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Jason Anderson Stays The Course & Trusts His Ability

“I’ll just listen back to things to see what I’m sounding like. I want to see if it’s something I would want to listen to if I’m driving around in my car. Is it entertaining?”

Tyler McComas

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If someone would have told Jason Anderson how hard the first two years were going to be for him in Louisville, he probably would have just stayed put in Kansas City. If he would have been told about the constant stress, the continuous feeling of being overwhelmed or even the tower problems that led him to being a part-time engineer, there’s no way he would have agreed to take the job to get ESPN Louisville off the ground. 

But as fate goes, Anderson left Sports Radio 810 WHB in Kansas City, his dream station, because the company was approached by ESPN to start an affiliate outside the market in Louisville. The start-up station needed a utility man. Someone who could serve as a show host, PD, sales staff, engineer, or anything else a station needs to get started off the ground. So, in 2010, Anderson left Kansas City to head to Louisville for a situation he had no idea he was getting himself in to.  

“The challenge was both overwhelming and energizing at the same time,” said Anderson. “I had grown up to listening to WHB my whole life and it was like, if I get hired there, now you’re sort of playing center field for the Yankees. The franchise had already been established. But here, it’s something that can grow and you’re a big part in growing that. There’s a lot of skin in the game.”

Fast forward to present day and Anderson is still serving as both an afternoon show host and PD at ESPN Louisville. Nearly nine years have passed since he took a leap of faith, but he’s forever thankful he did. Even amidst all the stress he endured, he can now smile and say it was all worth it. His work day may not be a strenuous as it was during the first year, but solo hosting a three-hour show and programming an extremely successful signal definitely comes with its daily challenges. Most notably, how are you supposed to show prep an afternoon drive show from 3-6 p.m. when you’re consumed with other tasks all day? 

“When I get to the office, the first thing I do is go through the entire list of things that need to get done that day,” said Anderson. “So on one side of my planner will be all the things as a PD that I have to get done. While I’m doing those things, just like others in radio, my mind is always thinking about the show. If I’m looking or reading something, I’m always trying to think how I can relate that back to a local topic. On the right side of my planner with be show topics, show ideas, or even things I hear on the air at our station that I think are interesting points, but one that I might disagree with.

“As the day goes on, the list keeps growing and growing. As most PD’s know you can write 10 things you have to get done during the day, but by the time noon rolls around you probably have four other things you weren’t planning on. It’s trying to do two things at once. I’m doing all my PD stuff while always thinking about the show. Around 12:30-1:00 is when I really start to hone in on the show.”

There’s a lot of people in the business that, just like Anderson, have the duties of both a show host and a PD. Not only is it challenging, but you really have to understand how to balance your time throughout the day. That includes finding ways to sharpen your craft. As show hosts, we probably take for granted the opportunities we have with our PD’s for regular air checks as well as tips to improve ourselves. If you’re like Anderson, or the many other people that serve both the host and PD role, improving may have to come through a more unconventional way. 

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“We do a thing from 6-7 p.m. every weekday called The Bonus Hour,” said Anderson. “We take some of the best content of the day and throw it into one hour. While I’m done at 6:00, others might work a little bit later but can still hear our best stuff from the day while they’re driving home. Sometimes that might mean there’s something in there from my first hour. That gives me an opportunity to listen, therefore I don’t have go and listen that night to something else. A couple of times a week I’ll even just go back and listen to a certain hour.

“I’ll just listen back to things to see what I’m sounding like. I want to see if it’s something I would want to listen to if I’m driving around in my car. Is it entertaining? Did I stretch out a topic too far? Have I tried to make a topic out of something that was just a note or a nugget? For me, it’s just all about listening back. I’ll even listen to interviews to see if I talked too much or even interrupted the guest. Or maybe even if I missed a follow up that should have been asked. Those are the things I really try to pay attention to and critique myself with.”

Though he’s paid to make adjustments and decisions based on what he’s hearing on the air, Anderson still realizes his own opinion of his show can’t be enough. That is, not if he wants to continue to grow as a 39 year-old show host. So there have to be people in the business he trusts to lend an ear to his work. 

“You know, I don’t do that enough, I’ll be honest with you,” said Anderson. “I need to do that a lot more. Scott Masteller is a guy that’s been in town a couple of times and certainly somebody that’s always available. I know there’s people at the station that had a relationship with Scott.

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“Soren Petro, the mid-day host at our parent company, Sports Radio 810 in Kansas City, I’ll reach out to him and talk radio, life, the company, just general conversation. I try to reach out to him as much as I can. Not nearly enough of ‘hey man, let me send this your way and tell me what you think.’ I’m always cognizant of that because he’s busy and has a family. But I do need to do that more, rather than just say, here’s what I hear and this is what I would think if I was a radio listener, therefore, this is what I can improve on, as supposed to someone else who does it for a living.”

Just like everyone else who’s pulling the show host/PD responsibility, Anderson has his daily routine that works. But it’s interesting to debate which time slot would be easiest for someone filling both roles. Each have their own draws and setbacks, but which would work best? 

“I’ve actually thought about that and gone back-and-forth,” said Anderson. “Right now I’m able to get a lot of stuff done in the mornings and be at meetings. I think for me, being a show host, I like the fact it’s in the afternoon because it requires me to continue to pay attention to things that are going on while doing the PD side of it. I feel like if I did the morning show, I’d get off the air and focus on the PD side while not really being engaged with show topics throughout the day. I could do all that at night, but by the time I get home, it’s time to eat, then it’s bedtime for the kids, all that stuff, then I’m going to bed for the morning show. So when would I find time to show prep? I would worry I’d be winging it too much if I did a morning show compared to an afternoon show.”

Though we’ve mainly laid out the challenges that come with being both a host and PD, believe it or not, but there’s actually advantages that come with the territory. For one, you get to be in a management position while still realizing your dream of being on the air. Plus, let’s not kid ourselves, it probably helps out the wallet, too. In terms of daily activity at the station, it can really make things easier for the sales staff. Instead of having to diffuse a situation between a host and a member of the sales staff, odds are more likely things are going to happen without conflict. 

“I think it makes it a little easier on both sides,” said Anderson. “If the on-air staff comes to me with a complaint, I’m in the sales meetings, I’m interacting with them and I know what’s going on with the issue. Then, I can try to solve whatever the issue is. I’m at the front of station a lot so I think it makes it easier for the sales staff to come to me if they have an issue with something that’s not getting done.”

Anderson has been in this role for nearly nine years. He’s seen just about everything that can be thrown his way as a host/PD. So naturally, he has some pretty good advice on how to deal with the tense situations that often rise. And that’s exactly his message to the person that has just become both a host and a PD at a station. 

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“I got discouraged early on and it felt like I was running at times,” said Anderson. “If it’s at the beginning and you’re feeling overwhelmed, what I try to do is just focus on what I have to get done today. Just stay the course and trust in your abilities. I just had to keep telling myself there was a reason they had me come down here. They’re not going to send me down here just to let things fail. I keep reminding myself of that. Just be confident, trust your abilities and know you’re the right person for the job. 

BSM Writers

Your Football Conversation Has To Be Different

I don’t know why any host would go with B- or C-material just for the sake of providing variety. That’s silly to me.

Brian Noe

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Radio

Rejoice! Ball is back, baby. Life is just better when football season is included; am I right? (That was a rhetorical question because I know I’m right in this case.) Like many people in this country, I’m all about the pigskin. Outside of my family and friends, there aren’t many things in life that I love more than BALL.

With all of that being established, a simple question still exists: is there such a thing as talking too much football on a sports radio show?

I think it isn’t as much what you’re talking about; it’s how you’re talking about it. For instance, it isn’t good enough to lazily say, “Ehh, we’ll start off by talking about the game last night.” Well, how are you going to talk about it? Do you have anything original, interesting or entertaining to say? Or are you just gonna start riffing like you’re in a jam band hoping to accidentally stumble onto something cool after six minutes of nothing?

Talking about football is like opening a new burger joint. Hang with me on this one. There are so many options — Burger King, McDonald’s, Five Guys, Wendy’s, In-N-Out, etc. — that you can’t expect to have great success if you open a run-of-the-mill burger joint of your own. Having an inferior product is going to produce an inferior result.

It comes down to whether a topic or angle will cause the show to stand out or blend in. Going knee-deep on a national show about the competition at left guard between two Buffalo Bills offensive lineman doesn’t stand out. You’ll get lost in the shuffle that way.

A show needs to constantly be entertaining and engaging. One way to check that box is with unique viewpoints. Don’t say what other shows are saying. Your burger joint (aka football conversation) needs to be different than the competition. Otherwise, why are you special?

Another way to stand out is with personality. It’s impossible to have unique angles with every single topic that’s presented. A lot of hosts recently pointed out that the Dallas Cowboys committed 17 penalties in their first preseason game against the Denver Broncos. But Stephen A. Smith said it differently than everybody else. That’s what it comes down to; either say things that other shows aren’t saying, or say them differently.

New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh made a comment recently that too much of anything is a bad thing. So back to the original question, is there such a thing as too much football talk on a sports radio show?

Variety is the spice of life, but quality is the spice of sports radio. If a show provides quality, listeners will keep coming back. It’s really that simple. Sure, hosts will hear “talk more this, talk more that” from time to time, but you know what’s funny about that? It means the listeners haven’t left. The show is providing enough quality for them to stick around. If the quality goes away, so will the audience.

It’s smart for hosts and programmers to think, “What’s our strongest stuff?” If that happens to be a bunch of football topics, great, roll with it. I don’t know why any host would go with B- or C-material just for the sake of providing variety. That’s silly to me.

Former NFL quarterback Michael Vick said something interesting last week while visiting Atlanta’s training camp. Vick was asked which team’s offense he’d like to run if he was still playing today. “The offense Tom Brady is running in Tampa,” Vick said. “Pass first.”

The answer stood out to me because throwing the ball isn’t what made Vick special with the Falcons. He was a decent passer and a dynamic runner. The run/pass blend made Vick a problem. I totally understand wanting to prove doubters wrong, but there are a lot of athletes that get away from what they do best while relying on something else that isn’t their specialty.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook is not an outside shooter. He’s brutal in that area. Yet Russ will keep firing threes at a 30% clip. Why? Attacking the rim and working the midrange is his game. You don’t see Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul bombing threes if they aren’t going in. He kills opponents with his midrange skills all day.

It’ll be interesting to see how Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa approaches this season. He’s received a steady diet of “can’t throw the deep ball.” Will he try to a fault to prove doubters wrong, or will he rely on what he does best? Beating defenders with timing and accuracy on shorter throws is where he finds the most success.

Working to improve your weaknesses makes sense, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of going away from your strengths. How is it any different in sports radio? If a host isn’t strong when it comes to talking basketball or baseball, it definitely makes sense to improve in those areas. But if that same host stands out by talking football, at some point it becomes like Westbrook jacking up threes if the host gets too far away from a bread-and-butter strength.

Former New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera is the only player in the Baseball Hall of Fame that was unanimously elected. He relied on his cutter — a fastball that moved, a lot — about 85% of the time. Mo didn’t say, “Man, my four-seam fastball and changeup aren’t getting enough respect.” He rode that cutter all the way to Cooperstown and legendary status.

Rivera is a great example of how playing to your strengths is the best approach. He also shows that quality trumps variety every time. Let’s put it this way: if 85% of a sports radio show is football content, and the quality of that show is anywhere near Mo caliber, it’s destined to be a hit.

One of my buddies, Mike Zanchelli, has always been a hit with the ladies. I think he came out of the womb with at least 10 girls in the nursery showing interest in him. He had a simple dating philosophy: “Always. Leave them. Wanting. More.” That might work in dating, but I think it’s the opposite in sports radio. Most listeners don’t hear the entire show. If they’re in and out, wouldn’t you want them to hear your best stuff when they are tuned in?

That’s why I say screw variety. That’s why I wouldn’t worry about overserving your audience an all-you-can-eat BALL buffet. I think it’s much wiser to focus on producing a quality product regardless if it’s well rounded or not.

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BSM Writers

ESPN Has Gone From Playing Checkers to Chess In Two Years

Those decisions make the future ones with the Pac-12, the Big 12, NBA and UFC fascinating to watch but what’s clear is that this ESPN strategy is different.

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In the days after the Big Ten news leaked regarding some of the details of their upcoming media deals, I was hankering for more information. I wanted more insight as to the “why”. Why did the Big Ten leave such a long-lasting and prosperous relationship with ESPN. I just couldn’t imagine it and it’s why I wrote about it last week.

It was in that pursuit of knowledge that I tuned into a podcast favorite of mine, The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast. The show’s hosts are deep into the weeds of sports media with John Ourand at the Sports Business Journal and Andrew Marchand at the New York Post. It was Ourand who was dropping dimes of news on the Big Ten deal last week. I wanted to hear him dive deeper, and he did on the podcast. But it was a throwaway line that got my wheels churning.

“This is about the third or fourth deal in a row that ESPN, the free-spending ESPN, to me has shown some financial discipline” Ourand said. “They are showing a bit of financial discipline that I hadn’t seen certainly when John Skipper was there and pre-dating John Skipper.”

I had to keep digging and folks, it’s true. ESPN is essentially Jimmy Pitaro in the above quote, the Chairman of ESPN. Since taking the role in 2018, he was put into an interesting position of being in the middle of a lot of big money media rights deals that would be coming due for renegotiation soon. The rights fees for EVERYTHING were going to balloon wildly. But in the last two years, he has comfortably kept the astronomical rates somewhat within shouting distance.

The big one, the NFL media rights deal agreed to last March, saw ESPN pay a very strong 30% increase for the rights. However, other networks involved had to pay “double” as Ourand so succinctly put it. He also personally negotiated with FOX to bring in Troy Aikman and Joe Buck to make their Monday Night Football booth easily more recognizable and the best in the sport. ESPN in that deal, that did NOT include doubled rates, got more games, better games, and more schedule flexibility. ABC gets two Super Bowls in the deal too. Simply put, Jimmy Pitaro set up ESPN to get a Super Bowl itself, but for now his network will take full advantage of the ABC network broadcast when the time comes (2026, 2030).

The recent Big Ten deal was massive because the conference spent forty years with ESPN and decided to reward that loyalty with a massively overpriced mid-tier package. ESPN balked at the idea. In their back pocket lies a lot of college football media rights deals with a lot of conferences including one that will be a massively profitable venture, the SEC package. ESPN takes over the CBS package of the “top” conference game. Yes, it paid $3 billion for it, but it’s a scant $300 million annually. Sure, that’s over 5X what CBS was paying annually but CBS signed that deal in 1996! I need not tell you all of the advancements in our world since Bob Dole was a presidential nominee. ESPN now gets to cherry-pick the best game from the best conference and put the game anywhere they damn well please to maximize exposure.

The F1 media rights extension is massive because of two things: one, they got it cheap before the sport littered your timeline on weekend mornings and two, when they re-signed with F1 this summer they paid way less than other streaming networks were reportedly willing to pay. The brand, the savvy worked again. ESPN takes a small risk for a potentially exploding sport and much like CBS did with the SEC for 25 years, can make massive margins.

I can keep going, and I will with one more. Sports betting. The niche is growing like my lawn minutes after the summer rainstorm. Pitaro has said publicly that sports betting “has become a must-have” and he’s full-frontal correct. ESPN is in an odd spot with their clear lineage to Disney, but it’s obvious something massive is going to come soon with ESPN reportedly looking for a deal in the $3 billion neighborhood.

Pitaro has been positioning this company from a position of strength. He pays big money for big properties, but knows when he’s getting taken advantage of and most importantly, isn’t afraid to pull his brand’s name out of the deep end.

ESPN may have an issue with dwindling subscribers, but that’s an everyone problem. The difference is ESPN is constantly trying to get you from one network ship you think is sinking into another network life raft. If you want to leave cable or satellite and go streaming, you can. ESPN+ is there to pick up the pieces. Or Sling (with an ESPN bundle). Or YouTube TV (ESPN is there too). Or a myriad of other ways. They are positioned so well right now to be where you think you want to go. Jimmy Pitaro and ESPN have been amazing at doing whatever they can to keep you paying them monthly.

The network has been aggressive with media rights deals but these newer ones have been diligently maneuvered by Pitaro. It was a choice to essentially back the SEC for the next decade, and to put more money into the potential of F1. The effort was a conscious one to keep a tight-lipped mission to bolster Monday Night Football’s booth. It was an understated strategy to reinvest in the NHL. Those decisions make the future ones with the Pac-12, the Big 12, NBA and UFC fascinating to watch but what’s clear is that this ESPN strategy is different. The old adage of “pigs get fed, hogs get slaughtered” may have applied to the network under different leadership, but these aren’t eating pigs. These are boars.

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BSM Writers

The Producers Podcast – Big Baby Dave, Jomboy Media

Brady Farkas

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Big Baby Dave has his hands in everything for Jomboy Media. He joins Brady Farkas to talk about how he brings a unique sound to each show he works with.

iTunes: https://buff.ly/3A7FJ4a

Spotify: https://buff.ly/3bZ7NgG

iHeart: https://buff.ly/3dB4FrO

Google: https://buff.ly/3JVC5NG

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

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