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Winning Teams Create Big Opportunities in Sports Radio

Matt Fishman

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“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing!” –Vince Lombardi

When I first started in Sports Radio, a local team losing was thought of as good for the station. Losing created conflict between players, coaches, administration and led to all sorts of great potential content. Probably the best example of this was the first year of the Score in Chicago–1992. It was the perfect storm. The Bears were having a terrible season. For this brand spanking new sports station, this created endless content. 

Additionally, The Score had a weekly luncheon/interview with Coach Ditka. Ditka was so done with dealing with the media; he would only talk on his weekly radio show on this brand new radio station. The beat reporters, tv stations, and columnists covering the Bears had to attend the shows or listen, to get their quotes from “Da Coach” for their stories. This was radio gold. Especially for a brand new station during the infancy of the Sports Talk format. As long time host Terry Boers said, “It would be fair to say that Ditka did more for the Score in its first year than anyone. I will never ever underestimate his impact on the first year of the Score. Nobody could have done more for the Score at that time than he did.”

Over the past 26 years, the format has evolved, matured, and been taken over by corporations with shareholders to answer to.  Additionally, as verbal attacks became a regular part of the format, something changed. Winning was no longer seen as boring to the format, but instead an incredible springboard for success. Higher ratings, greater interest in the format, increased marketing and sales opportunities and that all important “buzz”.

Right now that is all happening in Washington DC and Las Vegas as their teams battle in the Stanley Cup Final. Vegas is the Cinderella story of an expansion team making it through the Western Conference to the final, while Washington has not been to the Stanley Cup Final in 20 years and features one of the NHL’s biggest stars in Alexander Ovechkin. 

106.7 The Fan is the FM DC rights holder for the Capitals. Caps programming has dominated the station in addition to the typical flagship Play-by-play and pre and post-game shows. The Fan’s PD Chris Kinard notes, “We’re seeing sustained audience engagement unlike anything we’ve ever seen. We’ve had days with bigger overall ratings, higher streaming numbers, etc., usually focused around Redskins content. But the meter counts, cume influx, streaming spikes, and social media engagement have been consistently near record-levels since the Caps beat Pittsburgh to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals….We’re moving fast to create opportunities for our clients to be involved in the party. We’re on the streets marketing the station and capturing the scene on social media. And I think, while all of this is happening, we all have to keep in mind the lasting impact that a championship can have on a radio station. Listeners will remember how they experienced the Cup run, and our station can and should be a part of those memories if we create compelling content and experiences.”

Across town, Chris Johnson, Program Director of the DC’s The Team 980 says “We’ve seen a tremendous surge of audience. Specifically starting with the day after the Caps eliminated the Pens. That morning we did a special show bringing in Caps TV announcers Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin. The show had a huge response on-air and on social media. We’ve also added special pre and post games shows along with Caps and NHL guests over the past 3 weeks. Steve Czaban is broadcasting live from Vegas and we’ll be live from the Capital One Arena as well.”

In Las Vegas, where this improbable team and story has taken hold, ESPN Las Vegas afternoon drive host Steve Cofield talks about the Knights run to the finals and their impact on the local community, “Since I got here in 1996, Vegas has mostly been a disjointed community amongst the locals. Many work on the Strip where you get tired of personal interaction and just want to escape to your house in the suburbs 15 minutes away. In the past, they’d drive home, pull in their garages and hardly speak with their neighbors. Now VGK game nights are a massive meet up at local bars where sports and non-sports fans bond. Those bars, dominated by the video poker machines, used to be quiet. Now there’s a buzz before, during and after the games.”

From a sales standpoint timing and quick-turnaround are key during a winning run. So says Dave Greene, General Sales Manager for 610 Sports in Kansas City and fellow BSM columnist, “Momentum can come from a lot of places and sometimes even completely unexpectedly.  Earlier this year when Kansas State made their run in the NCAA tournament that was something we clearly weren’t expecting.  We knew if we acted quickly we could capitalize on the success of the team from a sales standpoint and we were able to.  Our format thrives on passion and the fan base is never more passionate than after postseason success.”

In conclusion, over the past 20+ years things have changed. A winner in town is a huge opportunity for local sports radio stations, but it also takes the PDs, Hosts, Sales Managers, and Marketing directors to act quickly to take advantage of the opportunities. If they do so, the teams aren’t the only winners at the end of the day. 

BSM Writers

Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing

…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.

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WRONG BAD

In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.

“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.

“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”

Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.

The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?

That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.

You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.

“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”

Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.

Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”

Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”

Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”

Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”

It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.

WORTH EVERY PENNY

I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.

My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.

My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.

After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.

Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.

Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”

My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.

My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.

Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.

And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.

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BSM Writers

Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours. 

But is that why you sell sports radio?

In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.

A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family. 

Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.  

I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.

Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important. 

So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.

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