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What Do You Learn From A Long Stretch On The Sidelines?

“We work so hard to land these positions and when they are gone, it can take time to get the train back on the track. Weeks turn into months, months turn into a year, then two years, then three.”

Demetri Ravanos




The thing about sports radio that can be so frustrating is that there are only so many on air jobs to go around. That means that some good people will be left on the sidelines, sometimes for considerably longer than they ever anticipated.

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I wanted to talk to some of those guys today. I reached out to two buddies, Nick Kayal in Nashville and Jeff Pantridge in Raleigh. Neither has been totally on the sidelines. Nick has part-time gigs in both Atlanta and Nashville. Jeff has moved from the programming side into sales. Still, I don’t think either thought they would be where they are right now when they started their last full-time on air job.

So with all of this time on the sidelines and plenty of time re-evaluate what does and doesn’t matter to them, how have they changed? How has the way they think about radio changed?

Pantridge says he hasn’t changed much about how he applies. He still tries to learn all he can about a station and a market before sending off a demo or resume. What has changed is if he applies at all. After three years away from the microphone, he has learned to value himself a little more than he did before.

“For a while, I was applying for anything and everything,” he told me. “When radio is all that you know and you are forced out of the industry, you must piece together odd jobs until your next radio opportunity arrives. Leaving an odd job is easy. I was selling people insulation for a little bit. I don’t know anything about insulation. And let me tell you, selling insulation sucks. If I got an offer in 2019 to wash vans for a sports station in rural North Dakota, I probably would have considered it. Now that I have a more stable career in radio and digital sales with a great company, I can pick and choose where I want to apply. Plus, if I get an offer, I have the power to walk away if the offer isn’t worth changing my life, which I have done.”

Kayal has also reassessed what matters to him. He has a wife and two kids and realizes that any job he is offered doesn’t work for him if it doesn’t work for them.

“My wife and daughters are very happy in the south and they love living in Nashville,” Kayal said in an email. “Sure, if FOX Sports Radio was interested in me filling Clay Travis’s vacancy, I’d absolutely listen. If ESPN Radio wanted to hire me, I’d jump on it. If the chance to go back to Philadelphia was realistic, I’d be all ears. But largely, I am very happy with the 2 great stations I get routine work on and am focused on moving up the ladder at one or both of those places. I’ve also had steady work for both of them during the pandemic, so I am very blessed in that regard because I know a lot of talented people in the industry can’t find any fill-in work, much less full-time gigs.”

NICK KAYAL 🎙 on Twitter: "Sign up today by calling the @HermitageGolf pro  shop! It's going to be an awesome event!… "

I asked both guys how they see themselves in the business now. Are they hosts and only hosts? Could they see themselves being happy in another side of the building?

Kayal started in the sales side of the business. It is how he first got his foot in the door in radio, hosting a morning show from 6 until 8 am in Allentown, PA and then selling spots for the rest of the workday. It taught him the value of building relationships with a sales staff, but it isn’t something he wants to do again.

“At 37 years old, there’s no way I would do sales full-time. I still have too much of an itch to host. I have too much of an ego to being sitting in a cubicle or on the road listening to the show/host that I’m selling if I know I am more talented than that person. I just couldn’t do it,” he says with a laugh.

You have to give Kayal credit for knowing who he is. Whether or not people are lining up to hire him for a prime, weekday shift is irrelevant. He knows what makes him happy and intends to pursue it.

Jeff Pantridge is different. Maybe that is because he is older than Kayal. Maybe he just has a different set of priorities. Neither is wrong. Jeff just knows that sales provides some things for him that chasing low-paying on-air gigs cannot.

“It took me a while to realize this, but believe it or not, there is more to life than hosting a sports radio show. Is hosting a show more fun than sales? No question. Does it pay as much? Nope. I’m in my mid-40’s now, and I have come to a point in my life where I need to start thinking about retirement. I also love to travel, and when you are in radio and you are on vacation, there is always a piece of you that is worried that your station might replace you with your fill-in because they may come cheaper or may even be (gasp) better than you. Being in media sales, I can also have a direct impact on my community by helping these local businesses that support our products grow. That matters to me.”

May be an image of Jeff Pantridge and smiling

I wanted to wrap up giving both guys a chance to speak directly to programmers and GMs that do the hiring in radio. I don’t want them to pitch themselves or their ability. That is what the BSM Member Directory is for. I asked them what they would want hiring managers to know. What has a longer-than-anticipated stint on the beach taught them about the industry.

Pantridge says that he hopes companies and stations understand where value comes from in your audience. Spending time on the sales side of the business has taught him that quality is always more important and more valuable than quantity. He encourages hiring managers to think about what makes an audience loyal to a talent.

“I believe that a lot of sports radio ends up sounding the same, because there seems to be a universal formula that many management types follow. I understand that this is a business, and the endgame is to make money. With that said, there are many ways to do that. Now that I am in sales, I have come to realize that numbers are not everything. You also must create a passionate audience. If I am a radio station, I would rather have 200,000 passionate listeners than 500,000 passive ones. Local businesses have a much greater chance of connecting with them versus somebody that is just listening to the same old sports radio show because they like sports.”

He uses Dan Le Batard’s deal with DraftKings as an example. Pantridge says that a lot of local sports radio stations didn’t know how to make sense of Le Batard. All some managers saw was that fewer people listened to Le Batard in the station’s 10 am to 1 pm slot than listened to Colin Cowherd when he was there and decided it wasn’t working. DraftKings, on the other hand, saw an audience that didn’t listen passively and wanted to support their favorite show.

Nick Kayal just wants PDs and GMs to see the people applying for their openings as more than resumes and mp3s. He wants them to know just how much a little common courtesy means to people trying to find a new job.

“When a talent reaches out to you and pours his soul into impressing a decision maker you shouldn’t ghost them. The whole world is on a smartphone and has a dozne means of communication. You owe that talent a reply and a genuine one at that. This is a very small industry. Don’t be the guy who says “I’ll circle back to you”, or “I’ve got a lot on my plate.” I swear theres a PD verbage/clich playbook that was published in 1998 and it’s quite annoying. We are all busy. I get that. But you’re programming a sports talk radio station, not creating the next vaccine for the next global pandemic. You have time. You work in communications. Be better than that.”

Losing a gig sucks. There’s no need to sugarcoat it. We work so hard to land these positions and when they are gone, it can take time to get the train back on the track. Weeks turn into months, months turn into a year, then two years, then three.

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The best anyone can do with their time is learn. Learn about the industry and more importantly, learn about yourself. Learn not just about the weaknesses that lead to the exit from your previous job. Learn about the strengths and goals that maybe could not be served working in and thinking about radio like you did before.

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




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.






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