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John Kincade Enters His Third Act

“Put down your phone and listen instead of constantly trying to get feedback from a bunch of faceless people on social media.”

Derek Futterman

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It is exceedingly rare in sports media to host a radio show that lasts for over two decades, bringing listeners compelling talk and opinion about their favorite teams. John Kincade achieved that feat with his co-host Buck Belue in Atlanta on 680 The Fan and viewed himself as part of a family. The station, owned by Dickie Broadcasting, embraced Kincade and the skillset he brought on to the airwaves – and he viewed himself as a trusted voice in the city’s sports media landscape. Then in December 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the radio station dropped him in a cost-cutting move that suddenly put his livelihood in flux.

“It was one of the greatest shocks of my career, but it also taught me something,” Kincade said. “It taught me to prepare myself because no matter who you are or what you are in this industry, there could be a reason at some point that your employer says, ‘We can’t afford you anymore,’ or, ‘We don’t want you anymore’ and you’ve got to go.”

As a native of Broomall, Penn., Kincade was always captivated by Philadelphia sports media personalities, including Howard Eskin who he would later have a chance to learn from as an intern at WIP 610. After doing sports at the television station at Cardinal O’Hara High School and broadcasting local events on community television, he decided to matriculate at Temple University: one of the top broadcasting schools in the country.

Working in radio was never a given for Kincade, though. Although he always had a passion for sports media, finding a full-time job in the industry was hardly facile and part of the reason why he chased internship opportunities to complement his participation in student media outlets on campus.

As an undergraduate student majoring in radio, television and film, Kincade worked with the Philadelphia Flyers’ coaching staff compiling statistics and video, meaning he was often around the team. As a result, when he was offered a chance to be a Flyers correspondent with Tony Bruno on WCAU, he had to receive permission to work in the role from head coach Mike Keenan. While Keenan granted Kincade’s request, it came with the caveat that if he ever divulged team secrets or sensitive information, he would immediately be fired by the organization.

“I would have strong opinions but I had to be very, very careful not to give away any information and I always had to make sure that I was well-versed in what I was saying,” Kincade explained. “It always had me a little bit on eggshells but it also had me… prepared.”

From there, Kincade worked at WIP where he was afforded the chance to go on the air by then-program director Tom Bigby. Additionally, Kincade contributed to Angelo Cataldi’s program and developed a relationship with the host – little did he know they would become competitors in Philadelphia morning drive years later. Cataldi had a profound influence on Kincade’s career, serving as an example of how to express himself and tirelessly improve at his craft in an industry predicated on sustained success.

“I got to see him and work with him when he was building the brand; not this juggernaut corporation that he’s built that has been this incredibly successful venture,” Kincade said. “I watched him put in the hard work when he was still a young radio guy.”

Working in radio was only a part-time gig for Kincade, as he landed a job in regional sales and marketing for Shared Medical Systems (SMS) [currently “Siemens”] two years out of college. His expertise in the field led to a quick ascension to the point where he was making a six-figure salary in his latter years. On the side, he was a high school hockey coach, maintaining his passion for the sport while still contributing to WIP 610 and, in the process, receiving minimal amounts of sleep each day.

Then in 1995, he was told by SMS of an opportunity to work in Atlanta and relocated, picking up part-time radio work on the weekends at 680 The Fan. Kincade was operating at a pace bereft of considerable time to recuperate and thrived until it all came to a screeching halt.

Less than a year into his time in Atlanta, Kincade was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Fortunately, the cancer was detected early enough to where it could be treated with chemotherapy and radiation, and he was able to continue to work at his unremitting pace. Two years later though, Kincade was told he had testicular cancer, causing him to undergo more treatment and surgery. By this time, he had taken a new job as director of new business development at First Consulting Group, but internally he thought his days on earth were numbered.

“I didn’t have confidence that I was ever going to get to be a guy like I am now with some gray hair,” Kincade said. “I believed my life wasn’t going to be that long.”

Kincade had a powerful realization during his second bout with cancer that he needed to expend his efforts into chasing his passion of sports radio. It catalyzed him to give up his lucrative sales job to work in sports radio in an attempt to fulfill his childhood dream.

“Cancer was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Kincade said. “People will roll their eyes and go, ‘What are you talking about?’ Without it, I wouldn’t have had the guts to change careers and I think I may have missed out on one of the greatest rides of my life.”

Since that moment, Kincade experienced a precipitous rise as a sports media personality and began refining his style to best appeal to the audience. In 1999 following a two-year stint at 790 The Zone, Kincade was signed on as an afternoon host with 680 The Fan (where he worked part-time in 1995) to form a duo with former University of Georgia quarterback Buck Belue. The new program, titled Buck and Kincade, quickly became a staple of sports coverage in Atlanta. The locale was a melting pot – an amalgamation of sports fans and rooting interests – that, at the time, Kincade says was a “fledgling sports radio market.”

The show endured changes in media and a growing sect of sports fans solely invested in the local teams, lasting for over two decades before the station decided to move on in December 2020. Over that stint in Atlanta, though, Kincade had been involved in a variety of other projects, including hosting a nationally-syndicated Sunday morning show on the weekends called The John Kincade Show on ESPN Radio. Nine years later, his show moved to CBS Sports Radio and gave him a chance to connect with a national audience and discuss the world of sports and, of course, the football games that would kick off a few hours later.

“I would always have a show with a bunch of different segments in it and little things that became sort of unique benchmarks of what I did,” Kincade said. “I enjoyed making it my own and getting to do mornings.”

In these roles spanning over 15 years, Kincade not only hosted his own program but also filled in for other radio personalities on their shows as needed. Some of the hosts he sat in for include Colin Cowherd, Dan Patrick, Scott Van Pelt and Mike Greenberg, fortuitous occurrences that engendered him heightened exposure and reach towards their embedded audiences. 

Additionally, Kincade launched The Big Podcast with Hall of Fame center Shaquille O’Neal where they would discuss basketball, sports and the world of pop culture at large. It was a memorable experience for Kincade. The show was produced by Rob Jenners who also worked at 680 The Fan and found creative ways to keep listeners entertained within every episode.

“He was an amazing, amazing partner,” Kincade said. “[We had] so much fun; I had so many laughs…. On my deathbed, I will be remembering some of the fun and stupid things we used to do on the Shaq podcast.”

Kincade joined 97.5 The Fanatic in January 2021 as the host of The John Kincade Show airing weekday mornings from 6 to 10 a.m. Moving back to work in Philadelphia for the first time in over two decades was not an insurmountable task for him since he had been closely following the teams in the area and making biweekly appearances on Cataldi’s show. Today, he likes to think of himself as a collaborator who aims to create original content and a distinct sound consumers will not be able to find anywhere else.

“I don’t like the sort of 1990s/early 2000s of sports talk radio where it’s one person on a mic just taking a bunch of phone calls,” Kincade said. “I enjoy interaction; I enjoy creating unique and compelling segments that don’t require throwing out the phone number and literally just saying to my callers, ‘Here, you provide me the content.’ I like creating content and then being able to deliver that content and having listeners that will interact [with] what I’m talking about.”

The importance of being cognizant of both the marketplace and in what consumers want to hear is paramount to drive ratings and revenue; however, he does not want his show to be solely caller-driven. Instead, he tries to engage the listeners by presenting thought-provoking topics, giving his opinion on them and then opening it up to callers to join the conversation. It is a philosophy many sports radio hosts do not agree with Kincade on – doing anything different though, he says, likens the callers to aspects of show preparation.

“You’re letting the plumber; the electrician; the doctor; the lawyer make the decisions about what the content of your show is,” Kincade said regarding caller-driven programs. “I think that’s crazy because they’re not going to be there to pay your bills someday if the station decides to let someone else do the show. You’ve got to be a strong content creator and you’ve got to run your show first. You can’t just toss someone the keys and say, ‘Yeah, wherever you want to drive me today, you drive me there.’ I think that’s nuts.”

Philadelphia sports have been passed down through the progeny of local residents, requiring a hyperlocal focus to maintain interest. Otherwise, there are plenty of other options out there for consumers to explore more closely related to their niche sports interests.

“You have to be much more focused because honestly – I’m not using myopic in a bad way – but in Philadelphia, if you’re not talking about what Philadelphians want to talk about, they’re turning the dial,” Kincade said. “They’re not going to pay attention to you.”

SportsRadio 94WIP host Angelo Cataldi is set to retire either the week after the Philadelphia Eagles are eliminated from the playoffs or following the parade if they win the Super Bowl. Over the years, there have been morning drive ratings battles between Cataldi on SportsRadio 94WIP and Kincade on 97.5 The Fanatic, a challenge Kincade described as “like going 15 rounds in a prize fight.” The impending shift from Cataldi to the duo of Joe DeCamara and Jon Ritchie gives Kincade and his team a chance to expand their audience and appeal to new segments of the marketplace.

“The younger listeners in Philadelphia have been finding us and have been paying a lot of attention to our show since the day we took to the airwaves because we sound different; we’re a different show,” Kincade said. “We’ll expand on that; we’ll continue to work with that…. Angelo may have a departure week and a goodbye week, but we have our own things planned to have our own sort of welcome party to the people who may be looking to say, ‘Hey, I’d like to try something different in the mornings in Philadelphia.’”

In addition to his radio show, Kincade is teaching a talk radio course as an adjunct professor at Temple University,  his alma mater.. He is developing an original curriculum to help foster the next generation of broadcasters, giving them expertise and advice on how to build a career in the uber-competitive industry. The new job is indicative of his “third act,” something he was asked about from his former agent Norman Schrutt.

Schrutt, a renowned radio executive known as the “Radio Rabbi,” was a tactician when it came to negotiating favorable terms of employment, according to Kincade, and would tell his clients upon signing a contract to “just shut up and go to work.” He always challenged Kincade to pursue another act in his career, though, and Kincade has found his chance in teaching the craft for which he gave up a steady career to pursue.

“He was the perfect mentor to sort of guide me and I enjoyed getting a chance to learn from him,” Kincade said of Schrutt. “….When I [went] into my classroom last week for the first time, I thought to myself, ‘Well Norm, I’m following through. This is going to be my third act.’”

Some of the advice he plans to share with his students focuses on how to stay original and generate content conducive to success, focusing on being versatile in your abilities and being yourself on the air. 

“If you’re thin-skinned, get out now because you will never survive,” Kincade stated. “Put down your phone and listen instead of constantly trying to get feedback from a bunch of faceless people on social media. The people on social media, whether they’re real or not; they’re not giving you feedback that’s going to help you be more successful. Stay less driven by trying to pander to Twitter or Instagram and be more focused on the radio content that you create each day.”

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    Steve Griffith

    January 25, 2023 at 11:07 am

    Nice story on a talented guy, Derek.

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BSM Writers

Could a Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless Independent Production Really Work?

Part of the lure of moving to digital is the connection to sports gambling. It’s much easier to talk about bets and parlays on a platform that is your own and doesn’t have a direct relationship with the leagues.

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Stephen A Smith and Skip Bayless

Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless have always been tied at the hip. They co-hosted a successful sports debate show and they’re the faces of a genre which the world has come to know as “Embrace Debate.”

Despite their minor misunderstanding last summer when SAS claimed that Bayless begged him to join First Take back in the day, the two have continuously been linked with each other for a potential reunion.

The New York Post reports ESPN attempted to get Bayless back for a show with Smith on ESPN+. And this week, Front Office Sports reports the pair could go independent and debate each other on YouTube in competition with the perch Pat McAfee has built for himself on the Google-owned platform. 

While McAfee’s company makes a ton of money from the ads displayed on his videos and gets major placement through YouTube’s algorithm, McAfee doesn’t work directly with Google. A huge chunk of his dough actually comes from an endorsement deal McAfee and friends signed with FanDuel worth a reported $120 million.

McAfee’s audience is used to engaging with him on social media and has grown accustomed to accessing him on YouTube. His television appearances are a great additive that certainly help. But he’s a social-first personality through and through. While Smith and Bayless are very active on social media and have rabid followings, it would be very hard to compete with McAfee and garner a similar kind of paycheck from a sportsbook or even reach the kind of audience McAfee gets. 

If Bayless and Smith have millions of followers, what would be so hard about it? The biggest issue is that most of their fans are used to seeing them on television. They both host some of the highest rated shows on their respective networks. Going to YouTube would mean giving up the possibility of reaching hundreds of thousands of people concurrently on a consistent basis.

Because they are television stalwarts, their audiences are much older than McAfee’s audience and may not make the transition to YouTube to consistently watch them in the same way they watch ESPN and Fox on their television sets. Smith and Bayless’ numbers on YouTube would end up perpetually being compared to their television numbers.

Losing ESPN and Fox also means losing facetime (Smith’s role on NBA Countdown) and mentions (ad reads for Bayless’ show during NFL games) during marquee games when millions and millions of people are tuning in. 

Now is it possible for them to make a digital move away from television at all? Yes. Smith is already in the process of building a social-first following as we speak. He owns his own podcast. A video version of the podcast also airs on his own YouTube channel that is not affiliated with ESPN.

It would undoubtedly be a success, but it just wouldn’t be able to match McAfee’s rate of success on the platforms (in the same way McAfee may not be as successful as Bayless or Smith if he had a daily TV show – different audiences with different desires and different ways of consuming content).

Part of the lure of moving to digital is the connection to sports gambling. It’s much easier to talk about bets and parlays on a platform that is your own and doesn’t have a direct relationship with the leagues.

The problem Bayless and Smith may face is that they aren’t well-known sports bettors who can corral a group of people to bet on a specific parlay. If they started to do so and lost viewers’ money, would they lose credibility? It’s easy to lose a meaningless debate. Losing a debate with money at stake? Much more risky.

Sportsbooks are also running out of marketing money to spend as the media industry faces an ad freeze due to economic uncertainty. The best case scenario for Smith and Bayless is to stay at their respective homes even after their contracts expire in 2025 and build separate digital homes slowly.

Don’t get it twisted. ESPN and Fox need both faces as well. Without Smith and Bayless, they lose their highest rated stars. 

Numbers never lie. Other than Wilbon and Kornheiser, no one garners higher linear TV numbers in sports television than Smith. And unlike Wilbon and Kornheiser, he fills out more hours of the day on ESPN’s schedule.

At Fox, Bayless is the highest rated show on the network. He builds on the morning show’s ratings that air before him. Without Bayless at Fox, it’s easy to see ratings for the shows that follow his collapsing even worse than where they stand now. And at the end of the day, when it comes to ad dollars, a linear television viewer is still worth more than a digital streaming viewer.

So how could Smith and Bayless ever potentially work together? Pair them up in a modern day sports iteration of “Battle of the Network Stars.” During major sporting events that each network is hosting, have a major primetime debate that is simulcasted on both networks and creates digital content for ESPN Plus and Tubi.

For example, the day before Game 1 of the NBA Finals, have SAS and Skip duke it out about various topics that they may or may not have talked about on their shows. The “battle” would include guests from both networks and the moderator would be determined by the sporting event in which the two hosts are debating at.

For example, if it’s the NBA Finals – Molly Qerim would serve as moderator since it’s an ESPN branded event. The next major event they would debate at is a Fox branded event like the World Series, NFL Week 1 or the NFC Championship and the moderator would be someone representing Fox like current “Undisputed” host Jen Hale.

Think of it like a major boxing matchup. It only happens once or twice a year and is centered around a major event that both Bayless and Smith can adequately argue about. Their battle also gives maximum attention and promotion to big sporting events for each network.

Ironically, ESPN and Fox have partnered up to create joint productions and ancillary programming revolving around major boxing bouts in the past. The two companies work together to figure out college sports conference schedules on a weekly basis and if prognosticators are correct, they will most likely be partners in promoting the College Football Playoff in the future.

There’s a precedent for the two sides working together. Coincidentally, Michael Strahan is a major personality who works for both network’s parent companies and Rupert Murdoch is a shareholder of Disney through the Disney/Fox merger of 2019.

The rival shows could even sign a deal to distribute content that’s already available for free on YouTube onto their company’s respective distribution avenues and split the revenue. “First Take” could launch its own channel on Tubi with an around-the-clock schedule of clips and episodes that are also available on YouTube while “Undisputed” could also get similar treatment in a hub that lives on Hulu and ESPN+.

ESPN and Fox split the revenue and use the channels to promote the bouts Skip and SAS have during major tentpole events. Bayless and Smith could even obtain some ownership and production stake in the debate showdowns for their respective companies and grow their digital empires within ESPN and Fox, not outside of it. 

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BSM Writers

Liam McHugh Continues To Try New Things

“It’s probably healthier for the game — healthier for all these broadcasts — if it’s on multiple networks. I think a little healthy competition is not a bad thing.”

Derek Futterman

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have been one of the most consistent and dominant teams in the National Hockey League over the last decade, winners of four Stanley Cup championships in the last 15 years. If you’re a devoted hockey fan, that statement of fact is obvious, and you would expect the team to be part of any conversation about the Stanley Cup Playoffs taking place on Turner Sports’ studio coverage of the NHL, led by Liam McHugh.

Sometimes though, the conversation diverges from the sublime to the ridiculous – but it is in the ostensible absurdity where, perhaps, the NHL on TNT differentiates itself. In this case, it was discussing what Penguins’ defenseman Kris Letang had dressed up as for Halloween – which turned out to be a grasshopper – and then deliberating on the characteristics of the animal and whether it is considered a predator or prey.

“The intent of that was to show [the team] in costumes, make a comment and then move on – but it just took on a life of its own,” McHugh reflected. “In the same respect, the very next segment what [the analysts] do really well is they can then break down the game really well. They can hit a key moment; they can interview someone really well and bring some personality out of them.”

The enigma of taking different approaches to covering sports – ranging from shootout contests to musical performances by studio analysts to dropping teddy bears from the ceiling to displaying tweets in real time – captivates and engages the audience. It is, according to McHugh, a “smart, entertaining and fun” way to bring out the personalities of the studio crew, and, in turn, helps augment the reach and popularity of hockey.

The approach is straight out of the playbook of Inside the NBA, the broadcast entity’s signature studio program for its coverage of the National Basketball Association, and something McHugh learned from its host Ernie Johnson.

“You want to just put something out there because you know your co-hosts are going to react to it,” he said. “You’re not exactly sure what the reaction might be, especially when we have [Paul Bissonnette] – I can ask him a basic question and I don’t know what the reaction’s going to be – but you want to put something out there that you know they’re going to react to and see where it goes.”

Working as a lead studio host for broadcast coverage of the NHL was never an obvious landing spot nor something McHugh planned for. His mother worked as a librarian and his father taught English, making the command of language through reading and writing a vital part of McHugh’s upbringing. It turned out he gravitated towards writing and subsequently pursued a career as a print journalist upon matriculating at the University at Buffalo.

Even after McHugh joined ESPN The Magazine, he did not think of himself particularly adroit as a print journalist, and conversations with his editors suggested that focusing on a different niche in the industry was likely the most suitable option. Despite possessing a taciturn demeanor which was, at one point, uncomfortable with public speaking, McHugh decided to build a career in broadcast journalism and attended Syracuse University to attain his master’s degree in the craft.

“I remember there were plenty of people there who were, on day one, sitting there saying, ‘I’m going to be a SportsCenter host,’ or if they were in news, ‘I’m going to be a nightly news anchor,’” McHugh recalled pertaining to his time as a graduate student. “I was really at this point trying to make a career, enjoy it, make enough money to live on and have some success.”

After local television stops in Terra Haute, Indiana and Oklahoma City, the Versus Network came calling for him to be the host of The Daily Line, an evening sports news show focused on fan engagement and banter. McHugh worked with professionals in different sectors of the industry on the program, including comedian Reese Waters, blogger Jenn Sterger and handicapper Rob DeAngelis.

Although it was canceled after seven months because of low viewership, it led to a new opportunity following the merger of NBCUniversal and Comcast (then-owners of Versus Network) related to covering hockey.

McHugh grew up as a fan of the New York Islanders; however, he had not closely followed the sport for many years. At this moment of his career, he was grateful just for the fact that he was still employed after the show cancellation and would be able to make ends meet. Make no mistake about it though – McHugh desired to comprehensively learn hockey, leading him to fervently read and watch games while receiving guidance from Keith Jones, a studio analyst and trusted colleague.

“He was the guy who saw something in me, thought I could be a solid show host and someone that he could mesh with and be able to produce good content with,” McHugh said of Jones. “At the same time, he knew I was light on sort of the inside-hockey knowledge, but he was willing to sort of work with me and have conversations with me and educate me throughout that process.”

McHugh’s first role would be as the host of NHL Live, the studio-based show airing before and after each of NBC’s nationally-televised hockey games. Being present among a team of established professionals with an abundance of skills took the pressure of McHugh to be preoccupied about anything other than performing his primary job. He had never worked at a national level in broadcast media before; therefore, he felt an immense amount of pressure to make sure he continued to earn his place and the trust of his bosses and colleagues.

“I had basically done everything myself from editing and shooting and writing to all of a sudden, there is now a machine behind you and you don’t have to think about every little thing in the show,” McHugh said. “You get to focus a little bit more on your role [and], to me, that was a big change and part of that change was being able to trust people…. they’re going to make the show look good.”

When McHugh was at NBC Sports, he was also hosting the wrap-up show College Football Talk and, eventually, worked as the on-site host of Football Night in America. These broadcasts lead up to Thursday Night Football produced in tandem with NFL Network and, for McHugh, took place on the road amid raucous crowds filled with energy and excitement. The pacing of the show and types of conversations that appealed to the audience quickly became apparent to him, along with how to best encapsulate the atmosphere; that is, until everything changed.

“I was doing that role during the COVID-moments,” McHugh explained. “Now you’re talking about like, ‘Hey, let’s go out to Liam McHugh; he’s at an empty stadium’…. The atmosphere is grim and it’s depressing and it’s hard to deliver the things that you want to deliver on-air. It was a lesson in how to do those reports from those places.”

Following the conclusion of the 2020-2021 season, the NHL negotiated new media rights deals with ESPN and Turner Sports, working with multiple broadcast entities to grow the game of hockey and deliver a stellar broadcast product. Subsequently, McHugh departed from NBC Sports and joined the team at Turner Sports to host its studio coverage, working alongside Anson Carter, Rick Tocchet, Paul Bissonnette and “The Great One”, Wayne Gretzky.

“He clearly does not have to do this and I thought he’d come in week one, sit with us for five minutes and be like, ‘Why am I here? Why would I want to do this?,’” McHugh said of Gretzky. “But instead, [he was] very much a hockey player in that he wanted to be a part of a team [and] wanted to be a part of this group.”

In working with two broadcast entities, viewers may perceive a sense of competition between each to present the best coverage of hockey. McHugh does not refute that assumption, although he does not feel that way. Conversely, he is sure the analysts, many of whom are friends with one another, have felt it. In the end though, aiming to be the best hockey broadcast on television is all for the benefit of augmenting the reach and allure of the game.

“It was different because at NBC, we had all of it for so long,” McHugh said. “In the end, it’s probably healthier for the game — healthier for all these broadcasts — if it’s on multiple networks. I think a little healthy competition is not a bad thing.”

McHugh and the NHL on TNT studio broadcast look to highlight the personalities of hockey players in order to facilitate the growth of the game in key demographics. Additionally, hockey has grown in popularity among young athletes with people taking the ice in all different parts of the country. Thus it is essential to maintain interest and, consequently, the growth trajectory through humanizing standout players and personnel.

“Pregame interviews are tough – guys don’t always want to talk; they want to get warmed up [but] I think we brought a different dynamic here where we brought out some of their personalities,” McHugh said. “Postgame interviews are usually better for us where it’s conversational and guys are joking around with us and showing their personality. Now you want to know more about that team; now you want to buy that guy’s jersey; now you want to root for that team.”

Turner Sports will broadcast the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time within the new seven-year national media rights deal and have comprehensive coverage of the Stanley Cup Playoffs as a whole. McHugh covered the Stanley Cup Finals several times while working with NBC, but what he did not have was the man widely regarded as the game’s greatest player on his panel.

He believes the presence of No. 99, the league’s all-time leader in goals, assists and total points, not to mention a key member of four Stanley Cup championship teams, will captivate fans and alter the way people view the game.

“Some captain is going to take that Stanley Cup and we’re going to all sit there and watch it,” McHugh said. “To have the first voice to speak about that be Wayne Gretzky who hoisted that cup; who was handed that cup as a captain, a superstar and a legend – that he’ll be the first person commenting on that; there’s nothing better than that.”

McHugh also continues to step outside of his comfort zone, recently signing on with Apple TV’s Major League Soccer Season Pass package as its lead whiparound studio host. His role with the NHL on TNT remains his priority, though, and he is grateful that Turner Sports executives did not encumber him when the circumstance arose. Just as he believes hockey has a chance to continue to grow its consumer base, soccer, which he played in college, is another sport drawing new viewers and imploring fans to keep tuning in.

“I love the game – I really do,” McHugh said. “I think it’s growing here in America and I think this is a league that’s getting stronger.”

Apple and Major League Soccer announced last November that they had reached an agreement to launch a subscription service to soccer fans in over 100 countries and regions. Fans can begin subscribing to MLS Season Pass on Feb. 1 for $14.99 per month or $99 per season and enjoy live games, highlights and an exclusive whiparound show among other features. McHugh is excited for the kickoff of the regular season on Feb. 25 beginning with a late afternoon matchup between New York City FC and Nashville SC.

“It’s a different type of show,” McHugh expressed. “Twelve years ago, it would have very much intimidated me and scared me – and I’m still a little scared – but I think, again, it’s out of [my] comfort zone and trying something different. It’s a cool opportunity to do all those things.”

The technology company continues to move into sports media and live game broadcasts with the addition of Major League Soccer as it prepares for a second year of Friday Night Baseball. It is a component of a larger implementation of streaming into the consumption experience, underscored largely in the National Football League with exclusive game broadcasts on ESPN+ and Peacock; Amazon Prime Video’s presentation of Thursday Night Football; and YouTube TV securing the rights to the NFL Sunday Ticket out-of-market package.

Covering hockey, soccer or most other sports, McHugh brings versatility and experience to programs on which he appears and looks to continue providing fans informative and entertaining talk. While having fun is certainly an important aspect of each broadcast, being able to maneuver in and out of moments of poignancy or earnest gravity is an indispensable part of discussing all subject matter. He learned how to do this by conversing with Ernie Johnson and Bob Costas, while also watching late night television hosts; that is, those who do not primarily focus on sports but rather entertainment and pop culture at large.

“Sitting there whether I was watching Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert or people like that and realizing how you can have serious moments in a show; then you can pivot and have a light moment; and then pivot right back to something serious,” McHugh said. “That’s something that I really wanted in a show and I wanted to know how to do that. It’s not an easy thing and I’m still learning. Those are people that I watched because they were the best at that, and I think it’s something we’re trying to bring to the table on this show.”

Embracing spontaneity with the ability to take on new roles or to create a memorable moment based on free-flowing conversation is an aspect of hosting Liam McHugh has worked to master over his time in sports media. He takes his job seriously but does not take himself too seriously, allowing him the freedom and flexibility to enjoy his work and develop amicable working relationships with the studio analysts. He has also had to make sacrifices and now looks to attend more of his childrens sports games since he missed many of them over the years.

In covering Super Bowls, Stanley Cup Finals and Olympic Games throughout his career, he has taken calculated risks in sports media and is trying to enjoy the journey on the “long, twisting road.”. His previous experience as a multimedia journalist, print reporter and athlete have rounded him into the professional he is today – providing an assist to showcase hockey and soccer as a host.

“I’m thankful for the fact that I’ve got to do so many things that I never expected to,” McHugh said. “In the end, they make you so much better at the things that you do know – they just do.”

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4 Tips For Working with Small to Medium Businesses

Most sellers should focus on local direct buyers who are muti-tasking and not just buying media.

Jeff Caves

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Gartner research is almost a 5-billion-dollar company with offices worldwide. They provide information technology research, tell companies — like SMBs (small/medium businesses) — what will happen, and then show them how to prepare for it. Recently, Gartner reported that by 2025 80% of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers will happen via digital channels.

If you are dealing with a marketing director, agency buyer, or corporate buyer, this is heading your way like a freight train. In-person meetings are time wasters for millennial buyers.

Gartner points out that B2B buying behaviors are moving towards a buyer-centric digital model and away from an experience and intuition-based selling model. That’s a threat to most of us. Most sellers should focus on local direct buyers who are muti-tasking and not just buying media.

Yes, that means SMB, baby. Generally, a business with 100 or fewer employees is considered small, while one with 100-999 employees is medium sized. In most of our worlds, I would cut those numbers in half. If you work with buyers who are also the operations person, graphic artist, or owner and the single decision maker, you know who I am talking about.

If you want a longer ride out of this radio career, I suggest you do whatever you can to acquire, maintain and grow those relationships. Here are four things to remember when working with SMBs:

DEAL FROM THE TOP DOWN

Most of the time, you will be dealing with the business owner or one person who can purchase from you within their budget. These are busy people who are multi-tasking and are more interested in making money than taking meetings to decide where to spend it in media. Sports Radio has an advantage here because many of our core audience are owners and business decision-makers.

They already know of your station and feel more comfortable buying ads from you that they can monitor on their own time. Often, they listen to your station, hear who else is advertising, and have already considered whether or not they will consider working with you. Most of them need to know the price or approach with your station to launch a campaign and may even talk to your direct format competition.

SELL HOLES, NOT DRILLS

Event sponsorships, endorsements, remotes, heavy-frequency schedules, mobile ads, and social media sponsorships are different. These buyers know they have a problem and want to solve it. Maybe they are taking your call or replying to your email because they want to raise the profile of their business and sell it. Or, they are adding locations. Be an advisor and outline a few options to solve their problem. Show them how you can solve their problem and make more money.

IT’S THEIR MONEY

They may take a little longer to decide. Be ready to provide case studies, 3rd party endorsements, or video testimonials. They will buy when they are prepared to accept. Don’t pressure them but stay in touch with value-add communication until they are ready. Keep looking for SMBs who are buying now and nurture the ones who are six months away.

DO THEY HAVE MONEY?

Make sure you qualify this before you waste too much time. If they need to get a new location up and running before they can commit to an annual, sell them a Grand Opening package and follow up when appropriate. Make sure you explain your payment terms to them clearly and establish the security of how you handle their credit card transactions. If you ask the right questions, they will tell you if they have money to spend.

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Barrett Media Writers

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