Lights, camera, action!
Now there’s a phrase that’s never been synonymous with sports radio. It may never be, but you can’t ignore just how much video is making its way into the world of sports radio. Some stations are constantly streaming on Twitch, while others are using short video clips on social media to promote their content. But if there’s one thing that shows just how much the medium has grown over the years, it’s the ability and willingness to put radio shows on live television.
Every weekday from 3-6 p.m. CST in Baton Rouge, Matt Moscona is in front of a camera while doing a sports radio show. That’s because Cox Sports Television made the commitment to air all three hours of his show After Further Review on its live programing.
There’s obvious advantages to having your radio show on live TV. Most importantly, it means Moscona’s face is in living rooms all across Louisiana each day. That’s priceless advertisement. But even as appealing as that sounds, the logistics of doing a show that works well on both TV and radio can be challenging.
“It does completely change the approach in studio,” said Moscona. “I always have to be conscious of how I look as well as how the visual elements are going to accompany everything I talk about. Our company, when they made the capital investment into building the TV studio, they spent a lot of money on a graphics deal and we basically contracted with the same company that provides graphics for ESPN. When you look at the visual elements that we have, it looks like something you’d see on a major network. That helps tremendously.
“The other part is for every topic I’m prepping, I have to consider what visual elements might accompany it. Sometimes, it’s a tweet we can grab and put on the screen. Sometimes it’s images or videos that we can use. We have a partnership with a local television company, WBRZ, and they offer us their video, as well. But it’s definitely different.”
Though the graphics aspect of the show really sets everything off and presents a unique feature, it requires a lot of time. Not only does Moscona have to prep his entire three-hour show, but he also has to plan which graphics are going to look best with the segments he has planned. Plus, instead of just one radio producer, he also has a video producer that he always has to be in-sync with.
“My video producer manages the graphics and handles everything you see,” said Moscona. “The one component I control, which is interesting and takes some multi-tasking, I have a tablet where the video producer can take my screen and go live with it. Sometimes it’s easier, I’ll pull up a tweet and he can put it up.
“In some respects, I’m hosting and directing, which is odd. It’s something I’ve gotten better at, but that relationship with me and my video producer, Paul, that’s just something where he has to anticipate what I’m going to do before I do it. Similarly, I have to do the same with him, in terms of anticipating where he’s going to go with the camera.
“The studio is built as an OTT platform and when we launched it, Cox came to us and said they loved it and wanted to carry it. It makes sense, right? That’s 15 hours of programming a week for them that’s live and unique content”
The TV deal with Cox Sports Televisions is an awesome one for Moscona. That much is certain. But how beneficial is it to his station ESPN Baton Rouge?
Sure, some revenue comes in from Cox, but with such a difficult setup, that means Moscona can never be on remote. If the show can’t make money selling live broadcasts, then another source of income has to be created. That requires some out of the box thinking.
“Whenever we built out the TV studio, we cancelled remotes for my show,” said Moscona. “100 percent. So one challenge was to make up the revenue of remote money. The way we counter-balanced that was that we sold title sponsors for every day of the week.
“I have an independent insurance agency that’s a client of mine and I was doing a remote there. They said it was great and they were getting all these calls and walk-ins and I was just sitting in a conference room of their office. They said, man, you almost didn’t even need to be here, the mentions were plenty.
“That gave me a light bulb moment, it was like ding! Essentially, the way we sell our title sponsors is I say the exact same things I would say if I was on remote, but instead, I’ll just be in studio. Then we’ll have panels and graphics on the screen, so they get plenty of run out of that. Everybody has been super receptive to it.”
Granted, it’s not impossible to take After Further Review out of the studio, but it’s really difficult and only been done once. It was to cover an event that almost seems mandatory to attend if you’re any kind of sports media member in the Southeast.
“Last year at SEC Media Days was the first time we took the show on the road,” said Moscona. “So I had an on-site video producer that was handling the cameras and switching. Essentially, we shot that feed back to Baton Rouge where I had a video producer in studio that handled the graphics and all the other elements. It was a pretty significant undertaking, and the fact that only two people were handling it is equal parts crazy and impressive. We pulled it off and the plan is to do it again this year.”
So think of yourself, as a show host, with a camera in your face for the entire show. Would you be entertaining to a television audience? How would you supplement those viewers instead of just sitting behind the microphone and talking for three hours? Just like there’s an entertainment aspect on radio, there’s certainly one on TV. Moscona has to find a way to make it entertaining for everyone on both formats.
“Because I have a live feed, I know what shots are going out and I know when I’m on and how to address the camera,” said Moscona. “Admittedly, I try to be a bit more theatrical with my movements so it’s not me just standing still. I talk with my hands a lot anyway, but I just try to make sure that I’m being even more descriptive with my motions.
“Honestly, I think so much of that is having a great video producer who understands how to keep a radio show on television and how to keep it moving. We’re not re-inventing the wheel, there’s plenty of radio shows on TV, but I don’t do anything differently, as far as, how I approach a topic. I always believe that if you’re not passionate about the topic, why would you expect your audience to care? That’s something that’s always in the back of my mind.”
Interviews sound so much better when both parties are in the same room. I don’t think anyone would fight me on that. If not all, just about every single guest Colin Cowherd has is in-studio. That’s the power of Fox Sports Radio and being in Los Angeles, but it only elevates the quality of the show.
Having an in-studio guest plays so much better on TV, but obviously, it’s not always feasible. Though Moscona would love all his guests to be sitting across the table from him, he knows the logistics don’t always work.
“I would love to have every guest in studio,” said Moscona. “You can have a much more personable conversation with somebody face-to-face when you can read body language and non-verbal cues. It’s much easier to carry more natural sounding conversation as opposed to a question-answer, question-answer format. But the reality is just logistics, a lot of the guests I have on are either aren’t in Baton Rouge or can’t make it in the studio that afternoon. Probably 90 percent of our guests are on the phone, but I would welcome any guest to come in studio.”
Tyler McComas is a columnist for BSM and a sports radio talk show host in Norman, OK where he hosts afternoon drive for SportsTalk 1400. You can find him on Twitter @Tyler_McComas or you can email him at TylerMcComas08@yahoo.com.
The Future Is Now, Embrace Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+
As annoying as streaming sports is and as much as I haven’t fully adapted to the habit yet, Amazon and Apple have done a magnificent job of trying to make the process as easy and simplified as possible.
This week has been a reckoning for sports and its streaming future on Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+, ESPN+, and more.
Amazon announced that Thursday Night Football, which averaged 13 million viewers, generated the highest number of U.S. sign ups over a three hour period in the app’s history. More people in the United States subscribed to Prime during the September 15th broadcast than they did during Black Friday, Prime Day, and Cyber Monday. It was also “the most watched night of primetime in Prime Video’s history,” according to Amazon executive Jay Marine. The NFL and sports in general have the power to move mountains even for some of the nation’s biggest and most successful brands.
This leads us to the conversation happening surrounding Aaron Judge’s chase for history. Judge has been in pursuit of former major leaguer Roger Maris’ record for the most home runs hit during one season in American League history.
The sports world has turned its attention to the Yankees causing national rights holders such as ESPN, Fox, and TBS to pick up extra games in hopes that they capture the moment history is made. Apple TV+ also happened to have a Yankees game scheduled for Friday night against the Red Sox right in the middle of this chase for glory.
Baseball fans have been wildin’ out at the prospects of missing the grand moment when Judge passes Maris or even the moments afterwards as Judge chases home run number 70 and tries to truly create monumental history of his own. The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand has even reported there were talks between YES, MLB, and Apple to bring Michael Kay into Apple’s broadcast to call the game, allow YES Network to air its own production of the game, or allow YES Network to simulcast Apple TV+’s broadcast. In my opinion, all of this hysteria is extremely bogus.
As annoying as streaming sports is and as much as I haven’t fully adapted to the habit yet, Amazon and Apple have done a magnificent job of trying to make the process as easy and simplified as possible. Amazon brought in NBC to help with production of TNF and if you watch the flow of the broadcast, the graphics of the broadcast, NBC personalities like Michael Smith, Al Michaels, and Terry McAuliffe make appearances on the telecast – it is very clear that the network’s imprint is all over the show.
NBC’s experience in conducting the broadcast has made the viewing experience much more seamless. Apple has also used MLB Network and its personalities for assistance in ensuring there’s no major difference between what you see on air vs. what you’re streaming.
Amazon and Apple have also decided to not hide their games behind a paywall. Since the beginning of the season, all of Apple’s games have been available free of charge. No subscription has ever been required. As long as you have an Apple device and can download Apple TV+, you can watch their MLB package this season.
Guess what? Friday’s game against the Red Sox is also available for free on your iPhone, your laptop, or your TV simply by downloading the AppleTV app. Amazon will also simulcast all Thursday Night Football games on Twitch for free. It may be a little harder or confusing to find the free options, but they are out there and they are legal and, once again, they are free.
Apple has invested $85 million into baseball, money that will go towards your team becoming better hypothetically. They’ve invested money towards creating a new kind of streaming experience. Why in the hell would they offer YES Network this game for free? There’s no better way for them to drive subscriptions to their product than by offering fans a chance at watching history on their platform.
A moment like this are the main reason Apple paid for rights in the first place. When Apple sees what the NFL has done for Amazon in just one week and coincidentally has the ability to broadcast one of the biggest moments in baseball history – it would be a terrible business decision to let viewers watch it outside of the Apple ecosystem and lose the ability to gain new fans.
It’s time for sports fans to grow up and face reality. Streaming is here to stay.
MLB Network is another option
If you don’t feel like going through the hassle of watching the Yankees take on the Red Sox for free on Apple TV+, MLB Network will also air all of Judge’s at bats live as they are happening. In case the moment doesn’t happen on Apple TV+ on Friday night, Judge’s next games will air in full on MLB Network (Saturday), ESPN (Sunday), MLB Network again (Monday), TBS (Tuesday) and MLB Network for a third time on Wednesday. All of MLB Network’s games will be simulcast of YES Network’s local New York broadcast. It wouldn’t shock me to see Fox pick up another game next Thursday if the pursuit still maintains national interest.
- One of the weirdest things about the experience of streaming sports is that you lose the desire to channel surf. Is that a good thing or bad thing? Brandon Ross of LightShed Ventures wonders if the difficulty that comes with going from app to app will help Amazon keep viewers on TNF the entire time no matter what the score of the game is. If it does, Amazon needs to work on developing programming to surround the games or start replaying the games, pre and post shows so that when you fall asleep and wake up you’re still on the same stream on Prime Video or so that coming to Prime Video for sports becomes just as much of a habit for fans as tuning in to ESPN is.
- CNN has announced the launch of a new morning show with Don Lemon, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlin Collins. Variety reports, “Two people familiar with plans for the show say it is likely to use big Warner Bros. properties — a visit from the cast of HBO’s Succession or sports analysis from TNT’s NBA crew — to lure eyeballs.” It’ll be interesting to see if Turner Sports becomes a cornerstone of this broadcast. Will the NBA start doing schedule releases during the show? Will a big Taylor Rooks interview debut on this show before it appears on B/R? Will the Stanley Cup or Final Four MVP do an interview on CNN’s show the morning after winning the title? Does the show do remote broadcasts from Turner’s biggest sports events throughout the year?
- The Clippers are back on over the air television. They announced a deal with Nexstar to broadcast games on KTLA and other Nexstar owned affiliates in California. The team hasn’t reached a deal to air games on Bally Sports SoCal or Bally Sports Plus for the upcoming season. Could the Clippers pursue a solo route and start their own OTT service in time for the season? Are they talking to Apple, Amazon, or ESPN about a local streaming deal? Is Spectrum a possible destination? I think these are all possibilities but its likely that the Clippers end up back on Bally Sports since its the status quo. I just find it interesting that it has taken so long to solidify an agreement and that it wasn’t announced in conjunction with the KTLA deal. The Clippers are finally healthy this season, moving into a new arena soon, have the technology via Second Spectrum to produce immersive game casts. Maybe something is brewing?
- ESPN’s Monday Night Football double box was a great concept. The execution sucked. Kudos to ESPN for adjusting on the fly once complaints began to lodge across social media. I think the double box works as a separate feed. ESPN2 should’ve been the home to the double box. SVP and Stanford Steve could’ve held a watch party from ESPN’s DC studio with special guests. The double box watch party on ESPN2 could’ve been interrupted whenever SVP was giving an update on games for ESPN and ABC. It would give ESPN2 a bit of a behind the scenes look at how the magic happens similarly to what MLB Tonight did last week. Credit to ESPN and the NFL for experimenting and continuing to try and give fans unique experiences.
Jessie Karangu is a columnist for BSM and graduate of the University of Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland but comes from Kenyan roots. Jessie has had a passion for sports media and the world of television since he was a child. His career has included stints with USA Today, Tegna, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Sightline Media. He can be found on Twitter @JMKTVShow.
ESPN Shows Foresight With Monday Night Football Doubleheader Timing
ESPN is obviously testing something, and it’s worth poking around at why the network wouldn’t follow the schedule it has used for the last 16 years, scheduling kickoffs at 7 and then 10 on their primary channel.
The Monday Night Football doubleheader was a little bit different this time around for ESPN.
First, it came in Week 2 instead of Week 1. And then, the games were staggered 75 minutes apart on two different channels, the Titans and Bills beginning on ESPN at 7:15 PM ET and the Vikings at the Eagles starting at 8:30 PM on ABC and ESPN+. This was a departure from the usual schedule in which the games kicked off at 7:00 PM ET and then 10:00 PM ET with the latter game on the West Coast.
ESPN is obviously testing something, and it’s worth poking around at why the network wouldn’t follow the schedule it has used for the last 16 years, scheduling kickoffs at 7:00 PM and then 10:00 PM ET on their primary channel. That’s the typical approach, right? The NFL is the most valuable offering in all of sports and ESPN would have at least six consecutive hours of live programming without any other game to switch to.
Instead, they staggered the starts so the second game kicked off just before the first game reached halftime. They placed the games on two different channels, which risked cannibalizing their audience. Why? Well, it’s the same reason that ESPN was so excited about the last year’s Manningcast that it’s bringing it back for 10 weeks this season. ESPN is not just recognizing the reality of how their customers behave, but they’re embracing it.
Instead of hoping with everything they have that the customer stays in one place for the duration of the game, they’re recognizing the reality that they will leave and providing another product within their portfolio to be a destination when they do.
It’s the kind of experiment everyone in broadcasting should be investigating because, for all the talk about meeting the customer where they are, we still tend to be a little bit stubborn about adapting to what they do.
Customers have more choices than ever when it comes to media consumption. First, cable networks softened the distribution advantages of broadcast networks, and now digital offerings have eroded the distribution advantages of cable networks. It’s not quite a free-for-all, but the battle for viewership is more intense, more wide open than ever because that viewer has so many options of not just when and where but how they will consume media.
Programmers have a choice in how to react to this. On the one hand, they can hold on tighter to the existing model and try to squeeze as much out of it as they can. If ESPN was thinking this way it would stack those two Monday night games one after the other just like it always has and hope like hell for a couple of close games to juice the ratings. Why would you make it impossible for your customer to watch both of these products you’ve paid so much to televise?
I’ve heard radio programmers and hosts recite take this same approach for more than 10 years now when it comes to making shows available on-demand. Why would you give your customers the option of consuming the product in a way that’s not as remunerative or in a way that is not measured?
That thinking is outdated and it is dangerous from an economic perspective because it means you’re trying to make the customer behave in your best interest by restricting their choices. And maybe that will work. Maybe they like that program enough that they’ll consume it in the way you’d prefer or maybe they decide that’s inconvenient or annoying or they decide to try something else and now this customer who would have listened to your product in an on-demand format is choosing to listen to someone else’s product entirely.
After all, you’re the only one that is restricting that customer’s choices because you’re the only one with a desire to keep your customer where he is. Everyone else is more than happy to give your customer something else.
There’s a danger in holding on too tightly to the existing model because the tighter you squeeze, the more customers will slip through your fingers, and if you need a physical demonstration to complete this metaphor go grab a handful of sand and squeeze it hard.
Your business model is only as good as its ability to predict the behavior of your customers, and as soon as it stops doing that, you need to adjust that business model. Don’t just recognize the reality that customers today will exercise the freedom that all these media choices provide, embrace it.
Offer more products. Experiment with more ways to deliver those products. The more you attempt to dictate the terms of your customer’s engagement with your product, the more customers you’ll lose, and by accepting this you’ll open yourself to the reality that if your customer is going to leave your main offering, it’s better to have them hopping to another one of your products as opposed to leaving your network entirely.
Think in terms of depth of engagement, and breadth of experience. That’s clearly what ESPN is doing because conventional thinking would see the Manningcast as a program that competes with the main Monday Night Football broadcast, that cannibalizes it. ESPN sees it as a complimentary experience. An addition to the main broadcast, but it also has the benefit that if the customer feels compelled to jump away from the main broadcast – for whatever reason – it has another ESPN offering that they may land on.
I’ll be watching to see what ESPN decides going forward. The network will have three Monday Night Football doubleheaders beginning next year, and the game times have not been set. Will they line them up back-to-back as they had up until this year? If they do it will be a vote of confidence that its traditional programming approach that evening is still viable. But if they overlap those games going forward, it’s another sign that less is not more when it comes to giving your customers a choice in products.
Danny O’Neil is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously hosted morning and afternoon drive for 710 ESPN Seattle, and served as a reporter for the Seattle Times. He can be reached on Twitter @DannyOneil or by email at Danny@DannyOneil.com.
Media Noise: Sunday Ticket Has Problems, Marcellus Wiley Does Not
On this episode of Media Noise, Demetri is joined by Brian Noe to talk about the wild year FS1’s Marcellus Wiley has had and by Garrett Searight to discuss the tumultuous present and bright future of NFL Sunday Ticket.
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.