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Are Your Content Rules Totally Out The Window Now?

“”We’re not going to hit you over the head with numbers and the logistics of everything. When you do, you go down that rabbit hole and 16 minutes later the listener says, ‘wait, that’s not why am here.'”

Tyler McComas

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Thank God for Tiger King. Joe Exotic, Carole Baskin, and yes, even you, Jeff Lowe. Without your efforts and sacrifices, who knows what sports radio would have been like without you last week. 

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I bet nobody felt bad for talking about the Neftlix show for a full week, and they shouldn’t. But it does bear the question: How much play would it have gotten if we had a normal sports schedule that was happening? 

That question leads to an even bigger one: How much have you thrown your regular content rules out the window during the Coronavirus?

Let’s answer the first one. 

“I think initially it still would have still been pretty big,” said Jay Recher of 95.3 WDAE in Tampa. “But instead of a shelf life of where it’s currently 4 to 7 days, it would’ve been 2 to 3 days. There would’ve been so many other stories. There’d be Rays baseball and the Lightning getting ready for the NHL Playoffs. Outside of that, we would’ve had the first two weeks of March Madness here, WrestleMania was supposed to be this Sunday right here in Tampa, then there was the Valspar Championship and the St. Pete Grand Prix.”

Recher could probably get away with talking about Tiger King more than most, seeing as there was a local connection in the documentary to Tampa. But does that mean he’s thrown his regular content rules out the window? Not necessarily, especially with guests.  

“We’ll run through our weekly guests for all the seasons,” Recher said. “Even though it’s out of season, we’ll check in with our football guests, hockey guests and even our baseball guests. We’ll make it once every couple of weeks with those guys.”

Trey Elling of 104.9 The Horn says, for the most part, it’s business as usual. When it comes to guests, he’d be willing to have on a local mayor or the governor to talk about the current situation in Austin, but his show hasn’t explored that route just yet. 

Shirts & Skins with Chad & Trey | Horn FM

What’s unique about Elling’s situation is that he was given a new co-host almost exactly a month ago. That may sound incredibly challenging, but it could be the best way to establish chemistry with your new partner. 

“In a way, it’s beneficial to us as a new show, because there’s always a certain time period of trial and error, experimentation and risk-taking,” Elling said. “This has allowed us to maybe do even more of that to see what works and what gets a decent audience response. I actually look at that as a positive.”

If there’s no major sports news out there, coming up with material for top of hours becomes rather interesting and even difficult. Granted, it doesn’t mean you have to go about them any differently, but your big show of the day has likely had a much more national feel to it compared to the local topics you’re used to having. 

Elling is a fan of having guests on at the top of the hour, as long as it’s not the opening segment of the show. He won’t have a guest on to open every single hour, but he’s not afraid, especially during this time, to bring someone on when he thinks his audience is at its peak for the day. 

Recher, on the other hand, has tried a couple of new segment ideas to kick up the back part of the show. 

“At 6 o’clock we do This Day in Sports History,” Recher said. “Basically it’s a look back on all the dates and historical moments, each guy picks two, they do some research and then tie it into Tampa or something that’s happening today. After that, we’re kicking back-and-forth the answers that people are texting and tweeting. Those you can do anytime of the day and anytime of the year, but I feel that addition really pushes our show from the third hour to the fourth.”

Sports Life With Jay Recher - 95.3 WDAE

It’s tough to gauge what the majority of listeners want, given that these are unprecedented times. Do you they want to be informed about the current happenings of Coronavirus? Do they want a sports show to be an escape from the reality around them? Maybe they want both. Regardless, you better be mindful of how you address this ongoing situation. 

“Like anything, it has to be a happy medium,” said Recher. “I think you just have to be real. You don’t want to just sit there and read off statistics that are printed out on a piece of paper or something that you saw on TV. If people want that information they know where to get it. They are coming to us for an escape, but if there’s breaking news stories or if it impact sports in some way, yes, we’ll delve into it. 

“We’re not going to hit you over the head with numbers and the logistics of everything. When you do, you go down that rabbit hole and 16 minutes later the listener says, ‘wait, that’s not why am here.’ I don’t want to try over-educate someone, you know what I mean? That’s not why they’re coming to us.”

It’s been said multiple times over the past three weeks that a host should revel in this opportunity, because it allows you to showcase your creativity. Elling has welcomed it with open arms, because he’s always believed that off-topic conversations are super critical to a show’s success. 

“What we’re going through is beneficial to someone like me, that doesn’t oversaturate themselves with sports, because now, you really get to show just how capable you are with the radio part of the sports radio equation.”

That’s such a good line.

You can tell who the best in this business are when the normal gameplan is thrown out the window and you’re tasked with being entertaining despite the world not being normal. Yeah, knowing sports is important, but understanding the ‘true radio’ side of things is even more critical. This is where that shows. 

I love to see the ideas of how different stations are helping out local restaurants. Creatively, there’s more you can do besides having a burger joint owner come on for eight minutes and tell everyone about their curbside service. Recher has toyed with his own version of how to help out and it’s already gained a ton of traction in the local Tampa area. 

“We started on Friday at 5:45 what’s called our local look out,” Recher said. “What we do, is we have local businesses that are still in business for either delivery or take out, they call, text and tweet us with the hashtag #LocalLookOutDAE and they tell us what’s open. We talk about it on the airwaves and we podcast it. We just keep the word out those business are open.”

https://twitter.com/953WDAE/status/1244740987450265600?s=20

The decision of how much or how little to alter your show with no sports going on is entirely your own. There’s not necessarily a right or wrong way to go about things, but it is important to make sure you’re as genuine and informative as possible. 

In fact, Elling said it best when he closed with, “a part of all of this is the human element that’s involved. If you try to ignore it you’re going to come across as insincere and something that people choose to turn away from.”

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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