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The Future Of Sports Is Catering To Shorter Attention Spans

“I’m not advocating abandoning the NBA or even MLB. All I’m saying is look what’s out there.”

Seth Everett

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We do not pay attention to much anymore. Between our phones and social media, it’s not just children that have minds wandering.  All sports have issues maintaining “time spent viewing,” which is a totally different challenge than just getting you to watch a game. It’s to keep you from changing the station.

Reflections On Channel Surfing | MattAndJojang's Blog

Over my 27 years covering sports, I have seen instances where things are shorter than your average football, baseball, basketball, or hockey game.

What if a sport promised no greater than two hours?  That’s a typical soccer game. Two 45-minute running time halves and a short halftime are all that sport requires. Globally, nothing is more popular.

Lacrosse has been part of my life since my Syracuse days.  I’ll watch my alma mater or the National Lacrosse League (pre-pandemic).  Those games are rarely over 2 hours, and the pace is somewhere between soccer and hockey.

I have often had a rule when it came to things that I have a passion for that others I speak to aren’t into. The two best examples in my life are Prince and the NHL.  In both cases, I never pushed my fandom on anyone.  If someone questioned my affinity, I would simply say check it out (preferably live).  Go to a hockey game.  See Prince live (back when it was possible). Then, look me in the eye, and tell me it’s awful.  I’ll never ask again.

Seven years ago, the FIA launched Formula-E. It’s a racing circuit with all-electric cars.  I first became aware of Formula-E in 2018, when I had the chance to interview Sir Richard Branson on my Sports with Friends podcast in Paris, France.  There, I was writing for Forbes and wrote a piece on how this sport will actually save the world one day.

The thesis was pretty simple.  Car companies own teams and employ scientists, technicians, and engineers to design the most energy-efficient car to win a race.  The competition of it was not what initially attracted me.  I told Michael Carcamo, global motorsport director for Nissan, that I wanted to see after five or so years if any of the tech advances through Formula-E was being implemented in consumer vehicles, making them more efficient and more affordable. 

“Think about the pictures and the scenery that you have,” Carcamo said to me when I wrote for Forbes in 2018. “New York, Rome, Paris. I mean, you also have great backdrops, but I think appealing to your audience and knowing the fact that how they consume this is different, that’s important. In the same way what the products we have to give to them are different. That’s why it’s important to have many different types of products for these clients.”

Formula E racing: This is why it's getting more popular

Over the last three years, I covered seven races.  I traveled to Paris, Rome, Mexico City, and Brooklyn, New York. What I learned is that the action is quick, the strategy is real, and the broadcast is really welcoming.  There is a world feed based out of England, where play-by-play voice Jack Nicholls and analyst Dario Franchitti explain the sport as well as call the action. Never during their broadcast does a viewer feel like they do not know what’s happening.

How quick is the action? An entire race is 45 minutes plus a single final lap. Within a single hour, you can consume everything that happens in a Formula E race from start to finish.

The broadcasts were aired on FOX Sports 1 until this season where they moved to CBS. The broadcast sounds exactly the same. In 2020, ratings for Season 6 saw an increase while most American sports saw decreases.

Full disclosure: the sport does not even know about this column.  In the past, I have worked with them on projects, but this isn’t about that at all. This is about finding sports that embrace shorter attention spans.

Another method of attracting fans is called the FanBoost. Fans have the opportunity to vote with an app for their favorite driver. The top five vote-getters are awarded an extra boost of power during the race.

The comparison for this would be giving the leading vote-getter for the MLB All-Star Game to start a plate appearance with a 2-0 count or be allowed a 4th strike before he is out.  Or the most popular quarterback gets an extra down to play with.

As outlandish as those sound, the incentive for drivers to interact with fans on social media is legit.

Formula E Fanboost Vote Case Study | Telescope.tv

All the United States’ major sports have their place. They face challenges that are probably not comparable to previous generations. I’m not advocating abandoning the NBA or even MLB.  All I’m saying is look what’s out there.  See how other sports are attracting younger fans by simply having shorter contests and thinking differently about how they interact with the fanbase.

Check out a race. Look me in the eye.  Tell me it’s awful.

I’ll never ask again.

BSM Writers

Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing

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

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WRONG BAD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WORTH EVERY PENNY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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BSM Writers

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

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

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

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

But is that why you sell sports radio?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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

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