It’s already been more than a week since Charles Barkley announced he is staying with Turner Sports and I’m still left in shock and bewilderment. Barkley’s decision to stay at a show that has won multiple Emmy Awards, gave him a whole new set of fans and friends, and even has its own documentary doesn’t surprise me. LIV’s disorganization and inability to make these conversations an actual negotiation is what truly shocks me.
In an interview with GolfWeek, Barkley told the publication “no, they haven’t offered me anything.” He declared that working at Turner was his priority and “I’m not gonna keep Turner in limbo. So that’s my priority.” Let’s rewind the first sentence he uttered, though. And I quote, “they haven’t offered me anything.” You had sports fans and personalities across the world nervous, scared, and panicked that we would lose Barkley’s hilarious antics during NBA coverage forever not even to give him an offer? Are you kidding me? (Just want to note that this is one of my favorite Barkley sayings.) What is wrong with LIV and who is running their media strategy?
Barkley told The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand that he sat down for dinner with LIV Tour leader Greg Norman two weeks ago and came away believing that the tour would find itself with a television deal in the U.S. If this is the case, how does LIV not come to dinner with a ballpark estimate of how much they want to pay and an idea of what they want Barkley to do for their brand? You have a once-in-a-lifetime moment to secure a deal with sports media’s most outspoken personality and you don’t even come to dinner with an offer?
LIV could’ve used Barkley to finalize a deal with a TV network. John Ourand of Sports Business Journal reported on his sports media podcast this week that LIV’s TV deal, if it ever happens, will most likely be a time buy. If Barkley was added on, I guarantee some sort of rights fee would’ve been included. There is no sports network –scratch that– no TV network on this planet who would miss out on the opportunity to bring Barkley on board as a contributor even if it means airing subpar golf with segments that could go viral, get aggregated by the biggest websites in the universe and fill air time. It’s Charles Barkley!
Because of Barkley’s relationships with sponsors who are closely aligned with Turner, and Turner not wanting to lose the former NBA All-Star, I don’t even think it is out of the question that Turner could’ve been a potential rightsholder if Barkley signed on. Warner Bros. Discovery’s operations involving the PGA Tour are mostly outside of the United States market except Golf Digest. Between TNT, TBS, and HLN – all networks that have aired exhibition golf matches in the past – Turner has plenty of room to air the telecasts. Coincidentally, Turner already has a relationship with Saudi Arabian golf. CNN International aired a monthly series about golf that was sponsored both digitally and on-air by Golf Saudi, an organization that promotes Saudi Arabian golf courses. For those who are against the notion that LIV should even exist, the idea of associating yourself with Golf Saudi might be even worse since LIV plays in different countries for each tournament.
Barkley could’ve been a face that is used in more interview appearances across sports networks and cable news to address the controversy and clear the air even more than he already had done so previously. Having a recognizable face promote the brand could’ve eventually taken some of the pressure off and focused the attention on actual golf action happening. They could’ve even used Barkley for viral pieces that go up online, podcasts, and an alternative broadcast where he brings on his friends as guests – a “Manningcast” copycat. A charitable component helping poor communities which Barkley has a passion for could’ve been implemented as well. The opportunities were endless but LIV couldn’t even manage to bring an offer to the table. A dinner with no offer is such a useless gesture. It’s like being 7’7” with zero NBA talent – too tall for nothing.
Now, more than ever, I just can’t take LIV Golf seriously. It feels like an exhibition that is rightfully challenging an organization that has been glorified in its perch for too long yet doesn’t have the right tactics of taking the PGA away from its throne.
Ironically, the PGA Tour will be offering its athletes more prize money than LIV next year. The tour will always be aligned with the majors – who haven’t toed a line yet but could at some point if each separate organization decides it is too far against their code of ethics to allow in LIV athletes. And interestingly, despite LIV living on YouTube, the PGA Tour is working on a docuseries alongside the majors for Netflix that could help draw a younger, more unique audience to the sport than LIV does despite its attempts to add live music to their tournaments, stream all of their events and add sleek, more modern graphics than what PGA telecasts offer. Most of all, the PGA Tour has all of the major media companies in the bag for themselves for years to come.
The tour has also made mistakes in aligning itself with Fox News. In the past couple of weeks, Greg Norman has granted the network two exclusive interviews and has allowed their golfers to sit down for interviews on Tucker Carlson Tonight. We can’t neglect the fact that Fox News is one of the highest-rated networks on television and that Tucker Carlson Tonight sometimes beats the broadcast networks in primetime ratings which means LIV is getting a huge amount of exposure through these sit-downs. But it is never smart for any sport to politically align itself on one side or the other. Just ask the NBA. If you’re going to sit with Fox, sit with the other news and sports networks who I’m sure have undoubtedly asked you to speak with them as well so that your nonpolitical organization looks fair and balanced. Hell, sit down with us at BSM! I’ll talk to you. Don’t be afraid to take some heat if you want the discussions about the politicization of your league to go away at some point. It just makes more business sense to stay as neutral as possible and the Fox-ification of LIV is bound to turn some more people off who don’t agree with Fox’s way of thinking. (Random sidenote: Something tells me not to be surprised if LIV Golf ends up on Fox News Media properties like Fox Business Network and Fox Nation. Both networks have aired sports programming of some type in the past and present.)
LIV may live for a long time because they have the funds to do so. It is questionable and maybe doubtful if it will ever live with a purpose.
Jessie Karangu is a columnist for BSM and graduate of the University of Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland but comes from Kenyan roots. Jessie has had a passion for sports media and the world of television since he was a child. His career has included stints with USA Today, Tegna, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Sightline Media. He can be found on Twitter @JMKTVShow.
Your Football Conversation Has To Be Different
I don’t know why any host would go with B- or C-material just for the sake of providing variety. That’s silly to me.
Rejoice! Ball is back, baby. Life is just better when football season is included; am I right? (That was a rhetorical question because I know I’m right in this case.) Like many people in this country, I’m all about the pigskin. Outside of my family and friends, there aren’t many things in life that I love more than BALL.
With all of that being established, a simple question still exists: is there such a thing as talking too much football on a sports radio show?
I think it isn’t as much what you’re talking about; it’s how you’re talking about it. For instance, it isn’t good enough to lazily say, “Ehh, we’ll start off by talking about the game last night.” Well, how are you going to talk about it? Do you have anything original, interesting or entertaining to say? Or are you just gonna start riffing like you’re in a jam band hoping to accidentally stumble onto something cool after six minutes of nothing?
Talking about football is like opening a new burger joint. Hang with me on this one. There are so many options — Burger King, McDonald’s, Five Guys, Wendy’s, In-N-Out, etc. — that you can’t expect to have great success if you open a run-of-the-mill burger joint of your own. Having an inferior product is going to produce an inferior result.
It comes down to whether a topic or angle will cause the show to stand out or blend in. Going knee-deep on a national show about the competition at left guard between two Buffalo Bills offensive lineman doesn’t stand out. You’ll get lost in the shuffle that way.
A show needs to constantly be entertaining and engaging. One way to check that box is with unique viewpoints. Don’t say what other shows are saying. Your burger joint (aka football conversation) needs to be different than the competition. Otherwise, why are you special?
Another way to stand out is with personality. It’s impossible to have unique angles with every single topic that’s presented. A lot of hosts recently pointed out that the Dallas Cowboys committed 17 penalties in their first preseason game against the Denver Broncos. But Stephen A. Smith said it differently than everybody else. That’s what it comes down to; either say things that other shows aren’t saying, or say them differently.
New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh made a comment recently that too much of anything is a bad thing. So back to the original question, is there such a thing as too much football talk on a sports radio show?
Variety is the spice of life, but quality is the spice of sports radio. If a show provides quality, listeners will keep coming back. It’s really that simple. Sure, hosts will hear “talk more this, talk more that” from time to time, but you know what’s funny about that? It means the listeners haven’t left. The show is providing enough quality for them to stick around. If the quality goes away, so will the audience.
It’s smart for hosts and programmers to think, “What’s our strongest stuff?” If that happens to be a bunch of football topics, great, roll with it. I don’t know why any host would go with B- or C-material just for the sake of providing variety. That’s silly to me.
Former NFL quarterback Michael Vick said something interesting last week while visiting Atlanta’s training camp. Vick was asked which team’s offense he’d like to run if he was still playing today. “The offense Tom Brady is running in Tampa,” Vick said. “Pass first.”
The answer stood out to me because throwing the ball isn’t what made Vick special with the Falcons. He was a decent passer and a dynamic runner. The run/pass blend made Vick a problem. I totally understand wanting to prove doubters wrong, but there are a lot of athletes that get away from what they do best while relying on something else that isn’t their specialty.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook is not an outside shooter. He’s brutal in that area. Yet Russ will keep firing threes at a 30% clip. Why? Attacking the rim and working the midrange is his game. You don’t see Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul bombing threes if they aren’t going in. He kills opponents with his midrange skills all day.
It’ll be interesting to see how Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa approaches this season. He’s received a steady diet of “can’t throw the deep ball.” Will he try to a fault to prove doubters wrong, or will he rely on what he does best? Beating defenders with timing and accuracy on shorter throws is where he finds the most success.
Working to improve your weaknesses makes sense, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of going away from your strengths. How is it any different in sports radio? If a host isn’t strong when it comes to talking basketball or baseball, it definitely makes sense to improve in those areas. But if that same host stands out by talking football, at some point it becomes like Westbrook jacking up threes if the host gets too far away from a bread-and-butter strength.
Former New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera is the only player in the Baseball Hall of Fame that was unanimously elected. He relied on his cutter — a fastball that moved, a lot — about 85% of the time. Mo didn’t say, “Man, my four-seam fastball and changeup aren’t getting enough respect.” He rode that cutter all the way to Cooperstown and legendary status.
Rivera is a great example of how playing to your strengths is the best approach. He also shows that quality trumps variety every time. Let’s put it this way: if 85% of a sports radio show is football content, and the quality of that show is anywhere near Mo caliber, it’s destined to be a hit.
One of my buddies, Mike Zanchelli, has always been a hit with the ladies. I think he came out of the womb with at least 10 girls in the nursery showing interest in him. He had a simple dating philosophy: “Always. Leave them. Wanting. More.” That might work in dating, but I think it’s the opposite in sports radio. Most listeners don’t hear the entire show. If they’re in and out, wouldn’t you want them to hear your best stuff when they are tuned in?
That’s why I say screw variety. That’s why I wouldn’t worry about overserving your audience an all-you-can-eat BALL buffet. I think it’s much wiser to focus on producing a quality product regardless if it’s well rounded or not.
Brian Noe is a columnist for BSM and an on-air host heard nationwide each weekend on FOX Sports Radio. Previous roles include stops in Portland, OR, Albany, NY and Fresno, CA. You can follow him on Twitter @TheNoeShow or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ESPN Has Gone From Playing Checkers to Chess In Two Years
Those decisions make the future ones with the Pac-12, the Big 12, NBA and UFC fascinating to watch but what’s clear is that this ESPN strategy is different.
In the days after the Big Ten news leaked regarding some of the details of their upcoming media deals, I was hankering for more information. I wanted more insight as to the “why”. Why did the Big Ten leave such a long-lasting and prosperous relationship with ESPN. I just couldn’t imagine it and it’s why I wrote about it last week.
It was in that pursuit of knowledge that I tuned into a podcast favorite of mine, The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast. The show’s hosts are deep into the weeds of sports media with John Ourand at the Sports Business Journal and Andrew Marchand at the New York Post. It was Ourand who was dropping dimes of news on the Big Ten deal last week. I wanted to hear him dive deeper, and he did on the podcast. But it was a throwaway line that got my wheels churning.
“This is about the third or fourth deal in a row that ESPN, the free-spending ESPN, to me has shown some financial discipline” Ourand said. “They are showing a bit of financial discipline that I hadn’t seen certainly when John Skipper was there and pre-dating John Skipper.”
I had to keep digging and folks, it’s true. ESPN is essentially Jimmy Pitaro in the above quote, the Chairman of ESPN. Since taking the role in 2018, he was put into an interesting position of being in the middle of a lot of big money media rights deals that would be coming due for renegotiation soon. The rights fees for EVERYTHING were going to balloon wildly. But in the last two years, he has comfortably kept the astronomical rates somewhat within shouting distance.
The big one, the NFL media rights deal agreed to last March, saw ESPN pay a very strong 30% increase for the rights. However, other networks involved had to pay “double” as Ourand so succinctly put it. He also personally negotiated with FOX to bring in Troy Aikman and Joe Buck to make their Monday Night Football booth easily more recognizable and the best in the sport. ESPN in that deal, that did NOT include doubled rates, got more games, better games, and more schedule flexibility. ABC gets two Super Bowls in the deal too. Simply put, Jimmy Pitaro set up ESPN to get a Super Bowl itself, but for now his network will take full advantage of the ABC network broadcast when the time comes (2026, 2030).
The recent Big Ten deal was massive because the conference spent forty years with ESPN and decided to reward that loyalty with a massively overpriced mid-tier package. ESPN balked at the idea. In their back pocket lies a lot of college football media rights deals with a lot of conferences including one that will be a massively profitable venture, the SEC package. ESPN takes over the CBS package of the “top” conference game. Yes, it paid $3 billion for it, but it’s a scant $300 million annually. Sure, that’s over 5X what CBS was paying annually but CBS signed that deal in 1996! I need not tell you all of the advancements in our world since Bob Dole was a presidential nominee. ESPN now gets to cherry-pick the best game from the best conference and put the game anywhere they damn well please to maximize exposure.
The F1 media rights extension is massive because of two things: one, they got it cheap before the sport littered your timeline on weekend mornings and two, when they re-signed with F1 this summer they paid way less than other streaming networks were reportedly willing to pay. The brand, the savvy worked again. ESPN takes a small risk for a potentially exploding sport and much like CBS did with the SEC for 25 years, can make massive margins.
I can keep going, and I will with one more. Sports betting. The niche is growing like my lawn minutes after the summer rainstorm. Pitaro has said publicly that sports betting “has become a must-have” and he’s full-frontal correct. ESPN is in an odd spot with their clear lineage to Disney, but it’s obvious something massive is going to come soon with ESPN reportedly looking for a deal in the $3 billion neighborhood.
Pitaro has been positioning this company from a position of strength. He pays big money for big properties, but knows when he’s getting taken advantage of and most importantly, isn’t afraid to pull his brand’s name out of the deep end.
ESPN may have an issue with dwindling subscribers, but that’s an everyone problem. The difference is ESPN is constantly trying to get you from one network ship you think is sinking into another network life raft. If you want to leave cable or satellite and go streaming, you can. ESPN+ is there to pick up the pieces. Or Sling (with an ESPN bundle). Or YouTube TV (ESPN is there too). Or a myriad of other ways. They are positioned so well right now to be where you think you want to go. Jimmy Pitaro and ESPN have been amazing at doing whatever they can to keep you paying them monthly.
The network has been aggressive with media rights deals but these newer ones have been diligently maneuvered by Pitaro. It was a choice to essentially back the SEC for the next decade, and to put more money into the potential of F1. The effort was a conscious one to keep a tight-lipped mission to bolster Monday Night Football’s booth. It was an understated strategy to reinvest in the NHL. Those decisions make the future ones with the Pac-12, the Big 12, NBA and UFC fascinating to watch but what’s clear is that this ESPN strategy is different. The old adage of “pigs get fed, hogs get slaughtered” may have applied to the network under different leadership, but these aren’t eating pigs. These are boars.
Arky Shea serves as BSM’s evening editor, a daily news writer, and a weekly media columnist. He has previously worked for Outkick, 97.7 The Zone, 740 Sports Radio, and 730 The Ump where he held roles as the station’s program director, afternoon host, and producer. To connect, find Arky on Twitter @ArkyShea.
The Producers Podcast – Big Baby Dave, Jomboy Media
Big Baby Dave has his hands in everything for Jomboy Media. He joins Brady Farkas to talk about how he brings a unique sound to each show he works with.
Brady Farkas is a sports radio professional with 5+ years of experience as a Program Director, On-Air Personality, Assistant Program Director and Producer in Burlington, VT and Albany, NY. He’s well versed in content creation, developing ideas to generate ratings and revenue, working in a team environment, and improving and growing digital content thru the use of social media, audio/video, and station websites. His primary goal is to host a daily sports talk program for a company/station that is dedicated to serving sports fans. You can find him on Twitter @WDEVRadioBrady and reach him by email at email@example.com.