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Brown, Dunaway, Taylor & Heninger Ready For ‘The Next Round’

“The former hosts of The Roundtable are betting big on themselves by leaving one of the most established radio stations in the south and creating their own digital platform.”

Tyler McComas

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Ryan Brown, Jim Dunaway, Lance Taylor and Sean “Rockstar” Heninger may never host a show on terrestrial radio again. That’s a jarring statement, seeing as the group spent a collective 77 years at WJOX 94.5 FM in Birmingham and hosted one of the most popular shows Alabama sports talk radio has ever seen. But if the group never does another show on the radio dial, it just might mean their new venture turned into a massive success. 

The former hosts of The Roundtable are betting big on themselves by leaving one of the most established radio stations in the south and creating their own digital platform. No, they weren’t pushed out of JOX, in fact, the station offered the show an extension. But the crew wanted a new challenge, a new format and a chance to change the landscape of Alabama sports media. Thus, The Next Round was born. 

“We’re beyond excited about this,” said Taylor. “There’s just so much we can do with it. We really wanted autonomy, equity and to create our own thing by building a digital platform. We’ve seen very talented people in the industry that are going this route..”

Taylor is right. Talented hosts such as Clay Travis, Pat McAfee, Dan Le Batard and Joe Rogan are doing incredible work with digital platforms and they’re only getting more popular by the day. The Next Round is hoping they’ll be the next to prove you don’t need an AM or FM signal to be a popular sports talk show. 

“Obviously we’re light years away from those guys,” said Taylor. “But I’m really good friends with Clay Travis and what he’s been able to do at Outkick has been incredible. I have no idea where this thing is going, it’s truly limitless. But it’s also a little sad, because I spent so much time in radio. The elements of everything were going to do, it’s going to include everything but terrestrial radio. That’s the only thing we won’t be doing.”

Starting in August, The Next Round will air every weekday morning from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm CST. That means they’ll be changing their time slot from morning drive to mid-morning and the middle of the day.

“Part of our desire was to get out of morning drive,” said Dunaway. “Not all of us were big fans of waking up at 3:30 in the morning.”

Several options will be available to both listen and watch The Next Round when the new show debuts next month. Initially, the website, nextroundlive.com, will be the easiest way to listen to the show. However, a mobile app is on the horizon and will give listeners the option to stream directly. 

The option to watch the show will also be easy, as The Next Round will stream on YouTube, Twitch as well as Facebook and Twitter.  

“We’re going to stream our show 24 hours a day,” said Dunaway.  If you’re on the app, we’ll always be on the air. If you want to listen to us from 9 to 1 or 2 o’clock or 5 o’clock in the afternoon, if you work late nights driving a truck, you can get the app and it’ll be like streaming live with us.”

As exciting as this new venture is, there’s a big risk that’s involved. The obvious question to ask, is why? Why leave one of the most popular radio stations in the south, where each guy had security, a good paycheck and a wildly popular show? Why risk all of that for a massive unknown?

“I was really comfortable at JOX and I had a really good client list,” said Taylor, who also did sales at JOX. “I had a lot of security there but it was the right time, at this stage in my life, we were just ready for a new chapter and a new challenge. I think this digital platform is it.”

“It’s climbing up a new mountain for us,” said Dunaway. “I’ve done 20 years of television and jumped into radio, because it was a different challenge and I love that format. I’ve always liked trying new things and this is the next mountain to climb. I wanted to make sure all four of us are together for the rest of my career.”

This won’t be the first time listeners have been asked to follow the show during a switch. At JOX, the show moved from the middle of the day to morning drive after nine years in the lunch slot. The listeners followed and the expectation is that they’ll do the same thing this time around. The good news for those who loved The Roundtable is that the show will sound very different than it did on terrestrial radio.

“My view is that we’ll continue to focus on Alabama and Auburn,” said Brown “Those are the local teams that the mass majority of our listeners and viewers care about. I think the TV numbers show this, there’s people in Birmingham and all across Alabama that love college football. Alabama and Auburn are going to be the focus, naturally, but college football is going to be the focus, overall. “

The fact the show has worked for so long is what gives the group the most confidence The Next Round will be a success. Granted, Taylor’s ability to sell advertising and Heninger’s understanding of how to produce the show are major pluses, but the chemistry between all four guys is what truly shines. 

“We’re basically like brothers, because we mess with each other a lot,” said Heninger. “We’ll comment on each other’s shoes or clothes, really anything. Everyone has something we like to rag on. The chemistry just works.”

Heninger doubles as a musician that plays local gigs in the Birmingham area. Taylor swears he’s the most talented in the group and notes his impeccable timing of often only saying one thing an hour, but making it so funny, it’s often the most memorable thing said the entire hour. Rockstar is truly the comedic relief of the show. 

FCC regulations are no longer a worry, due to the show not broadcasting on terrestrial radio. So how might that change things? 

“That’s a very popular question,” laughed Taylor. “We have three layers to the show. Brown is very conservative. Very witty, but very conservative. Dunaway is kind of middle of the road and I’m the guy they kind of peg as El Diablo. We’re not going to be dropping F bombs left and right, just to do it. It’s amazing I made it 23 years in the business without ever breaking an FCC violation. Now I just don’t have to have the guard and filter up that much. There’s not a filter but we still want it to be authentic.”

There are some unknowns with The Next Round. Taylor has never sold digital media, product placement or YouTube. There’s also the fact that so many different viewing and listening options could create confusion and/or headaches for the audience, and no one knows yet if the listeners will follow the show to a new platform or just stick to their comfortable routine of listening to sports talk on the radio dial on JOX. 

But big rewards come from taking big risks. These guys are well aware of the challenges they’re facing and they’re betting on themselves. If it breaks right, the return could be massive. 

“I have complete confidence in the guys I work with,” said Brown. “We all have the same vision and we’re united in it. I have confidence in those who have always followed us. They’re loyal and fans of ours. The people of Alabama love college football and sports. We do that and in an entertaining fashion. That’s what we do.”

BSM Writers

Mike Tirico Has ‘Never Pretended to Be Friends’ With Athletes

“I like having a healthy relationship where if I need something, I can ask whether it’s for on-air or for background and build trust.”

Ricky Keeler

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Mike Tirico has been covering sports on network television for 32 years. Over those 3+ decades, he has made it a point to not be so close with the athletes he covers in whichever sport he is broadcasting.

Tirico was a guest on the most recent episode of the GOLF’s Subpar podcast with Colt Knost and Drew Stoltz. While Tirico knows he is not doing extensive journalism work, he wants to make sure that he can be able to ask the hard questions if he has to any athlete.

“I never pretend to be friends with the athletes I cover. I like having a healthy relationship where if I need something, I can ask whether it’s for on-air or for background and build trust. I’m not in a position where I’m working for Outside the Lines at my old place, ESPN. It’s not a knock. It’s just you’re not in a position where you have to do these journalistic-type interviews all the time, but there are times you have to ask hard questions. I always try to keep a little bit of a buffer or a distance.”

The context of that question came when Tirico was asked about how good of a relationship he has with Tiger Woods.

“It’s good….If I reach out, he will usually get back to me. He’s been really good and really nice along the way.”

As for broadcasting sports in this day and age of social media, Tirico believes that it can make a broadcaster better whether or not the complaint from someone on Twitter is real or not.

“It makes us better because you know that people are going to catch you. If something is artificial or not, real or not, embraced or not, it forces you to be better at what you do.”

For that same reason, Tirico thinks that LIV Golf is going to make the PGA Tour have to be better going forward because now they have another tour to go up against.

“I think LIV Golf, and we all have our own opinions on it, is going to force the PGA Tour to be better. Competition is good. Checks and balances are really good.”

Even though Tirico doesn’t feel nervous about many broadcasts anymore, there was one event in the last decade where the nerves kicked in when he was hosting his first Olympics at NBC.

“The only time in the last 10 years that I’ve been nervous was coming on for the first time hosting the Olympics because Bob Costas has done that since most of us have been alive and most people had never seen anyone but Bob Costas host the Olympics in primetime…2 minutes before, I’m like ‘should I be this? Should I have fun?’ and then the minute before, I cracked a joke in the studio.”

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BSM Writers

Kyle Brandt’s Rant a Reminder to Consider the Messenger

This doesn’t mean Brandt is wrong or even that he is being told to echo the NFL’s position, it’s to note that he took a very powerful stance on a very powerful platform and they both matter.

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Kyle Brandt

This week, a massive announcement was made in the National Football League regarding the immediate future of Deshaun Watson. Judge Sue L. Robinson recommended a six -game suspension with no additional monetary fine for the quarterback. While the NFL mulls what it will say further, most others didn’t, including a really prominent personality: Kyle Brandt.

Brandt, a co-host on Good Morning Football, reacted like a lot of people did upon hearing the decision: forcefully. On Monday, Brandt denounced the decision to limit Watson’s suspension to six games, saying in part, “…I look at six and I find it very light. I hope it doesn’t stay that way personally. I think that Deshaun Watson leveraged his status as an NFL player against women. In my opinion. And I think it happened more than one time and I think it was was in closed doors in small rooms against women who were probably intimidated. And it pisses me off to even talk about it. And frankly it pisses me off to see the number six. And I don’t think it’s going to stay that way and I hope it doesn’t.”

Those words resonated. Once they were said, the clip was grabbed from the show and then distributed on Brandt’s Twitter account which reaches 333,000+ followers and on his Instagram which speaks to 96,000+ followers. That video has been seen over two million times. Viral, they say. Here it is if you did happen to miss it. Passionate stuff from Brandt.

If you believe in the message, it’s an easy to like, retweet or share idea. It’s not a hot take, frankly, because there is a large section of those that have been following this story that agree. Deshaun Watson is settling cases because people believe he did something bad. Something bad enough that judge did seem fit to point it out and recommend what is generally speaking, a strong suspension. The only problem here is the platform hosting the message.

This is not a Kyle Brandt-bashing piece. He isn’t the platform. If anything, he’s the vessel of this message he wants out. He also, very likely, feels exactly the way he said he did in the above tweeted video. In fact, the next day, Tuesday, Brandt doubled down on his opinion. The newer video was viewed over 400,000 times. You can check it out right below these words.

The distinction needs to be noted that the message Brandt is delivering, is the NFL’s message. It is what Roger Goodell wants to be the prevailing wisdom regarding how we feel about the current state of Watson’s suspension. That message is being amplified by a very popular co-host, on a very popular morning television show that is seen by a lot of people and that is owned by the National Football League.

Again, I am here waving to you wildly to say that I have no reason to believe that Brandt is being told this particular messaging needs to be voiced. But, I do know that the NFL has until Thursday to appeal the decision. Three days is a lot of time to gather data on whether or not the public might support you appealing for more games, something that the league most certainly will look into judging by their statement released shortly after the ruling.

I also know that the NFL was seeking a much longer suspension as well as a hefty fine to be issued to Watson. The NFL has taken a lot of hits for how it has handled players violating league rules and the player conduct policy. No matter which case you look at, comparing it to the one previous or the one right after is an exercise is madness. The one common theme seems to be is that when the NFL feels like it is delving out punishment, it wants to be severe, no matter the consistency. Remember, Tom Brady was a short ‘yes’ answer away from appealing his case to the Supreme Court. The NFL isn’t particularly interested in just letting things go.

It is well within the realm of possibility that the NFL is getting what it rarely gets: an overwhelming opinion that actually sides with it in terms of punishment. For the majority of the modern cases I can remember, more fans than not disagreed with the NFL’s stance on a case. This time, they might have the court of public opinion on their side. I hear far more ‘kick him outs’ in reference to Watson than I do ‘no suspensions’.

We might have the perfect storm for the NFL in terms of support and Kyle Brandt’s message lines up exactly with the leagues desires, no matter how they may have gotten there. Both want more punishment for the Cleveland quarterback. Brandt can hope, the NFL can fight.

This doesn’t mean Brandt is wrong or even that he is being told to echo the NFL’s position, it’s to note that he took a very powerful stance on a very powerful platform and they both matter.

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BSM Writers

Producers Podcast Episode 6: Jackson Safon, The Volume

Brady Farkas

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Jackson Safon has produced for a number of high profile digital networks. Now, as a freelancer, The Volume has put its faith in him to get the most out of Draymond Green, and CC Sabathia and Ryan Ruocco have trusted him to make R2C2 the best it can be.

iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-producers-podcast/id1630978079

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/2XBTp3PnrBvGv2n4Y19tCE?si=c84eee71512e49a5

iHeart: https://www.iheart.com/podcast/269-the-producers-podcast-98564690/

Google: https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9mZWVkcy5ibHVicnJ5LmNvbS9mZWVkcy9wcm9kdWNlcnNwb2QueG1s?sa=X&ved=0CAMQ4aUDahcKEwiQpvak__P4AhUAAAAAHQAAAAAQRw

Amazon: https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/241160ba-ad26-4297-a37a-107dfb10b462/the-producers-podcast 

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