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Under The Radar – February 6, 2018

Jason Barrett

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A week on radio row in Minneapolis was the focus for most sports radio broadcasters last week. While everyone was busy chasing down guests, riding roller coasters, braving the elements, and dining at Shake Shack, news was being made throughout the industry. Here are some of the developments you might have missed. As always, please pass along any news tips via email to JBarrett@hvy.tcp.mybluehost.me.

Unrelated to this week’s UTR news, I want to applaud the city of Minneapolis for being a great Super Bowl host city. The people were friendly, transportation was readily available, security moved people along smoothly at the airport and the city looked fantastic. This was my third time visiting and I’ve enjoyed each experience.

I wish I could say the same for the NFL which doesn’t undervalues the support it receives from radio partners on radio row. Cramming 100+ stations into a tight space outside of a food court made it extremely difficult for hosts and guests to move around. It was even more noticeable when shows left their tables to grab a bite or use the bathroom during commercial breaks and had to fight crowds to get back on the air in time.

One particular story which was relayed to me involved a wounded warrior needing to get out of his wheelchair (it wouldn’t fit thru the small walking space) and crawl to a guest appearance a few tables away. I also personally witnessed a woman with an infant child in a stroller and young child holding her hand almost get trampled and have the stroller flipped by a mob of people trying to get close to Terrell Owens. I understand the public’s passion to meet players but people shouldn’t be put in a position of danger in the process.

I did like the visuals for stations broadcasting inside the Mall of America. It looked great on TV and social media. The check in process was much smoother and the back and forth jousting between Patriots and Eagles fans added additional entertainment value to the week. A verbal spat between two hosts/stations gave folks additional material to work with.

From a location standpoint, choosing the Mall of America made a ton of sense. What I don’t understand though is why the NFL didn’t work with the largest mall in the country to provide enough space for shows and stations to operate let alone be able to walk, store equipment or even stretch their arms or legs. These stations dedicate dollars, manpower, and hours of programming to selling the NFL’s final game of their season. Hopefully they take that into deeper consideration when planning future Super Bowl weeks.

Now on to the news!

680 The Fan has made a change to its weekday lineup. “The Front Row” which features Steak Shapiro, Brian Finneran and Sandra Golden has moved from middays to mornings. Chris Dimino and Nick Cellini shift from mornings to middays. The new schedule went into affect on Monday.

Congratulations to Dan Bennett, Jeff Catlin, Bruce Gilbert and the entire Cumulus Dallas team on the 24-year anniversary of Sports Radio 1310 The Ticket. The Dallas Morning News ran a few stories highlighting the station’s start and popular moments along the way. To read about the birth of the station click here. For insight on the creation and popularity of the Fake Jerry Jones click here. For a firsthand account of the station’s first 24-hours click here.

Red Zebra Broadcasting in Washington DC has chosen to re-brand ESPN 980. The radio station has dropped ESPN from its name and embraced the new moniker, The Team 980. The station planned to make the change last Wednesday morning but when the Redskins traded for Alex Smith on Tuesday night, on-air plans had to be changed and the station decided to let the cat out of the bag early. For more on the story click here.

WEEI in Boston has announced a renewal of Patriots Monday and Friday with the defending AFC champions. The partnership between Entercom Boston and the New England Patriots began in 1995 and expanded in 2008. It includes weekly appearances during the NFL season by Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and other Patriots players. The deal is said to be a multi-year agreement. For more click here.

Former WWE wrestler Mark Henry, who made a few hosting appearances in Austin, Texas on AM 1300 The Zone, has apparently caught the radio bug. “The World’s Strongest Man” has agreed to join SiriusXM‘s ‘Busted Open’ as a third host alongside David LaGreca and Bully Ray on Tuesdays. The show airs on SiriusXM Rush 93 from 9a-12p ET.

103.7 The Buzz in Little Rock, Arkansas came under fire for running its annual “Babe Bracket” contest. The promotion has been in existence for over two decades and pits 16 female anchors and reporters against each other with the audience determining who advances. A poll which ran afterwards asking local fans if the bracket should be ended produced a 60-40 result in favor of it continuing. To read more click here.

As bankruptcy issues occupy the focus of Cumulus Media, the situation created an opportunity for 670 The Score. The Chicago sports radio station was able to lure away the radio rights to the Chicago Bulls from Cumulus NewsTalk station WLS. The Bulls played their first game on The Score this past Saturday. Chuck Swirsky and Bill Wennington remain on board as the radio broadcast team.

Jim Henderson is riding off into the sunset. The longtime radio voice of the New Orleans Saints has decided it’s time to turn off his microphone and hand the reigns to someone else. Henderson had been part of the Saints broadcast on the team’s flagship station WWL since 1986.

Behind the scenes news worth sharing from Nashville. Congratulations to Chase McCabe of 102.5 The Game who was recently promoted to Assistant Program Director. McCabe has been with the station for six years and will be counted on by PD Ryan Porth to help the station continue growing. Part of his new responsibilities include serving as the Executive Producer of the station’s morning show.

Meanwhile in Cleveland, former Detroit Sports 105.1 host and contributor Jake Chapman has been named executive producer of 92.3 The Fan‘s midday show, ‘Baskin and Phelps’ and the Cleveland Browns radio network. For Chapman it’s an opportunity to return to his home state after stints in Michigan and Florida.

In the Pacific Northwest, the Seattle Mariners have confirmed the addition of Gary Hill Jr. as the team’s new Executive Producer of Mariners broadcasts. Seattle’s games are heard on radio on 710 ESPN Seattle.

AJ Hawk will reunite with Anthony Rothman on 97.1 The Fan in Columbus starting March 5th. “Off-Season with AJ Hawk” will air each Monday from noon to 1pm ET. The show will be part of the station’s schedule until late August. Hawk will also join Rothman and his on-air partner Bobby Carpenter on Football Friday’s during the fall.

Lineup changes were made in Phoenix at 1580 The Fanatic. Shawn Crespin is now teaming in mornings with Michael Bauer. Craig Fouhy is hosting 12p-1p after previously working the 9a-10a shift. Tim and Jake Montemayor and Jeff Dean are no longer part of the M-F lineup. No word on why the station elected to switch things up.

The Pioneer Press in Minneapolis wrote a good piece on broadcasting from radio row during the week of the Super Bowl. To check it out click here.

MLS broadcasting news out of Atlanta. Mike Conti has been named the new play by play voice of the Atlanta United. Jason Longshore returns for his second season as the team’s color analyst. United games air locally on 92.9 The Game.

Townsquare Media’s 92.9 The Ticket has signed on as the new Boston Red Sox affiliate in Bangor, ME. The Sox previously aired their games on The Pulse 620AM WZON which recently underwent a format change.

All the best to Rob Johnson on his new opportunity hosting weekdays from 4p-6p CT on Sports Radio KMIS 1050AM/103.9FM in southeast Missouri. Johnson’s program ‘Making The Play’ was added to the station’s lineup yesterday.

Good news has found its way to Jake Brown‘s doorstep. The CBS Radio digital host and contributor has accepted an opportunity with MLB.com to become an Associate Site Manager. Brown says the new position won’t affect his ability to continue hosting ‘The Jake Brown Show’ for Radio.com or contributing for SNY.

In minor league baseball broadcasting news, Melanie Newman has been hired by the Frisco Rough Riders as their #2 broadcaster. Newman will be counted on to provide human interest and video pieces for the team and FOX Sports Southwest.

Switching to the television world, Michelle Margaux has been named the new in-game reporter for the Tampa Bay Rays. Rays games air in the Tampa market on FOX Sports Sun.

Jeff Wallner has been added to WCPO‘s coverage of the Cincinnati Reds for the 2018 season. Wallner says he’ll contribute more features and analysis this season than nuts and bolts game coverage.

In the Bay Area, Kerry Crowley has signed on as the new San Francisco Giants beat reporter for the Bay Area News Group. Crowley’s written, audio and video work will appear in both the Mercury News and East Bay Times.

And Nashville’s A to Z Sports has announced that Zach Ragan has signed on to cover the Tennessee Titans and Volunteers. Ragan’s first piece for A to Z’s website was published last week.

Sports Radio News

Vanessa Richardson Named New Houston Rockets Sideline Reporter

Vanessa Richardson, co-host of ESPN 97.5’s Vanessa and Gallant, announced that she will be on the sidelines for the NBA franchise covering the team for AT&T SportsNet Southwest.

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Vanessa Richardson

The Houston Rockets will have a new television sideline reporter this season and it’s a familiar name in Houston sports talk radio.

Vanessa Richardson, the now former co-host of ESPN 97.5’s Vanessa and Gallant, announced that she will be on the sidelines for the NBA franchise covering the team for AT&T SportsNet Southwest.

She tweeted the news saying, “Elated to be the new Houston Rockets sideline reporter! I can’t wait to travel the country & share the stories of this dynamic team during 80+ games on AT&T SportsNet Southwest. I’ll continue to fill-in as a host/reporter for Astros broadcasts as well.”

Richardson’s co-host, Paul Gallant, tweeted the extra news that Richardson would be leaving the show to pursue the Rockets gig full-time. It appears that Vanessa and Gallant will become the Paul Gallant Show.

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Sports Radio News

Ken Carman: Al Michaels ‘Feels Untethered’ On Amazon Prime Video

“The thing that stuck out was Kirk Herbstreit ripping the elf,” said Carman. “Don’t be ripping Brownie the Elf, man.”

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The Cleveland Browns defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers during Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime Video. 92.3 The Fan morning host Ken Carman applauded Al Michaels for his performance during the presentation.

“Al Michaels feels untethered for the first time. He’s not network television anymore and he can say whatever he wants. We interviewed him on the pregame show and I was nervous,” Carman said.

“He’s a legend,” co-host Anthony Lima added.

During the final play of the game, the Steelers fumbled a lateral into the endzone which the Browns recovered to make the final score 29-17. Michaels said “that may be meaningful to some of you. And you know who I mean”, alluding to people who had placed wagers on the game.

Carman, who hosts two-hours of pre-game coverage on the Browns Radio Network, continued to discuss how nervous he was interviewing Michaels. He also discussed how impressive Amazon’s behind-the-scenes production was, pointing out the only football broadcast with more cameras is the Super Bowl. More than 400 people work behind the scenes for Amazon Prime Video.

“The thing that stuck out was Kirk Herbstreit ripping the elf,” said Carman. “Don’t be ripping Brownie the Elf, man.”

Carman later said people angry that Michaels misspoke by saying the Pro Football Hall of Fame is “down I-71” instead of I-77 were unreasonable, and joked “Al Michaels hasn’t been on a highway in 20 years”.

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Sports Radio News

Boomer Esiason: Michael Kay ‘Swooping In’ On Stephen Nelson ‘Just Not Right’

During a remote broadcast, they asked fans in attendance if they wanted to see Kay in the booth Friday night, which resulted in a resounding no.

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Boomer Esiason

Much has been made about the potential of New York Yankees television play-by-play announcer Michael Kay announcing Friday Night Baseball on AppleTV+ while slugger Aaron Judge chases the franchise and American League record for home runs in a single season. During Boomer & Gio Friday morning, Boomer Esiason and Gregg Giannotti disagreed on whether Kay should have taken the gig from usual AppleTV+ announcer Stephen Nelson.

During a remote broadcast, they asked fans in attendance if they wanted to see Kay in the booth Friday night, which resulted in a resounding no.

“I bet he put that out there to see what the reaction would be,” Giannotti said of Kay’s comments that he would be “big-footing” Nelson by taking the assignment. “And the reaction was like that, and was like ‘You know, I’m kinda uncomfortable doing this. Maybe I shouldn’t do it’. And no one wanted to see it anyway.”

“They shouldn’t do it,” said Esiason of AppleTV+ allowing Kay to step in for Nelson.

“If the shoe was on the other foot, and let’s say it was Pete Alonso chasing this record and there was AppleTV for potentially 61 or 62, you’re telling me that you’d want a fella named (Stephen) Nelson over Gary Cohen? There’s no way in hell!”, Giannotti countered.

“I want what’s right,” Esiason said.

“AppleTV’s not right to begin with,” Giannotti replied.

“But Michael Kay swooping in on some kid named Nelson, that’s not right. That’s just not right. You just can’t do that!”, argued Esiason.

“Yeah, but the fact that it’s on AppleTV to begin with is annoying,” Giannotti concluded. “It’s just annoying.”

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