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Perrault, Parkins, and Cline Help You Skew Younger

Tyler McComas

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“How do we get younger?” That’s the question that was posed to me earlier this month by the owner of the radio station I’m currently employed at. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve realized just how differently the younger end of the demographic consumes content compared to the older end. But what’s the right approach to attract young listeners and not abandoned the older crowd that’s always been loyal to your station? 

For that answer, I wanted to poll one host from a small market, one from a large market and another in national radio. The more perspectives the better, right? The main idea, I believe, is that you have to put yourself where the young people are. In essence, bring your product to them so people can consume your product whenever they want. 

Though that’s a great starting point, I also wanted to find even more ways to attract young listeners. What content interests them? How do they want to respond and interact with shows? How can older show hosts resonate with the younger crowd? 

I do think all these questions are important and are probably being asked in various stations across the country. Good content can win out, but putting that content in the right place is probably more important than it’s ever been. Luckily, Matt Perrault of SB Nation Radio, Danny Parkins of 670 The Score in Chicago and Heath Cline of 107.5 The Game in Columbia, SC, have given us a lot more clarity in how to reach the younger demographic. 

Matt Perrault – SB Nation Radio 

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TM: How interested are young people in sports radio?

MP: I think young people are going to be much more interested in sports talk radio because of the legalization of sports gambling. I think the way that stations and networks are going to reach a young demographic is by being able to talk about sports gambling in a way that’s not in the weeds, but that appeals to a younger audience. I’ve seen this from my two younger brothers, who are both under the age of 26. They both love sports, but they love their own bets even more. 

I think the way we’re going to reach the younger audience is by them being inclined to listen, and even be attracted, to hosts that are going to be able to present both a topic and a proper explanation of sports gambling for what’s going on that given night. So, it can’t just be, here’s my 5 Star Play of the Week! Nobody cares about that. Young people roll their eyes at that and think it’s stupid. But they do want an educated conversation in a way that makes them say, okay, I can really trust or believe in this because I’m really enjoying the newfound ability to sports gamble. 

TM: Nowadays, we can find anything we want to consume on demand. Younger people seem to really be leading the charge on that. How does that change the future in how we operate in sports radio?

MP: Why do the television networks pay big money for play-by-play broadcasts? Well, it’s because you can’t get it anywhere else. Well it’s the same thing when it comes to sports gambling, where, when a game goes off, that’s gone. That play is now gone. 

So if you’re talking from 5 to 7 on afternoon drive and you’re leading up to kick off or first pitch of a game, conversations leading into the game about what may happen that night, what side you should be on and what you’re expecting to see, you can’t on demand that. You have to be listening right then and there, because your bets are placed before the game goes off. To me, that’s one way of making people listen right before the game, because that information is so crucial and vital. 

Everything is on demand. Everyone binge watches or goes back and watches it later, but that’s also one way for radio, I think, to capitalize on that ‘need to be live’ moment right before a game goes off. 

TM: With that being said, do you believe hosts need to be more open to talking about sports gambling on their shows? 

MP: Look, I’m totally biased in this. I’m all in on it. I’ll preface my answer with saying my show is called Pushing the Odds. I work part time for The Action Network. My studio used to be at a casino, it’s now going to be at another casino coming up for football season. So, the answer is yes to me. 100 percent yes. 

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You better be ready, you better be able to see the shifting tides, that’s where the money is going to be coming from, nationally, regionally and locally. If you’re in New York or in New Jersey and you’re not gearing your fall shows to incorporate heavy sports gambling content, I think you’re making a massive mistake. When you look around, a lot of states are getting ready to do it. I’m not talking about a starting a podcast, I’m talking about every day being able to talk about it intelligently. 

For your pregame shows, your hosts better be able to talk about what’s going on and where the number is going. Your postgame host should be able to talk about it and reference it. That doesn’t mean they have to go way in-depth, but there needs to be mention of it. 

TM: So if a show makes a commitment to steer more content towards sports gambling, how do callers fit in? Do they fit in at all? 

MP: I’m not the biggest caller driven radio guy anyway. I think it’s up to the host to create content that’s going to make sense to someone that’s listening on demand 4 or 5 hours after your show is over. Look, I’ve been on this for daily fantasy, I’ve been on this for season long fantasy and sports gambling, that’s your business and the audience doesn’t care. So if you say, hey, call me up and tell me what your favorite bet is today, or call me and say, hey Matt, should I be on the under tonight on the Monday Night Football Game? I mean, you can have that conversation, if it’s what you’re already talking about, but I would never say that you should never have a call to action for people to ask a sports gambling question. Unless that’s all your show is, just people calling for betting advice, otherwise no, I wouldn’t do that. 

TM: Let’s say I’ve been hosting a show for 25 or 30 years and I really don’t want to turn into a dinosaur in this industry. How do you think an older show host should stick true to what got them to that point, but also adapt to things that younger listeners are interested in?

MP: I’m 41 years old and have been in talk radio since 1997. If you’re not able to change in this industry every five years, then I don’t know how you really survived anyway. You kind of have to. 

If you’re someone who’s done the same show, with the same topics, I think you really have to be willing to change and adapt. This is a changing landscape and while your state or region may not be changing as fast as another one, you better see what’s coming down the pike and be able to change and adapt. You can’t just throw your hands up. It’s like the national anthem debate, you can’t just say you’re not talking about it, that doesn’t work. 

You have to be willing to have a conversation and even though there’s going to be people that think sports gambling is gross, dirty or wrong, or whatnot. There’s going to be a whole generation of kids that are going to grow up, like they did with cell phones, they’re going to be used to sports gambling and they’re going to be looking for sports gambling content. 

Danny Parkins – 670 The Score 

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TM: How interested are young people in sports radio? 

DP: I think they’re interested in good content and on demand content. I don’t think that the actual delivery mechanism matters quite as much. A 21-year-old might not be listening to as much traditional AM radio, but they know how to stream live content on the Radio.com app, or get a podcast downloaded on demand for whatever it is that they want. Even if the numbers would be down demographically, which research doesn’t even necessarily say that it is, over 90 percent of people still listen to radio. 

I do think there are still plenty of people that are still listening to radio, it’s just, AM sports radio, is that trend young? Obviously not, but good content in an on demand way I think is still very appealing to young people. 

TM: How much should you alter your station’s identity, if at all, to curb things toward a young demographic? 

DP: Well, I don’t run a station so I don’t know if that’s really for me to say. I think that, sometimes, people really overcomplicate this. The numbers for shows that I have been a part of, dating back to my time in Kansas City, when I’ve been able to study the market trends and the ratings, skew better with young people. The young audience goes up. I don’t think it’s because I have some sort of magical gift to speak to young people, I think it’s because I am a young person. 

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In Chicago, as an example, the ’85 Bears are beloved in this town, but I was born in 1986. So, I don’t have the same reverence for them as others. I respect them, and I’ve learned a lot about them, but when I speak about the Bears, I speak from the standpoint that I’ve seen one Super Bowl appearance in my life and for the vast majority of my life, they’ve been one of the worst organizations in the NFL. So where I make a reference to the Bears and their futility, I’m coming at it from my perspective. Or if I’m referencing Game of Thrones, like something that is a current trend, and an older person references movies from the 70’s or 80, some of which I really like as well, but the references are more updated and the sports opinions are more current. 

So if you’re listening on radio or podcast or whatever, you have the ability to say, oh, this person is coming at it from a similar standpoint as I am. I can relate to that person, therefore I will listen to that person. 

TM: Not to take a shot at anyone at 65 years old and in the host seat, but can you have older hosts at a station and still appeal to a younger audience? 

DP: I mean I hope so. My current co-host is in his mid-50’s and we’re building a show. The target demo is 25-54, that’s what we sell to advertisers. I look at it being a real strength. If he appeals to the older end of the demo and I appeal to the younger end of the demo, and we can have a blend, whether it be father and son, drunk uncle and drunk nephew, like, I can mock him for being a dinosaur and he can mock me for being a millennial, that dynamic plays out across generations and hopefully we can appeal to a wide range of people. 

TM: In terms of outside the box content ideas to appeal to a younger demographic, do you feel topics that are both current and non-sports related  can attract that demo more?

DP: Yeah, but I think that appeals to the older demographic, too. I really just think it’s all about good content. I absolutely think that if I’m doing a five-hour a day show on a sports station, they’re coming to us for sports but hopefully they’re really coming to us to be entertained. Whether we’re talking about fishing, movies, golf, Game of Thrones, video games or the Bears, hopefully we’re doing it in an appealing way so that people of all ages can relate to it in some way. 

I don’t wake up every day and think about ways to get young people, maybe that’s because I am a young person, but my references, my speech patterns, my slang, what I do on the weekends, I don’t have kids, I wear t-shirts to work every day, I’m always on Twitter, all of those things paint the picture of a young person and then hopefully that relates to young people. 

Heath Cline – 107.5 The Game 

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TM: How interested are young people in sports radio?

HC: Yeah, in my experience I think they really are. Now, I think we have to understand that how they might be interested in sports radio may not be the same way that the 45 or 50 year old got interested. Let’s put it this way: I don’t get nearly as many calls. When we do calls, I don’t get near as many of them from younger people as I do from folks that are up in the demographic. 

On the other hand, if we’re out on a remote, I’m as likely or maybe even more likely to see the younger side of the demo showing up than the older, who has a couple of kids and a wife at home he has to deal with. I think younger people are more interested in participating and potentially feeling like they’re involved in some way like the station is a club. 

You look at things like the Wing Bowl in Philadelphia. That’s not because people find eating wings so fascinating to come out and watch. It’s because it’s an event that the people of Philly feel like they’re involved in. I think that part does translate. I think the part about staying on hold for 28 minutes to say ‘fire the coach,’ I’m not sure that’s where the young people want to be. 

TM: Do you feel it’s true that younger people are more interested in listening via their phone or computer compared to an actual radio? 

HC: Everything you read is that the younger generation is much more likely to be into the podcast and that aspect of it. When it comes to social media interaction, certainly it’s not all young people, but if someone is going to send me a tweet during the show, I’d guess it would be a person under 34 opposed to someone who’s over that age. 

There’s so many people now that don’t call anyone, much less a radio show. How many people just don’t call anybody? All they do is text. That’s how they’re going to choose to interact with you. You need to be able to handle that. If you want to meet them on their terms, you probably need to have a plan to do so. 

TM: Do you think social media interaction will end up becoming the replacement for phone calls in sports radio? 

HC: In a lot of ways, I think we’re kind of already there. Most stations are really going to the way of text lines. One of the other things that’s tricky, and this isn’t the case in every market, but if you’re in a market like mine where you have a major university, we have a lot more younger listeners that may not show up in the ratings, because they’re not sending the diaries to fraternity houses or dorms or temporary apartments that people are always in and out of. 

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We know these people are there, because we do an event and see the participation level. Our numbers are pretty good, but if there was ever some genuinely accurate way to measure younger demos in places that are more likely to be transient than to be someone who’s going to be at the same place for 5 or 10 years at a time, I think we’d have a better feel for ratings on them. But, they’re there and the value for them supporting sponsors, the value of them turning up at your station’s events are huge. You can’t ignore that, even though it’s not always going to show up in the book. 

To me, being authentic is more important than this idea of, well, I hear the millennials are into this, this and this, so we better pretend we’re into it too. Ideally, I do think you need to have some people on your station that are younger and have that viewpoint. What you can’t do, is put a 28-year-old on the air that doesn’t necessarily have a background in our area and doesn’t understand everything about the market. 

One of the biggest sins of younger hosts, is that you have to prove yourself right on everything. You’re wanting to come off as smart, but in retrospect you realize you’re coming off as just way too arrogant. You have to make sure that if put young people on the air, they don’t come off of as condescending dickheads to the people who are still a core of the audience. 

Young, sure, if you can find the right young talent, go for it. But just putting young people on the air without making sure they know how to handle the older people in the demo can be a mistake. 

BSM Writers

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.

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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.

Quick bites

  • 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.

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BSM Writers

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.

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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.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: Sunday Ticket Has Problems, Marcellus Wiley Does Not

Demetri Ravanos

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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.

ITunes: https://buff.ly/3PjJWpO

Spotify: https://buff.ly/3AVwa90

iHeart: https://buff.ly/3cbINCp

Google: https://buff.ly/3PbgHWx

Amazon: https://buff.ly/3cbIOpX

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