwards as Judge chases home run number 70 and tries to truly create monumental history of his own. The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand has even reported there were talks between YES, MLB, and Apple to bring Michael Kay into Apple’s broadcast to call the game, allow YES Network to air its own production of the game, or allow YES Network to simulcast Apple TV+’s broadcast. In my opinion, all of this hysteria is extremely bogus.
As annoying as streaming sports is and as much as I haven’t fully adapted to the habit yet, Amazon and Apple have done a magnificent job of trying to make the process as easy and simplified as possible. Amazon brought in NBC to help with production of TNF and if you watch the flow of the broadcast, the graphics of the broadcast, NBC personalities like Michael Smith, Al Michaels, and Terry McAuliffe make appearances on the telecast – it is very clear that the network’s imprint is all over the show.
NBC’s experience in conducting the broadcast has made the viewing experience much more seamless. Apple has also used MLB Network and its personalities for assistance in ensuring there’s no major difference between what you see on air vs. what you’re streaming.
Amazon and Apple have also decided to not hide their games behind a paywall. Since the beginning of the season, all of Apple’s games have been available free of charge. No subscription has ever been required. As long as you have an Apple device and can download Apple TV+, you can watch their MLB package this season.
Guess what? Friday’s game against the Red Sox is also available for free on your iPhone, your laptop, or your TV simply by downloading the AppleTV app. Amazon will also simulcast all Thursday Night Football games on Twitch for free. It may be a little harder or confusing to find the free options, but they are out there and they are legal and, once again, they are free.
Apple has invested $85 million into baseball, money that will go towards your team becoming better hypothetically. They’ve invested money towards creating a new kind of streaming experience. Why in the hell would they offer YES Network this game for free? There’s no better way for them to drive subscriptions to their product than by offering fans a chance at watching history on their platform.
A moment like this are the main reason Apple paid for rights in the first place. When Apple sees what the NFL has done for Amazon in just one week and coincidentally has the ability to broadcast one of the biggest moments in baseball history – it would be a terrible business decision to let viewers watch it outside of the Apple ecosystem and lose the ability to gain new fans.
It’s time for sports fans to grow up and face reality. Streaming is here to stay.
MLB Network is another option
If you don’t feel like going through the hassle of watching the Yankees take on the Red Sox for free on Apple TV+, MLB Network will also air all of Judge’s at bats live as they are happening. In case the moment doesn’t happen on Apple TV+ on Friday night, Judge’s next games will air in full on MLB Network (Saturday), ESPN (Sunday), MLB Network again (Monday), TBS (Tuesday) and MLB Network for a third time on Wednesday. All of MLB Network’s games will be simulcast of YES Network’s local New York broadcast. It wouldn’t shock me to see Fox pick up another game next Thursday if the pursuit still maintains national interest.
- One of the weirdest things about the experience of streaming sports is that you lose the desire to channel surf. Is that a good thing or bad thing? Brandon Ross of LightShed Ventures wonders if the difficulty that comes with going from app to app will help Amazon keep viewers on TNF the entire time no matter what the score of the game is. If it does, Amazon needs to work on developing programming to surround the games or start replaying the games, pre and post shows so that when you fall asleep and wake up you’re still on the same stream on Prime Video or so that coming to Prime Video for sports becomes just as much of a habit for fans as tuning in to ESPN is.
- CNN has announced the launch of a new morning show with Don Lemon, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlin Collins. Variety reports, “Two people familiar with plans for the show say it is likely to use big Warner Bros. properties — a visit from the cast of HBO’s Succession or sports analysis from TNT’s NBA crew — to lure eyeballs.” It’ll be interesting to see if Turner Sports becomes a cornerstone of this broadcast. Will the NBA start doing schedule releases during the show? Will a big Taylor Rooks interview debut on this show before it appears on B/R? Will the Stanley Cup or Final Four MVP do an interview on CNN’s show the morning after winning the title? Does the show do remote broadcasts from Turner’s biggest sports events throughout the year?
- The Clippers are back on over the air television. They announced a deal with Nexstar to broadcast games on KTLA and other Nexstar owned affiliates in California. The team hasn’t reached a deal to air games on Bally Sports SoCal or Bally Sports Plus for the upcoming season. Could the Clippers pursue a solo route and start their own OTT service in time for the season? Are they talking to Apple, Amazon, or ESPN about a local streaming deal? Is Spectrum a possible destination? I think these are all possibilities but its likely that the Clippers end up back on Bally Sports since its the status quo. I just find it interesting that it has taken so long to solidify an agreement and that it wasn’t announced in conjunction with the KTLA deal. The Clippers are finally healthy this season, moving into a new arena soon, have the technology via Second Spectrum to produce immersive game casts. Maybe something is brewing?
- ESPN’s Monday Night Football double box was a great concept. The execution sucked. Kudos to ESPN for adjusting on the fly once complaints began to lodge across social media. I think the double box works as a separate feed. ESPN2 should’ve been the home to the double box. SVP and Stanford Steve could’ve held a watch party from ESPN’s DC studio with special guests. The double box watch party on ESPN2 could’ve been interrupted whenever SVP was giving an update on games for ESPN and ABC. It would give ESPN2 a bit of a behind the scenes look at how the magic happens similarly to what MLB Tonight did last week. Credit to ESPN and the NFL for experimenting and continuing to try and give fans unique experiences.
Jessie Karangu is a columnist for BSM and graduate of the University of Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland but comes from Kenyan roots. Jessie has had a passion for sports media and the world of television since he was a child. His career has included stints with USA Today, Tegna, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Sightline Media. He can be found on Twitter @JMKTVShow.
ESPN Shows Foresight With Monday Night Football Doubleheader Timing
ESPN is obviously testing something, and it’s worth poking around at why the network wouldn’t follow the schedule it has used for the last 16 years, scheduling kickoffs at 7 and then 10 on their primary channel.
The Monday Night Football doubleheader was a little bit different this time around for ESPN.
First, it came in Week 2 instead of Week 1. And then, the games were staggered 75 minutes apart on two different channels, the Titans and Bills beginning on ESPN at 7:15 PM ET and the Vikings at the Eagles starting at 8:30 PM on ABC and ESPN+. This was a departure from the usual schedule in which the games kicked off at 7:00 PM ET and then 10:00 PM ET with the latter game on the West Coast.
ESPN is obviously testing something, and it’s worth poking around at why the network wouldn’t follow the schedule it has used for the last 16 years, scheduling kickoffs at 7:00 PM and then 10:00 PM ET on their primary channel. That’s the typical approach, right? The NFL is the most valuable offering in all of sports and ESPN would have at least six consecutive hours of live programming without any other game to switch to.
Instead, they staggered the starts so the second game kicked off just before the first game reached halftime. They placed the games on two different channels, which risked cannibalizing their audience. Why? Well, it’s the same reason that ESPN was so excited about the last year’s Manningcast that it’s bringing it back for 10 weeks this season. ESPN is not just recognizing the reality of how their customers behave, but they’re embracing it.
Instead of hoping with everything they have that the customer stays in one place for the duration of the game, they’re recognizing the reality that they will leave and providing another product within their portfolio to be a destination when they do.
It’s the kind of experiment everyone in broadcasting should be investigating because, for all the talk about meeting the customer where they are, we still tend to be a little bit stubborn about adapting to what they do.
Customers have more choices than ever when it comes to media consumption. First, cable networks softened the distribution advantages of broadcast networks, and now digital offerings have eroded the distribution advantages of cable networks. It’s not quite a free-for-all, but the battle for viewership is more intense, more wide open than ever because that viewer has so many options of not just when and where but how they will consume media.
Programmers have a choice in how to react to this. On the one hand, they can hold on tighter to the existing model and try to squeeze as much out of it as they can. If ESPN was thinking this way it would stack those two Monday night games one after the other just like it always has and hope like hell for a couple of close games to juice the ratings. Why would you make it impossible for your customer to watch both of these products you’ve paid so much to televise?
I’ve heard radio programmers and hosts recite take this same approach for more than 10 years now when it comes to making shows available on-demand. Why would you give your customers the option of consuming the product in a way that’s not as remunerative or in a way that is not measured?
That thinking is outdated and it is dangerous from an economic perspective because it means you’re trying to make the customer behave in your best interest by restricting their choices. And maybe that will work. Maybe they like that program enough that they’ll consume it in the way you’d prefer or maybe they decide that’s inconvenient or annoying or they decide to try something else and now this customer who would have listened to your product in an on-demand format is choosing to listen to someone else’s product entirely.
After all, you’re the only one that is restricting that customer’s choices because you’re the only one with a desire to keep your customer where he is. Everyone else is more than happy to give your customer something else.
There’s a danger in holding on too tightly to the existing model because the tighter you squeeze, the more customers will slip through your fingers, and if you need a physical demonstration to complete this metaphor go grab a handful of sand and squeeze it hard.
Your business model is only as good as its ability to predict the behavior of your customers, and as soon as it stops doing that, you need to adjust that business model. Don’t just recognize the reality that customers today will exercise the freedom that all these media choices provide, embrace it.
Offer more products. Experiment with more ways to deliver those products. The more you attempt to dictate the terms of your customer’s engagement with your product, the more customers you’ll lose, and by accepting this you’ll open yourself to the reality that if your customer is going to leave your main offering, it’s better to have them hopping to another one of your products as opposed to leaving your network entirely.
Think in terms of depth of engagement, and breadth of experience. That’s clearly what ESPN is doing because conventional thinking would see the Manningcast as a program that competes with the main Monday Night Football broadcast, that cannibalizes it. ESPN sees it as a complimentary experience. An addition to the main broadcast, but it also has the benefit that if the customer feels compelled to jump away from the main broadcast – for whatever reason – it has another ESPN offering that they may land on.
I’ll be watching to see what ESPN decides going forward. The network will have three Monday Night Football doubleheaders beginning next year, and the game times have not been set. Will they line them up back-to-back as they had up until this year? If they do it will be a vote of confidence that its traditional programming approach that evening is still viable. But if they overlap those games going forward, it’s another sign that less is not more when it comes to giving your customers a choice in products.
Danny O’Neil is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously hosted morning and afternoon drive for 710 ESPN Seattle, and served as a reporter for the Seattle Times. He can be reached on Twitter @DannyOneil or by email at Danny@DannyOneil.com.
Media Noise: Sunday Ticket Has Problems, Marcellus Wiley Does Not
On this episode of Media Noise, Demetri is joined by Brian Noe to talk about the wild year FS1’s Marcellus Wiley has had and by Garrett Searight to discuss the tumultuous present and bright future of NFL Sunday Ticket.
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.