Sports radio is sometimes too polite. “Well, in my humble opinion,” and that sort of thing. Every once in a while it’s nice to hear a host say, “Eat it if you don’t like it.” Enter Howard Eskin. The radio and TV personality has showcased a no-holds-barred style that has gained notoriety on the Philadelphia airwaves since 1976. There are times when the truth is ugly and grimy. Eskin hasn’t been afraid to get his hands dirty along the way in pursuit of honesty.
As you will be able to tell from our chat below, Eskin doesn’t offer wishy-washy stances. His opinions are strong and his responses are direct. That doesn’t mean Eskin hasn’t had fun along the way as well. He once did an interview with the San Diego Chicken on a news telecast. Eskin offers an unfiltered response to a recent criticism from fellow WIP host Angelo Cataldi. Eskin also destroys a myth about older hosts and offers thoughts about the success of his son, Spike Eskin, who’s now the program director at WFAN. Enjoy!
Brian Noe: Where have you worked outside of Philadelphia during your lifetime?
Howard Eskin: I worked in New York earlier in my career. I worked in the Maryland, Washington D.C. area at the beginning of my career. I was a disc jockey. I was a production engineer for a classical station. I had done a lot of things and then I spun records for guys here in Philadelphia. George Michael, who I worked with in Philadelphia who had the Sports Machine, I did segments on the Sports Machine for 11 years. He was a disc jockey up in New York before he went into television.
But that was it, New York and Washington. Then since the mid-to-early ’70s, I’ve been in Philadelphia. I’ve been on the air since ‘76 in Philadelphia, which is a long time. I’ve been on TV and radio since ‘82. Philadelphia is my home and this is what I like. I’m just happy that I can work in the town that I grew up in, which doesn’t always happen. It’s not necessary, but I don’t know if my career would have been the same if I hadn’t been here in Philadelphia. That’s what it comes down to; this is where I was meant to be.
BN: What would you say is the most fun you’ve had during your broadcasting career?
HE: I have fun doing what I do on the air. I don’t want to say I have fun arguing with players and coaches but we kind of get to know each other. Dick Vermeil invited me to his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction. At the beginning, Dick Vermeil didn’t like me a little, tiny bit because I was critical of how hard he worked players. At UCLA where he came from, he never got criticized. It was different for him, L.A. to Philadelphia now, people are going to say things.
He told his players not to listen to me. Herm Edwards came out to practice one time, and said ’hey man, what did you do to coach’? I go ‘what are you talking about’? He says, ‘he told us you’re talking out your ass’. And then my first day in television I was at the head table, September 20, 1982 and Dick Vermeil was one of the speakers. He buried me at the Maxwell Club. It was a luncheon back then. Buried me. I said that’s okay, Dick. Now we’re really good friends. I’ve been over to his house. We’ve been out to dinner. He’ll text me when I’m on the air if he thinks he can help me with some kind of info.
It’s kind of interesting, but there’s been players that want to kick my ass. Mitch Williams wanted to punch me in the mouth. You go right down the list and now Mitch Williams and I are friends. They understand after they’re done playing that that’s really my job. But I’d go into the locker room, I’d yell at Larry Bowa and Darren Dalton. I would yell at Lenny Dykstra who was crazy. And then 30 seconds later we’re laughing because we get over it and we move on. I don’t know that it’s always that way now.
I’ll give you a couple of cool moments; I’m on the sidelines for an Eagles’ game and Bradley Cooper walks up to me and says ‘hey Howard, Bradley Cooper’. I said, ‘come on, man, I know who you are. How do you know me’? He said, ‘I grew up in the area. I listened to you and watched you for all of those years’. Will Smith did the same thing. Those are just really cool moments. Then whenever they see me they’re always very nice. You never know who’s out there.
Allen Iverson, he was interesting. We got along great his first few years. Then the guys he hung with told him not to listen to me because I was trying to tell him to do the right things especially with Larry Brown. He wasn’t all about listening to the coach, so then after a few years it was a little adversarial.
So he’s walking in the hallways at a Sixers game and he sees LeSean McCoy. Obviously I knew LeSean playing here, and LeSean says what do you think of this guy? He says that MF — I use MF because regardless of where this goes, I still don’t think it’s proper to put it in print and these people on satellite can use the four letter word — that MF he was always killin’ me. Killin’ me. And then Allen says to LeSean McCoy, but I love him. I love him.
Now every time he sees me he gives me a hug and says you’ve got to let the past be the past. I think he understood because he always tried to keep it real and I always tried to keep it real. So in the end, after it’s all over, I think he respects me for that.
BN: Angelo just did an interview with The Ringer…
HE: Angelo who?
BN: [Laughs] That’s right.
HE: Obviously, I’m kidding.
BN: Oh yeah, I know. Angelo said that he has a classic love/hate relationship with you. On the bright side he gave you compliments and said that he loves your work ethic and especially what you mean to Philly sports. But he also said that he didn’t think you were a great team player. What’s your reaction to that?
HE: You know what, I have no idea where that comes from. I work my ass off. I don’t know if he was kidding because sometimes when you see it written — I didn’t hear it. If they ask me to do something whether it’s help with a client or help in other ways, my biggest problem is I don’t say no. I don’t say no to charities. I don’t say no to the people I work for. I don’t say no. There have been management people I haven’t agreed with. I may not agree, but I’ll sit down and talk to them about it. I really have no clue what he was talking about. It’s the pot calling the kettle black.
I do whatever they ask me to do and what I think I have to do. I go to games and talk to players and connect with people. It gives me information. I consider what I do on the air, I inform and I entertain. You can do both with the correct information. I don’t have to do all those things. I don’t have to share it with WIP, and I do share a lot of things with them. I really have no clue what he was talking about. Absolutely no clue because I don’t want to say I’m the best team player, but I’m somewhere at the top of the list. Whatever they ask me to do, and those people will tell you that too, the management people, the people I’ve worked with over the years, they’ll all tell you that.
I don’t know if Angelo is somewhat jealous on the way out that I lasted longer than he did. It’s hard to get up in the morning. Doing those morning shows I’m sure is no piece of cake. He was compensated well for it so that’s the benefit of that. But I can’t answer that question because it surprised me not a little bit, it surprised me a lot with all I do.
I don’t want to go down that road and be critical of things that he’s done, although I will tell you one thing he did when he was a complete jerk. He wanted to get Bill Clinton on the air and I had a connection with Bill Clinton through the Secret Service. One night a bunch of Secret Service guys were coming to town and one guy called me, my phone rang. I didn’t have it on vibrate at the time while I was doing a show. I went to a break. I went back on the air and said that was somebody from the Secret Service that wanted to get in touch with me from the White House.
He got so angry because at that time the governor of the state told him he was going to get Bill Clinton on the air. It was Ed Rendell. That wasn’t going to happen. So anyway, he says if he’s going to take calls from the Secret Service, then he should take calls from you. He gave out my cell number on the air. I mean come on, man. What are you doing? Why would you do that? There was obviously a jealousy there, which I had a connection. That was wrong but I didn’t dwell on it afterwards and I’m not going to dwell on the things that he says now. [Laughs]
BN: [Laughs] As far as uncovering news, you’re known for going to great lengths to break stories. Why do you find it important to do so?
HE: When there’s something there that’s interesting to sports fans, I’m lucky enough, in my phone I have 5600 contacts. If I ever lost that — you can go right down the list, there’s always somebody that you can call and try to get some info on a situation when you hear about it. A lot of times there are stories I have and I try to pass them along but I always try to check. Luckily enough, I have a lot of people to check.
I’ll tell you a story outside of sports to show you maybe my reach. There was a friend of mine who had brain cancer. Very, very, very devout Catholic. I knew someone at the Vatican. Like, how do I know anyone at the Vatican? I mean you’ve got to be kidding me. And I asked to get a letter from the pope to this guy. He passed away like five months later after he got the letter. I didn’t get the letter, but I got the pope to send a letter to this guy. [Laughs] It’s like are you kidding me?
You get to know people, and it doesn’t always have to be sports, but people are people. It’s not like you ever count favors, you just do for people because they do for you. That’s why, I’m not a team player? I don’t know what the hell that’s all about. And I’m not going to worry about it. If you hadn’t brought it up, I wouldn’t have brought it up either.
BN: Is the Pope one of the 5600 contacts? [Laughs] Do you have the area code and everything?
HE: [Laughs] I don’t, but I have a bishop in the Vatican’s number. So that’s one of the 5600. Can you imagine? I’m a Jewish guy and I’ve got someone’s number in the Vatican.
BN: [Laughs] That’s great. Did you know that Spike’s (Eskin) career would unfold the way that it has?
HE: He did it by himself. I’ve got to give him credit. There’s only two things I helped him with. I helped him get an internship in the company at that time. And then when he was thinking about coming back to Philadelphia from Chicago — he was a disc jockey and then a music director and all of that — the general manager at the time didn’t want to pay him more money. He wasn’t going to come back.
I said hey listen, you’re letting this guy go in the morning; you’re going to save hundreds of thousands of dollars. You can’t give him, I don’t know if it was $25,000 or $30,000 more a year to convince him to come back to Philadelphia? I just was trying to help him. That’s the only involvement I ever had. I didn’t tell him what I think he should do. There may have been one time or another where I had an opinion, but I wouldn’t really say that to him because he could do it on his own especially when he became the program director.
I knew he was a bright guy, bright kid at the time. He’s not a millennial although he wants to be a millennial. He’s out of that range now. But yeah, he was creative. I’ve got to say that all my kids are creative and he’s one of them. He works hard. He’s firm. If he would tell me something that I needed to do, he didn’t tell me much because I kind of knew what had to be done, I never really debated him on it. I just did it. If I didn’t agree with it, I kind of would go halfway, but I knew he was pretty sharp.
He was very good at what he does and I know he’s doing a great job up there. I’ve known his boss, Chris Oliviero, for 25 years and he’s a great guy and a very, very creative guy. But those two together I know they’re doing a great job and WFAN is doing terrific. I’m glad to see that he works well with Craig Carton. I like Craig a lot. I know he had problems, but I think Craig is a brilliant, creative air talent. Brilliant and creative. He really is good. I wished in some way, shape or form he could have come back to Philadelphia and work, but he’s doing what’s good for him. His wife’s from Philadelphia so he still has connections here.
BN: Who would be on your Mount Rushmore of Philly sports radio hosts?
HE: Wow, putting me on the spot here. I don’t want to say I’m egotistical, but being I started this whole thing I would have to be up there somewhere. Rather than leave Angelo off there so he has something to whine about, he’d have to be on it because he worked a long time and the morning show was very successful. I don’t agree with everything he does, but he doesn’t agree with everything I do, so he’d have to be up there.
Craig Carton was here. Craig is funny, he’s bright and even though he wasn’t here that long I’m telling you I’m a big, big fan of Craig Carton. I’d have to put him on there. So now we’ve got three and maybe I’ll leave the fourth spot open for somebody that takes over the morning show. We’ll kind of leave that there.
There have been guys that have come through here, but if they didn’t stay here that long they can’t be on the Mount Rushmore. How about if I leave that fourth spot open on that Mount Rushmore. People will criticize me, what are you doing on it? Put yourself on that? No, I don’t put myself on Mount Rushmore, others put me on Mount Rushmore. So, eat it. Eat it if you don’t like it.
BN: [Laughs] What do you think about the word retirement?
HE: People say are you going to retire? Or when are you going to retire? I says if you can spell that word for me because I can’t spell it, maybe I’ll think about it. But I can’t spell that word. When people say retire, no. What, do you think I should retire? No, no, no. I’ll tell you the joy that I have, there is a belief in radio that older people don’t get younger people who listen to them. That’s such BS because when people come up to me, because I’m at a lot of games, I’m in the public a lot, people come up hey man, I listen to you. If you’re good, or what you do is interesting and they think it’s good, then that’s all that matters to me.
BN: If you could pick one thing on your list that you want to accomplish going forward, what would you say it is?
HE: That is a really difficult question. I’ve been successful in the Philadelphia market, which is obviously not the easiest market to work in. It’s my home. I’ve known a lot of people here. I’ve met a lot of people. I just want to continue to do what I do and have the passion. If there’s anything I want to accomplish, I just want to have the passion and the love to do what I do. Whether it’s radio or TV.
Unfortunately, it’s kind of sad. Television sports is really — what a waste. I’ve told people this, it’s like it’s an afterthought on television. You know what, if there’s anything I want to do, I want to get TV to realize that sports on television is ridiculous. It’s not anything anybody tunes in to watch because on our phones you have the highlights before you get to the news. We have the news before we get to the news. You’ve got six different segments of weather, but I get them on my phone updated every 10 minutes, so I don’t need that.
Publishers have asked me to write a book. I have notes that I put down, different things that have happened to me in my career that I think would be interesting to people. I got my leg broken at a game on Christmas night in 2017, the year the Eagles went to the Super Bowl. I worked five games with a broken leg, but I didn’t tell anybody and I didn’t put a cast on it. It was a non-weight-bearing bone; I wouldn’t have been able to be on the sidelines if I had a cast on. I tell Nick Sirianni now for all your players that are soft, I worked five games with a broken leg. Stop already with all of these guys. [Laughs]
So someday, because you have to sit down, you really have to put some time into it and I wouldn’t write it myself, I would get a writer to help me write it. There’s some really interesting experiences. Again, stories I can, and stories I can’t tell. The can’t-tell stories are good, but the can-tell stories are still good too.
BN: Would there be anything about Angelo in there?
HE: You know, the one thing I didn’t do but I’ll wait till he retires, is rip Angelo a new ass. [Laughs]
Brian Noe is a columnist for BSM and an on-air host heard nationwide each weekend on FOX Sports Radio. Previous roles include stops in Portland, OR, Albany, NY and Fresno, CA. You can follow him on Twitter @TheNoeShow or email him at email@example.com.
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Evan Roberts, Self-Professed Sports Maniac, Thrives at WFAN
From an early age, Roberts knew that radio was the medium through which he wanted to express his fandom, especially WFAN.
Evan Roberts made his first appearance on WFAN at just 10 years old, filling in for NBA play-by-play announcer Mike Breen delivering sports updates on Imus in the Morning. The opportunity came after he sent a letter on a whim to the station asking for a job since he enjoyed listening to the station with his father. Desiring to become a radio host was the result of dynamic career aspirations that transitioned from wanting to work as an architect to trying to become the play-by-play announcer for his favorite baseball team, the New York Mets.
“Listening to Mike and Chris, and Benigno in the overnights and Somers – I was like ‘That’s what I want to do’,” Roberts recalled. “….It couldn’t be any more specific when I’m listening to the Fan saying ‘I want to be on the Fan.’ About a decade and a half later, I was able to get it done and I’ve been there ever since.”
From an early age, Roberts knew that radio was the medium through which he wanted to express his fandom, especially WFAN. As a native New Yorker, Roberts connected with the teams in the area and sought the chance to talk about them for a living on a sports radio station with a storied history in the area.
Since 1989, WFAN has been one of the pillars of New York sports coverage and a place that helped pioneer the sports talk radio format. Getting there, though, required that Roberts had deft knowledge of sports, an ability to connect with fans, and experience that ensured he was ready for an opportunity in the number one media market in the world.
While attending school, Roberts was hosting a radio show called Kidsports on WGBB, a radio station based in Freeport, N.Y. serving Nassau County on Long Island. He then moved to Radio AAHS to host What’s Up With Evan Roberts and Nets Slammin’ Planet, the latter with famed high school basketball player Albert King and NBA insider Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson. Aside from being able to refine his hosting skills, Roberts made valuable connections in these roles including one that would help him land his first job out of high school: Danny Turner.
Before he was named the senior vice president of programming operations at XM Satellite Radio in Washington, D.C., Turner served as the engineer for Roberts’ shows on Radio AAHS. He helped to coordinate the technology associated with broadcasting since the shows were done remotely rather than from out of a studio.
“[He] ended up working at XM Radio and heard one of my tapes as it went on and said ‘I remember him. I like him,’ and then sent it to the right person and they ultimately hired me,” said Roberts. “It was my first real, real job working out of high school, and that was about meeting someone earlier on and remembering who that person was and sending as many tapes as I could.”
As a graduate of Lawrence High School, Roberts quickly made the move from Cedarhurst, N.Y. to Washington, D.C. to begin working at XM Satellite Radio, a place he would stay for the next two years. Then, he made the move down I-295 from D.C. to Baltimore, Md. where he worked at 105.7 The Fan WJFK-AM and had to adjust his sports consumption to align with the interests of those listeners. It taught him the importance of research and preparation, important aspects of working in sports media that he still utilizes to this day.
“When I was in Baltimore, I had to be Baltimore,” said Roberts. “I had to understand what makes the Orioles fan tick; what makes the Ravens fan tick. I didn’t grow up as an Orioles fan or a Ravens fan. The Ravens had won the Super Bowl years earlier. I know nothing about winning Super Bowls; I’m a Jets fan.”
At 21 years old, Roberts made the move back to “The Big Apple” when he was hired by WFAN as an overnight host, a role he stayed in for the next two-and-a-half years. Simultaneously, Roberts was working on Maxim Radio doing a night show on the Sirius Satellite Radio channel. Balancing those two roles, while it may have seemed daunting, gave Roberts the chance to broadcast in his home market and talk about the teams he grew up rooting for; the aforementioned Mets and Jets, along with the then-New Jersey Nets and New York Islanders.
Then in 2007, Roberts got his big break when he was named the midday co-host with Joe Benigno on the program Benigno & Roberts in the Midday. Benigno, who got his start on WFAN as a regular caller, had grown a rapport with listeners since joining the station in 1995, making the task for Roberts, a 23-year-old at the time, more difficult in terms of fitting in. Roberts is grateful that Benigno, a host he grew up listening to on WFAN, was accommodating and amicable towards him – plus it helped that they aligned in their rooting interests as Mets and Jets fans.
“He was very welcoming, and he didn’t have to be because I was a lot younger; he had no idea who the hell I was,” said Roberts. “….Right out of the gate, I think he saw my passion [and] my knowledge; he saw a little bit of himself in me, and we were able to bond right away.”
To make a name for himself in the new midday time slot, Roberts stuck to the principles that had been given to him from his early days of radio; that is, to be himself. From the start of his foray into sports media, Roberts and most people around him knew that he was, in his own words, “a sports maniac”, and he needed to maintain that genuine identity on the air. His relatability and passion for the teams as a fan made him an ideal fit for the station synonymous with New York City bearing those iconic call letters and an unbeatable afternoon duo.
“I think as time [went] on and Joe and I developed even more and more chemistry, the audience knew who we were,” said Roberts. “They certainly knew who he was, but they learned ‘Evan’s a die-hard Mets fan. He doesn’t miss a game.’”
While it was important for Roberts to emulate his fandom for the teams he roots for, he quickly developed a cognizance for trying to talk about other teams impartially while on the air. It is a challenge, to a degree, to maintain objectivity daily with intrinsic fandom for certain teams, but being able to understand how other fan bases feel after monumental victories or crushing defeats renders the art of appealing to the listening audience easier. It also upholds WFAN’s commitment to serve as an outlet for all New York sports fans rather than just certain cohorts of them.
“We’re trying to appeal to everybody,” said Roberts. “We want everybody listening. Not just Yankees fans; not just Mets fans; not just die-hard sports fans; not just casual fans. How do you keep every single person wanting to listen to the radio?”
When Roberts first joined the station in 2004, most New York sports teams were rebuilding aside from the Yankees. Today, the preponderance of professional teams in the New York Metropolitan area are contending or at least have the chance to appear in their league’s playoffs, something that is exciting for fans like Roberts but presents a challenge in doing effective sports radio that accurately depicts the emotions of listeners.
“I think what’s going to be a real challenge… is [when] the Mets are in the playoffs, the Yankees are in the playoffs, the Jets look competent, and the Giants look competent, and it’s a Monday,” Roberts expressed. “You’ve got four monstrous fan bases that care about their team. How the hell do you find a way to keep them all entertained?”
To express the true extent of his fandom for niche sectors of the audience, Roberts turns to another form of aural consumption: podcasts. There has been much discussion over the ability of traditional radio and podcasts to coexist in this digital age of media; however, Roberts believes that the two mediums provide a unique combination that was previously nonexistent.
In his opinion, podcasts are a method to delve deeper into topics or teams that do not garner as much time on the radio, specifically those that do not generate as large of a market share or which are not as representative of the interests of the majority of listeners.
“I do a Mets podcast specifically – I called it Rico Brogna because I loved Rico Brogna as a kid and I figured ‘Why the hell not?’”, Roberts said. “…I do an hour breaking down the Mets in a hard-core way that I’m not going to do on WFAN for an hour. I may do it for a couple of minutes. I think those two things work perfectly side-by-side.”
Still, most listeners, according to Roberts, will likely turn to terrestrial radio to get their sports fix, especially if they do not express allegiance to solely one team.
“The majority of people are still going to turn on WFAN and say ‘Okay, entertain me. I don’t know what I want to hear. You just entertain me’,” said Roberts. “I think those two forms of entertainment can work side-by-side. That’s why we do it.”
When Mike Francesa signed off WFAN in December 2017, the station had to make changes in the afternoon drive-time slot which it did with the debut of Carlin, Maggie & Bart. The show was eventually disbanded though when Francesa ended his retirement just over four months later, returning to afternoons. His return to WFAN did not last long though, departing the station again in December 2019. Again, WFAN had to make a change in afternoons, this time moving Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts to do a 2 to 6:30 p.m. show renamed Joe & Evan.
For Roberts, the opportunity to host in the afternoon slot that he had grown up listening to Mike Francesa and Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo make famous with their program Mike and the Mad Dog was an opportunity he did not hesitate to accept. Yet the change in time also required a change in approach regarding topic selection; after all, since the show would be starting later in the day, it was more important to preview the forthcoming action than recap that of the previous day.
“Even though you’re doing the same thing because you’re the same person, you’ve got to realize the audience is thinking about things a little bit differently; they’re not always analyzing what happened last night,” said Roberts. “I always find that interesting [trying to] balance the two [and] it’s almost like a game.”
When Benigno retired from the station in November 2020, Craig Carton made his return to the New York City airwaves pairing with Roberts to form the new afternoon duo Carton & Roberts. Carton had previously been with the station hosting mornings with Boomer Esiason on Boomer and Carton from 2007 until his arrest in 2017. He served time in prison for fraud-related charges, and ultimately sought and received help for addiction related to gambling.
Since his return to WFAN, Carton has been vocal about his struggle to overcome addiction and the lessons learned from his time serving in prison, hosting a special weekend program titled Hello, My Name Is Craig to discuss these issues in-depth. On Carton and Roberts, the duo has experienced immense success, recently topping ESPN New York 98.7 FM’s The Michael Kay Show in the spring ratings book. From the onset of Carton and Roberts working together though, there was some trepidation as to whether their personalities would blend well together on sports talk radio.
“I remember the first time I was told ‘Hey, there’s a possibility of you and Craig together.’ I was like ‘What?,’” Roberts said. “My first reaction was ‘Really?’”
Now nearly two years in, Roberts enjoys working alongside Carton and learning more about his perspectives and thoughts on the radio industry. Following advice he was given from both Russo and Esiason on working with Carton, Roberts has let him take the lead and discover how the show can effectively inform and entertain its vast listening audience.
“Let’s take a step back; don’t have an ego,” Roberts recalls thinking when he started the new show. “Watch this magician figure out how this show is going to work and then lean into it. I think that’s what I did and it has worked, and I feel very comfortable, I know he feels very comfortable and we’ve got a successful thing going on now.”
Roberts views Carton as an informed talent in the radio industry, aware of the changing nature of the medium and the potential it has to serve its audience. Roberts indeed experienced success in his previous roles, most notably when working in middays with Benigno; however, he is always willing to try new things and form new approaches towards jaded industry practices and show formats.
“I know that I have a guy who I’m working with who knows the medium as well as anybody,” said Roberts. “If he has a vision on how this could work with his personality and my personality, I’m going to listen; I’m going to follow along.”
WFAN and SportsNet New York (SNY), the flagship network for the New York Mets and New York Jets, agreed last year to simulcast Carton and Roberts from 4 to 6 p.m. on weekdays. While the move, which has been made with various other WFAN programs over the years including Mike and the Mad Dog and Boomer and Gio puts the radio program on a visual medium, Roberts’ approach to the show did not change.
The thought always was that he would be doing a radio show with the curtain pulled back, giving longtime listeners the chance to see the two co-hosts during their discussions and on-air interactions.
“They’re listening to the radio, and it’s cool sometimes when you get to peek in and say, ‘Oh, look at Craig’s expressions. Look at Evan’s expressions. Look at the way they’re looking at each other. Boy, they hate each other right now,’” Roberts said. “I think it’s people looking in on a radio show, and that’s what I always try to remind myself. It’s on TV – that’s great – but we’re a radio show first, and I think a lot of people kind of like to eavesdrop on that.”
One of the challenges of doing a radio show whether or not it is simulcast is in taking calls, and various hosts and producers have differing opinions when it comes to their value on the air. Still, while the hosts, producers, and caller themselves may enjoy their interactions, it is fundamental awareness is placed on the audience that does not call in and their enjoyment of listening to a caller.
“I think when you’re talking [to] somebody, you’re not just thinking about the conversation you’re having with them,” said Roberts. “You’re thinking about the 98% of the audience that doesn’t call in and if this is entertaining or not; if this is informative or not; what are they getting out of this?…. I love callers – it’s a big part of WFAN – but as I interact with them… I think the thought that I always try to have is ‘How is everyone else listening feeling about this discussion?’”
While Carton and Roberts continues to do well in afternoon drive among the demographic of men 25-54 years old, the way the ratings are interpreted by each person and entity in radio differs. Something the Nielsen ratings do not take into account is the number of people listening to the show on-demand as a podcast or watching its simulcast on SNY. During his time with Benigno, Roberts scrutinized the numbers, looking at copious and exiguous details, similar to how he consumes professional sports.
The difference is that while it may be good to have a complete understanding of show performance, getting caught in the minutiae of ratings and trying to improve in weaker areas can sometimes be, according to Roberts, a means without an end.
“I think I realized as time went on that’s going to give you a headache and it’s not going to really help anything,” said Roberts. “I think I learned a little more that you still look at numbers but maybe with a broader view of things; not as specific. I look at [them] a lot, but sometimes it’s tough. I don’t think you want to alter a show too much based on what you think is a pattern but may not necessarily be a pattern.”
This fall, both Carton and Roberts will be starting new roles in media while continuing to host their afternoon show. Carton is going to begin hosting a new national morning show on Fox Sports 1 with a co-host yet to be determined, a move that will place him primarily on television in mornings against WFAN and CBS Sports Radio’s simulcast of Boomer & Gio. Roberts will continue to stay on WFAN, adding a new Saturday program with his former co-host Joe Benigno beginning on September 10.
“It’s like getting back on a bicycle,” Roberts said of working with Benigno. “It’s always comfortable…. It’s going to be [like] our old show – just once a week on a Saturday.”
WFAN was the sound of Evan Roberts’ childhood, and a large reason he became as invested in professional sports as he considers himself to be today. Throughout his time at the station, he has worked with various hosts and recently welcomed new program director Spike Eskin to the station. He says the contrast between Eskin and previous program director Mark Chernoff is stark – yet they are similar in where it matters most: being able to effectively lead WFAN.
“I think they both very much understand radio, and that’s the most important thing,” said Roberts. “You’re the program director of WFAN; I think you have an idea of what good radio is… [They are] both very, very intelligent radio guys that I trust, but everything else about them is probably polar opposite.”
For aspiring professionals looking to pursue a career in sports media, Roberts advises them to take advantage of the innovations in media and communications especially when it comes to podcasts. With widespread evolution and progression in technology coupled with altering consumption habits and means thereof, putting in the time allows novices to hone their skills and position themselves well in sports media. That and always being willing to learn and study to be the most prepared and informed host as possible – especially when talking to listeners, many of whom have seen teams in their ebbs and flows.
“My wife knows that I’m going to watch every pitch of the Yankees and Mets game,” said Roberts. “I may do it on DVR, and I may do it at 2 in the morning because we need to have a life; I don’t want to get divorced, and I want my kids to love me, but she also knows that I want to be as informed as anybody on the radio and that’s not going to stop.”
Derek Futterman is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. In addition, Derek serves as a production manager, broadcaster, voiceover artist, technical director, audiovisual editor, and media engineer for Hofstra University’s WRHU. He has also worked on New York Islanders radio broadcasts. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @DerekFutterman.
Jake Paul, Betr Pair Micro-Betting With Media
There are plenty of hurdles, though, that still need to be overcome before this takes over the betting landscape.
I’ll be completely honest: I can’t get into TikTok. I’m closing in on 40 years spent on this planet, and it’s simply not my thing. It’s not meant to be, though. The current generation is one with shorter attention spans, the kind that wants a quick highlight of a sporting event so they can shift their focus to something else. When I tell folks a decade younger than me stories about how I–and others of my age group–would sit around and watch an entire SportsCenter, they look at me like I’m crazy. Not sure how they’d look at me if I told them we used to often watch the rerun an hour later, but that’s another discussion.
It’s a big reason why micro-betting is considered the “next big thing” in sports betting. Similar to in-game betting, micro betting goes a step further and focuses on individual events within a sporting event, such as the outcome of a drive, whether a baseball player will get a hit in his upcoming at-bat, or even something such as a coin toss at the Super Bowl. A perfect example of micro-betting is the rise in popularity of betting on whether or not a run will be scored in the first inning of a baseball game. For a generation that wants a quick resolution to their bets, it makes total sense. You place a bet, you find out how it did, and then you move on–whether that’s to another bit of action or something else entirely.
Something else I can’t get into is the whole hoopla surrounding the Paul brothers. Logan and Jake Paul have built an empire for themselves on the back of YouTube, with Jake Paul having more than 70 million followers on social media. For various reasons, I’m not a fan of either individual. Again, though, they aren’t coming after my demographic. Like them or hate them, you have to respect their grind –and you have to admire their business acumen — as they parlay their notoriety and success into sports entertainment by way of boxing and the WWE, as well as a new sports drink company that has already partnered with Premier League side Arsenal.
Monday’s announcement by Jake Paul of a new micro-betting site simply furthers the narrative and does so in a manner that can’t be ignored by those in the sports betting space. Betr, a joint venture between Paul, sports betting entrepreneur Joey Levy, and the sports betting company Simplebet, was announced yesterday morning. Backed by a $50 million investment from multiple venture capital firms, the new company is backed by ownership groups of franchises such as the Boston Celtics and San Francisco 49ers, and also has financial backing from current and former NFL players including Dez Bryant, Ezekiel Elliott, and Richard Sherman. Musician Travis Scott has also put his financial backing behind the product.
The other very interesting tidbit from the press release was the announcement of a media company that would feature, among other shows, “BS w/ Jake Paul”. Their new YouTube channel, which already has over two million subscribers despite not a single video being posted as of Monday afternoon, will feature sports-betting content from Paul and other content creators and will focus on micro betting. In an interview with Axios, Levy said that consumers can “expect 10+ videos a day from emerging content creators we’ve brought into the company,” but that things would begin with a focus on “premium content natives, starting with Jake’s show.”
Sports radio and television have long been focused on making their products more appealing to younger generations. Just take a look at ESPN, where they’ve long been doing “SportsCenter” episodes on Snapchat. This could be a game-changer, provided they can help drive micro-betting into a wider market.
There is plenty of potential in the space, a big reason Paul was able to acquire such high amounts of funding. Just last year, JP Morgan estimated that more than $7 billion per year would be wagered on micro bets by the year 2025. And earlier this year, the CEO of Oddisum stated in an interview that micro-betting would account for the majority of wagers placed on sporting events within the next three years. Even DraftKings CEO Jason Robins has talked about plans on how his company expects to embrace the trend.
There are plenty of hurdles, though, that still need to be overcome before this takes over the betting landscape. The biggest one is the delivery of data. As we move more towards a society that streams sporting events and other digital content, the delay between real life and what shows up on your mobile phone can be the difference between placing a wager or not. For some services (I’m looking at you, Peacock) there’s often a delay of more than 90 seconds, which means the play I want to bet on is still two or three plays away from being seen with my own eyes. That makes it difficult to place a bet with any sort of confidence.
The other major obstacle will be getting their gambling service legalized. In their press release, Betr stated they will start as a “free-to-play” app in all 50 states, and eventually they will add real money gambling services as they become licensed to operate within individual states. That’s not going to be so simple, though, as gambling addiction concerns continue to rise and multiple state legislatures are already having discussions regarding the matter.
As addictive as betting on sporting events can be, micro-betting is often exponentially more. A study last year from CQ University in Sydney, Australia indicated that micro bettors are more likely to be younger players and that they usually “have high trait impulsivity”. An author of the report also stated, “there’s a very strong link between micro betting and gambling problems”, and pointed out that the short amount of time between placing a bet and having it resolved leaves little time to evaluate performance or track one’s bankroll.
Whether or not those things are overcome in every state possible is a discussion for another day. The fact is, micro-betting is more likely than not to become a huge growth market for sports betting companies over the next two to three years, and Paul and Levy have become the first big players to jump into the media space. It’s not a question of if, but when, others will follow them into the realm of micro betting sports content, but their announcement on Monday raises the stakes. It also reminds those of us in business, especially sports media, that while we may not fully understand the allure of what the younger generation enjoys, we ignore it at our peril.
Jason Ence resides in Louisville, KY and is fully invested in the sports betting space. Additionally, he covers Premier League and Serie A soccer, college football, and college basketball for ESPN Louisville 680 including serving as the station’s University of Kentucky correspondent, and co-host of the UK football and basketball post-game shows. He can be found on Twitter @JasonUK17 and reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.