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Will More Teams Follow The Bulls & Add Gambling Experts To Radio Broadcasts?

“Alyssa Bergamini will be part of every Bulls broadcast alongside Chuck Swirsky and Bill Wennington offering wagering updates.”

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Legal sports betting has exploded onto the landscape of radio and television at a rapid rate. Bursting on the scene are new ways for media outlets to monetize the industry and use it in new and inventive ways. Gambling’s impact is not going to stop anytime soon, because it’s a lucrative business to be in when you run a radio or TV station. 

Just this week, 670 The Score in Chicago, added a member to its Bulls radio crew with a specific role. Alyssa Bergamini will be part of every Bulls broadcast alongside Chuck Swirsky and Bill Wennington offering wagering updates. She debuted Monday with an update just before tipoff. 

Bergamini is part of a new campaign called “Courtside Odds with Bet MGM”. She had information on the pregame betting lines, including the spread, over/under numbers and some player props. To be honest it sounded like a 60-second commercial for the BetMGM app, and it probably was. Which leads me to a point of how current the information is going to be and how relevant it is to the storyline of the game.

Earlier in the Bulls’ pregame show, it came to light that Nikola Vucevic would not play in the game due to injury. When Bergamini first appeared, I thought that an obvious angle would have been how the line changed without the Bulls’ center available. There was no mention of it in her first report.

I’m not privy to the deal the station or the team entered into with MGM, so perhaps this isn’t what they are trying to achieve. One would think if they had money on the game, this would be the kind of stuff they’d be looking for, right? 

I listened to the update at the end of the first quarter and Bergamini updated the over/under line and how it moved based on the first 12-minutes of action. I’m sure that there is room to grow and I am not blaming her at all for this, not being aware of the responsibilities within the deal. Knowing her a little bit from my time in Chicago and with the White Sox, she’s an up and comer in the market and this is a great break for her. She will get a rhythm going and to be fair, her debut came with the team on the road. Bergamini was in the studio and will be for all away games. 

When I first heard about this idea, I was a bit skeptical. I’m used to seeing gambling information on the ‘ticker’ or on a Megacast, but not actually during a game broadcast. Especially on radio, where the action needs to be described so the fan at home knows what’s happening in the game. If the format stays like it has, it will not be the intrusion I feared it might be. 

Strangely, on the same night, fans watching the Bulls/76’ers game on NBC Sports Chicago Plus and NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus, had a chance to take in an alternate feed, featuring the sports betting angles of the game. The telecast was in partnership with ‘PointsBet’ with NBC Sports EDGE’s Sara Perlman, Sixers’ analyst Jim Lynam, Bulls commentator Kendall Gill and PointsBet oddsmaker Joy Croucher part of the ‘BetCast’ in both markets. It was presented as you might expect with graphics, with live odds data, like the spread, over/under, money lines, along with futures odds and player prop bets.

The special presentation first debuted on NBC Sports Chicago on April 22, 2021 and dates back to April 2019 on NBC Sports Philadelphia.

Gambling is being embraced by the professional sports leagues, including the NBA. It’s also caught on with great interest in Chicago and other big cities, so these reports and specialized broadcasts are serving a growing audience. 

Over the last couple of years, the impact of the gambling market on radio and television has exploded. Not just in commercial inventory, but in shows geared towards those that gamble or are interested in learning about it. VSiN, The Daily Wager and NBC Sports Edge to name a few on the television side. Audacy’s BetQL app is a big player on the radio side. 

Gambling is and always will be a part of sports and now it’s all legal. So why not just accept and enjoy it? For me, I am a sports fan first and foremost. I don’t gamble often, but I do find it very interesting. I want these shows to educate me as much as inform me. 

After talking to some people at the recent BSM Summit in New York City that are serving as the ‘gambling experts’ at various outlets, I’m kind of happy with the approach. Joe Fortenbaugh is a part of the ‘Daily Wager’ on ESPN. 

“It’s been fantastic and it’s great to see that not only are people interested because they know there’s financial implications, but they’re also educating themselves on it. They are learning more about the business,” he told me backstage at the BSM Summit. “3 years ago, we could use certain terms to talk about underdogs, and things like that, people are like, ‘I’m still trying to figure it out’, that’s where I think the most underserved market in sports betting is at the current moment.”

Fortenbaugh continued, “People want to be able to talk about it, they want to have fun with it but we also need to understand that it’s a completely different language to a lot of people.” He also points out the need to remind people to gamble responsibly. 

Those folks are catching on quickly, and they’ll need to because of the ever-changing sports landscape. Get on board or you could be left behind. Even in some of your favorites like baseball. The thought process is you’ll probably draw more people in with gambling talk, than lose them. 

“I think you’d have to be naive to think gambling isn’t coming into every facet of every sport, so that’s first and foremost,” said Dan McLaughlin, the St. Louis Cardinals play-by-play announcer for Bally’s Sports Midwest to USBETS. “In terms of the broadcast, I’m not sure where this is going to take us, and I mean that sincerely. Some people who have never laid a bet and won’t ever do so just want a traditional broadcast. But, also, there are some people who have put down certain wagers on certain sports and they’ll be drawn into it in a blowout game, sometimes in a tight ending, whatever.

“It’s a way to keep fans interested. I do think it’s coming, and I do think it might be another aspect to offer fans during a game. You maybe don’t totally draw it out, but you can draw attention to it.”

What was once a longshot, to even be spoken about on radio or television, is now the heavy favorite to win. Don’t bet against gambling talk showing up where you least expect it. The once taboo is now a topic to be reckoned with. Money is talking and stations across the country are listening closely. 

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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