Welcome to deadline day in Major League Baseball. Anyone that thinks this could be their magical season is on the phone today trying to add that one last piece that takes their club from really good to great.
Here at Barrett Sports Media we like to stay on top of the news and put some of sports’ biggest events into a sports media context. That’s why we did the sports TV draft before the NBA Draft.
Today, we want you to put on those imagination hats and get ready to play a little fantasy GM. Eight of us have come up with one trade we would make in the sports media if we had the power to do so.
Most of these will make you nod your head and say “that makes sense,” but we hope at least a couple of them will blow your damn mind!
THE GAME CHANGER – Jason Barrett
When it comes to breaking sports news, there is no better 1-2 punch than Adam Schefter and Adrian Wojnarowski. They are simply the best at what they do. Since we’re playing fantasy GM for this piece and I get to run a company and spend their money without consequence, I’m going to do something bold. How’s this, whether I’m running Yahoo Sports, NBC Sports, CBS Sports or FOX Sports, I’d trade away my entire writing and reporting teams to acquire the team of Adam Schefter and Adrian Wojnarowski.
Before I start exploring smaller office space and enduring the wrath of the talented folks I’ve had to let go in this deal, let me be clear that this is not a reflection on them as much as it is a testament to my belief that Adam and Adrian are two of the most important people in all of sports media. Think for a minute about how many radio and TV stations, social media outlets, newspapers and websites produce content off of their information. The marketing value and credibility they provide to a company from their content creation is enormous. If they launched a paid app for their content do you think folks would pay for it? I do. We’ve debated before if Stephen A. Smith was worth $10 million per year to ESPN. I think Adam and Adrian could make a similar case.
If a major news story happens in the NFL and NBA (the two most important leagues) they’re in front of it. Now add their massive social media presence, the accuracy, familiarity and trust they’ve established with sports fans over the past two decades, and their versatility to be featured as writers, podcasting hosts, on video (TV or web), and as social influencers and marketers, and you can see why it’d be worth it to shake up an entire organization to get them.
THE MOVE THAT JUST MAKES SENSE – Demetri Ravanos
If the events of the last two weeks taught us anything, it is that Dan Le Batard may not belong at ESPN. He is the Salvador Dali painting hanging in a gallery that only wants to sell the works of Thomas Kinkade. There is a deal out there that not only gets Le Batard in a lineup more befitting his absurdist, outspoken approach to sports radio but also reunites ESPN with its all-time most beloved personality.
Fox Sports Radio should send Dan Patrick and the Danettes back to Bristol in exchange for Dan, Stugotz, and the Shipping Container. It gives Fox Sports Radio a lineup full of heavy hitters all with their own distinct, original sound. Plus, who at FS1 wouldn’t rather have Le Batard leading a TV show instead of the program he has dubbed “First Fake”?
ESPN gets Dan Patrick back on the radio, which just feels right. It also gets Dan back on TV…with Keith Olberman back in the building. If you want a rebrand of SportsCenter that both satisfies Jimmy Pitaro’s aversion to politics and moves the needle both with Neilsen and Twitter, you put Dan and Keith on at 6pm every weekday and take the reins off.
MAKING SEC FOOTBALL SOUND MORE LIKE IT SHOULD – Dave Greene
I won’t lie, what I’d really like is to go back to the early 2000’s. The days when I could sit in my Barcalounger at 2:30 on a Saturday afternoon, flip on CBS and watch SEC football with Verne Lundquist and Todd Blackledge. However, I’d settle for Blackledge just coming back with Brad Nessler.
I think Blackledge is the perfect mix of analysis and opinion and I learn things when I’m watching a game that he’s doing. Danielson is a solid broadcaster, but I feel as if he’s mostly giving very general commentary and I’m no smarter of a football fan at the end of the game.
When Blackledge was on with Uncle Vern and when he was on with Brad Nessler previously, I found the broadcasts to be very conversational and that I was watching the game along with them. With Danielson, I feel as if he’s often not talking about the things I want addressed.
The SEC is the best college football, it deserves the best college football analyst, and I say that’s Todd Blackledge, so let’s make this deal happen.
THE COLLEGE BASKETBALL HOMECOMING – Tyler McComas
College basketball needs a face. Someone who can bring the energy Dick Vitale did back in the 90’s when the sport was thriving, and Doug Gottlieb is the best candidate. Clearly, we don’t need him to mimic the phrases or broadcast style Dickie V had for so many years, but a move back to ESPN for Gottlieb is what both the Worldwide Leader and college hoops needs.
The great thing about this trade is ESPN wouldn’t be paying for just a college basketball analyst, they’d be getting an accomplished show host who can be inserted immediately into the daily lineup of programming, as well as an analyst who could be featured on College GameDay and the Saturday game of the week during basketball season. Plus, Doug would inject some life into the College GameDay set that it could probably use.
For Bilas, Fox Sports would be getting an accomplished color commentator, which would be very useful if the network wants to continue to bolster its coverage of the sport. Plus, with Bilas’ face comes instant credibility.
THE MOVE TO STRENGTHEN YOU AND WEAKEN A RIVAL – Brian Noe
From FOX’s perspective: ESPN Host Tony Reali brings name recognition along with plenty of personality. His presence would benefit FOX while at the same time weaken one of ESPN’s most popular blocks of programming. The concept of Reali joining FOX is similar to the “can you hear me now” Verizon guy joining Sprint; he’s a known commodity that brings familiarity. Reali slightly resembles the Sprint guy too — whose name is actually Paul Marcarelli. Shout-out to the paisans!
From ESPN’s perspective: Getting FOX Sports Rules Analyst Mike Pereira would be a major boost for ESPN’s Monday Night Football. The company is trying to make the MNF presentation sound like an event again. The broadcast is missing some punch without Jon Gruden. Gerry Austin’s information is good, but he provides the same entertainment value as a plate of spinach. Pereira brings a much better sense of feel and timing while making broadcasts sound bigger. It’d be a major improvement for ESPN.
RIVALS WILLING TO DO BUSINESS – Matt Fishman
In a shocking move, the NFL’s longest rivals trade radio play by play announcers with Wayne Larrivee heading to the Bears in exchange for Jeff Joniak and a conditional draft pick.
Wayne Larrivee has been the Packers play by play voice since 1999. He had been the Bears announcer from 1985-1998. In addition to his passionate and adept play by play of multiple sports, Larrivee has become well known for his catchphrase “The Dagger!” This comes out when one team does something that puts the other team away, essentially putting the game out of reach.
Jeff Joniak is known as the “hardest working play by play man in the NFL.” Joniak has reported and anchored Bears coverage and has been as much of a fixture at the Bears facility “Halas Hall” as any of the players over the past 20-plus years. Jeff earned the Silver Dome Award for “Best Play-by-Play” in 2006, and 2007, 2009, and 2013 regional RTNDA Edward R. Murrow Awards for “Joniak’s Journal”.
When asked for the reason for the trade, Bears GM Ryan Pace said, “The Bears have never won a Super Bowl without Wayne as the play by play announcer. Outside of a kicker who can make a routine field goal, we believe Wayne is the missing piece to bringing another Super Bowl Championship to the city of Chicago.”
THE ONE FOR NEW YORK – Brandon Contes
Priority #1 when making media trades is reuniting the duo that helped build sports radio, by bringing Mike and the Mad Dog back together.
It’s going on two years since Francesa retired from WFAN the first time. At 65-years old and reportedly working without a contract, how much longer before The Sports Pope decides to leave a second time?
I’m jumping in-front of the inevitable departure and offering Francesa to Mad Dog Sports Radio on SiriusXM in exchange for midday host, Adam Schein. There’s already mutual interest after WFAN offered Schein the opportunity to replace Francesa when he retired the first time. He’s well-known to the New York sports audience, and if WFAN pairs Schein’s brash and boisterous personality with the quirky John Jastremski, they might find the modern version of Mike and the Mad Dog for the next 15 years.
Trading Francesa before he leaves on his own also guarantees he stays out of the division and away from terrestrial radio where he could compete for ratings. Change the satellite channel’s name to “Mike and the Mad Dog Sports Radio,” give Francesa a Howard Stern-like three day schedule with seemingly unlimited vacation and The Sports Pope will get on-board with the move.
THE ONE THAT BREAKS THE INTERNET – Andy Masur
Things have gotten stale inside the NFL broadcast booths. I think they are in need of a shakeup. I propose a three network deal that also involves a free agent pick up.
Romo is the rising star in the group. The chemistry between Romo and Jim Nantz in my opinion is good, but I think it would be even better with Joe Buck. Plus Romo, the former Cowboy would be calling mainly NFC games now.
Collinsworth on the other hand would be a better fit with Nantz, plus as a former AFC player living in an AFC town this is a no-brainer.
Aikman and Buck have been together for years, but the former Cowboy QB is needed in the ESPN booth to give it credibility. He would be a great addition for the Monday Night Game.
With all the “Cap Space” NBC would have with the loss of Collinsworth, they could pick up a high priced free agent like Peyton Manning. He’s needed in a booth and working with Al Michaels would be a great first gig.
Now Is The Time To Build Your Bench
“There’s a good chance you have a producer, production person, or even a salesperson who has a big enough personality that they can hold your attention.”
As we crawl towards the Thanksgiving holiday week, many content managers are likely in the middle of figuring out what they’re going to put on the air.
Since most marquee talent take the entire week off, this can present scheduling headaches.
Some stations (who can) will pick up more syndicated programming. Hey, why not? It’s a cheap, easy solution that’s justified by the fact that business is slow in Q4, and your GM doesn’t want you spending any more money than what you have to.
Other stations will hand the microphones over to whoever happens to be available. This usually ends up being the same array of C and D listers who aren’t that great, but they can cover when needed and usually tend to be affordable.
Both of these decisions, while usually made out of convenience, are terrible mistakes. Quite frankly, it’s one of the many frustrations I have with spoken word media.
Content Directors should be using the holidays as an excellent opportunity for them to answer a particularly important question: DO I HAVE A BENCH???
One of the most common refrains I hear from other content managers is that they have no talent depth. Everyone constantly is searching for the “next great thing,” yet I find that very few people in management that take the time or the effort to seriously explore that question.
My response to them is always, “Well, how do you know? Have you given anyone in your building a chance yet?”
Often, the answer is sitting in their own backyard, and they don’t even know it.
Years ago, Gregg Giannotti was a producer at WFAN. Then Head of Programming Mark Chernoff gave him a chance to host a show because of how Giannotti sparred off-air with other hosts and producers in the building. Chernoff liked what he heard and gave his producer a shot. Now, he’s hosting mornings on WFAN with Boomer Esiason in what is considered one of the best local sports-talk shows in the country.
Carrington Harrison was an intern for us at 610 Sports Radio in Kansas City. He worked behind the scenes on Nick Wright’s afternoon show and had a fairly quiet demeanor. It was rare that we ever spoke to each other. On one of his off-days, Nick was talking about Kansas State Football and Carrington called in to talk to him about it. I couldn’t believe what I heard. Not only was his take on the Wildcats enlightening, but he was funny as hell. Soon after, we started working Carrington’s voice into Nick’s show more and eventually made C-Dot a full-time host. He’s been doing afternoons on the station for several years now with different co-hosts and (in my opinion) is one of the best young voices in the format.
There’s a good chance you have a producer, production person, or even a salesperson who has a big enough personality that they can hold your attention. Why not give them the opportunity to see what they can do? Honestly, what’s the risk of giving someone you think might have potential, a few at-bats to show you what they can do? If your instincts are proven wrong and they aren’t as good as you thought they’d be, all you did is put a bad show on the air during a time when radio listening tends to be down, anyways.
If you go this route, make sure you set them up for success. Take the time to be involved in planning their shows. Don’t leave them out on an island. Give them a producer/sidekick that can keep them from drowning. Be sure to listen and give constructive feedback. Make sure that these people know that you’re not just doing them a favor. Show them that you are just as invested in this opportunity as they are.
I understand that most Content Directors are overseeing multiple brands (and in some cases, multiple brands in multiple markets). Honestly though, using the holidays to make a potential investment in your brand’s future is worth the extra time and effort.
Treat holidays for what they are; a chance to explore your brand’s future. Don’t waste it.
Digital Platforms Should Signal The End Of Niche Linear Networks
“Whether it is niche sports or exclusive shows, the streaming platforms have proven to be valuable catch-alls. They haved turned hard-to-sell programming into part of what you get when you are motivated to subscribe by Premier League Soccer or UFC.”
CBS Sports Network just isn’t built to last. It seems obvious, but it was really hammered home for me on Friday when Jim Rome went off on the network for preempting the simulcast of his radio show for coverage of swimming.
“You idiots are going to preempt this show for swimming?” Rome said. “Stupid.”
You don’t even have to watch the video, right? You can just read the quote and his voice is immediately what you hear in your head.
John Skipper went off on a number of topics during Sports Business Journal’s Media Innovators Conference last week. Some dismissed it as sour grapes. Others said his comments were those of a man that is completely unencumbered by rights deals and corporate interests.
One thing the Meadowlark Media leader said that was dead on was that there are only a few properties in sports television that truly matter.
“Until you can get the NFL, or the SEC, or the NBA on a streaming service, it’s going to be marginal in this country,” Skipper said in a conversation with John Ourand.
He was answering a question about the relevance of streaming services, but the fact is, he could have been talking about any outlet in the world of sports television.
With that being said, it isn’t just CBS Sports Network that isn’t built to last. Comcast got this message last year. That is why NBCSN is about to go dark. Sure, every niche sport has its fan base, but can you build a profitable and powerful brand on swimming, lacrosse and 3-on-3 basketball? You probably can’t.
BSM’s Jeremy Evans recently wrote about life in the metaverse and what it means to sports media. So much happens digitally now. Think about the last time you felt like you HAD to have a physical copy of a movie or album. It always made sense that television networks would get to this place.
Peacock, ESPN+, CBS Sports HQ and Paramount+ all have plenty to offer. Whether it is niche sports or exclusive shows, the streaming platforms have proven to be valuable catch-alls. They haved turned hard-to-sell programming into part of what you get when you are motivated to subscribe by Premier League Soccer or UFC.
CBS Sports Network isn’t the only cable sports network whose existence may be on borrowed time. You know about FS1. Did you know there is an FS2? Did you know beIN Sports still exists? Don’t worry. It seems most major cable operators don’t know it either. The same can be said for networks with names like Eleven Sports, Maverick, and Pursuit.
In fact, when you look at that group of channels, CBS Sports Network is probably in the best shape. It may carry the low end of college football and basketball, but it at least has sports with large, national followings.
Radio simulcasts have always been cheap programming. Once the production costs are recouped, there is a straight-line path to profit. Sports networks on this level will always be interested in carrying radio simulcasts, and that is a good thing. It means better studios and more exposure for the hosts involved. When the suits can have a legitimate debate whether the live sports their network carries will draw as many viewers as the simulcast of a radio show, it may be time to rethink the path forward.
Streaming platforms weren’t built exclusively for niche sports. ESPN+ launched with college football and college basketball at its core. Now that streaming platforms are here to stay though, it should start a conversation and migration.
The cable sports network was never anything more than a prestige play. It was a way to show that a broadcast network was so serious about sports that the few hours it could devote to games would never do. The problem is that ESPN got that memo decades earlier and established a juggernaut.
Even FS1, which has major talent and rights to major college football and basketball and Major League Baseball, is behind the eight ball compared to ESPN. They got a 34 year head start in Bristol! CBS Sports Network is behind FS1 and it has college football, basketball and hockey. It also has the WNBA and the NWSL. Still, it seems like it is on borrowed time. What does that mean for networks that can’t get a league comissioners to take their call?
I like some of the programming on CBS Sports HQ. I think Paramount+ has been a valuable tool this college football season. There would be nothing wrong with CBS shuttering CBS Sports Network. It is just the reality of where we are headed.
CBS is run by smart people. I have faith they will see the forest thru the trees in sports media and find the right solution before they start losing money. Streaming means consolidation and unfortunately, that means there may not be room for the FS2s, Mavericks, Pursuits, and Eleven Sports of the world. That doesn’t mean the sports those networks carry cannot find a new home. They may even find a home that makes more sense for them and their fans.
Can Your Station Create Its Own Holiday?
“Did you see social media on Friday? Did you see any media at all leading up to Friday? Disney created a 24-hour commercial you could not escape.”
A belated happy Disney+ Day to us all!
Did you see social media on Friday? Did you see any media at all leading up to Friday? Disney created a 24-hour commercial you could not escape. The best part, from a marketing standpoint, is fans were captivated by it. They either didn’t realize it was a commercial or they just didn’t care.
The execution was masterful. Granted, we Star Wars fans were left wanting a bit, but Disney dropped teasers for series and movies we didn’t know were coming and showed the first footage from one we have been anticipating for more than a year now.
I started thinking how a radio station could do this. How could it go out and create its own holiday? How for one day, can we make our fanbase excited and glued to social media eagerly anticipating announcements about what is coming next?
This is going to take some creativity. Disney+ is a platform full of multiple brands with multiple fanbases buying in. A sports talk station is one brand. It has varying levels of fanbases, but largely, your dedicated audience are the people that not only love sports, but also like your programming enough to be called P1s. Is that enough people to build an event like this around?
Who cares if it is or not! Go for it.
One thing that Disney did masterfully on November 12 is it brought partners into the fold and made them a key part of Disney+ Day. Fortnite announced that Boba Fett was coming to its game. TikTok announced Disney character voice changers would be available on the platform. Disney found the kind of partnerships that could spread its holiday to even the Disney+ Day equivalent of Ebenezer Scrooge.
You can do the same. Surely you have a local brewery as a partner. Can they brew a one day only beer for you? Partner with a restaurant. Can they put your station’s name on the day’s special? Would other partners offer discounts and promotions for celebrating the day? There are a lot of options here.
Now, what are YOU doing on your holiday? Disney has a deep well of franchises. It could squeeze Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar, its own studio and more for content and announcements. Again, you are just one brand, but there is still a lot you can do.
Build the day around announcing your special contributors for the football season. Drop new podcasts and play an extended clip on air. Announce new podcasts, the kind of things that will only be available digitally.
Look at 99.9 The Fan in Raleigh. Joe Ovies and Joe Giglio have created great, multi-episode series that are events for their audience. Like any narrative podcasts, those don’t come together overnight. As long as you have enough audio to build a solid 90 second to 2 minute long preview, you have something worth bringing to the air as part of the celebration.
Do you have a contract you are waiting to expire to make a change in a prime day part? Make your station’s holiday the day that the new talent or show hits the air for the first time. You can do the same for new weekend programs. Whether it is someone new coming to the station or just a new pairing, put them on air for your prime time audience to meet and have your weekday hosts help create some buzz for them.
As for the shows that are on every weekday, you have to make them special that day. Give away a big cash prize. Make the guest list epic – I mean everyone that is on air that day has to be a home run.
The other thing that Disney did so well was work to get all of its divisions involved. Check out this tweet from the Disney Parks account. Every single park around the world lit their iconic building up blue in celebration of the streaming platform’s holiday.
Can you work with other stations in your building? Maybe they won’t give you full on promotion, but between songs, if a DJ brings up a sports topic, would the PD be willing to have them mention that their sister station is celebrating all day? Would a news/talk PD let your talent pop on air to talk sports with their hosts and promote what is happening on your airwaves today?
The answer to these questions could be no. You don’t know if you don’t ask though. Also, if the answer is no, there is nothing wrong with asking for a little backup from your market manager. A station holiday is a major sales initiative after all.
The final piece of this puzzle to take away from Disney is you have to be everywhere. Any local show you air from 6 am until midnight needs to be on location. Fans should have easy access to them. How can they celebrate you if they are not allowed to be where you are?
Use the broadcasts however the sales department sees fit. Take them first to long-established clients to celebrate their loyalty on the station’s holiday. Use them to draw in new clients. Show off what your station can create with its fanbase.
Money has a way of motivating everyone. So, even if your hosts don’t like leaving the studio, these would be remote broadcasts priced at a premium and should have larger-than-usual talent fees attached.
Finally, let’s do something Disney didn’t. I was shocked that a company with this many iconic characters at its disposal and with a CEO that came from the consumer products division, didn’t have a line of merchandise ready to go. Don’t make that same mistake.
Create cool station shirts (not the cheap giveaway crap). Throw the logo on unexpected things like water bottles, bottle openers, facemasks, whatever! Have a merch tent wherever you go. Maybe set up a site to sell it for the day. Make the people come to you to get this stuff.
Twitter is a huge part of promoting what you do. Constantly show off what you are offering and what you have created. That is how Disney sold their event to its most dedicated fans as something not to be missed.
What were we celebrating with Disney+ Day? Nothing. Disney wasn’t even really celebrating anything. It was just a series of commercials wrapped up in fun packaging. Actually, there are a lot of holidays that are just a series of commercials wrapped up in fun packaging.
Not every holiday has to celebrate something once in a lifetime. Not every holiday has to even be real. Building your own will take a long lead time, but it is doable. Get sales, promotions and programming in a room and build a plan together. If Disney+ Day taught us anything, it is a valuable way to motivate your fans to spread your message too.
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