An alarm clock rings every weekday morning at 5:30 inside Randy Karraker’s home. The first ring signifies exactly 90 minutes until he goes on the air at 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He gets up, gets out the door and into the nearby studio by 6:00. The 58-year-old has been working since he was 15, but his recent move to morning drive resulted in the first time he’s ever had to use an alarm clock to wake up for work.
Karraker has always worked in the afternoon or evenings. This includes the entirety of his long sports media stint in St. Louis, where he’s one of the most recognizable and respected voices in the city. But things are different now hosting Karraker and Smallmon from 7 to 10 a.m.
“I live really close to the studio,” Karraker said. “I get up at 5:30 and I’m into the studio by 6:00 and we go on the air at 7:00. We do most of our show prep, almost all of it, before then anyway, so it’s worked out surprisingly well. I didn’t think I would have as easy of a time as I have in getting up in the morning and being able to actually perform during the morning show, but it’s been alright.”
Karraker made his name in St.Louis during afternoon drive hosting The Fast Lane. But he’s carrying the same mentality he’s always had with 101 ESPN into his new morning drive shift. His motto is very simple.
Win the hallway.
Competition doesn’t always come from another sports radio station across town. Sometimes it can come from a great local podcast, or in Karraker’s case, great music stations that are in the exact same hallway as him. Seeing as 101 ESPN doesn’t have a serious sports radio competitor in the market, Karraker’s biggest competition are the same faces he sees every morning.
“The Rizzuto Show on 105.7 The Point is dominant and the show right next door to us, KSHE 95, they’re both dominant groups. But there’s no sports competition, which makes things interesting. When I took the job, my goal was to always win my own hallway.”
Karraker has done a terrific job of transitioning into morning drive. A new time slot with a new co-host isn’t the easiest task to give a talent, especially when the show sounds much different than the one he was on before.
“It’s changed in that, when I was with The Fast Lane in afternoon drive, it was much more of a locker room setting, because I was working with former pro athletes,” Karraker said. “Michelle is exceptionally knowledgeable and she’s a fan like I am. We don’t have the locker room credibility that Brad Thompson or others have, so that part is different, but other than playing point guard, I give my opinion a lot more and Michelle gives her opinion a lot more. From a content standpoint it’s different as well, because we’re reacting to what happened the night before, as opposed to what happened from 8 am to 2 pm. We’re reacting to overnight games, which is much better because it’s much more fresh. We’re the first people of the day to talk about last night’s Cardinals or Blues game.”
St. Louis is a fascinating sports radio market. Maybe one of the more interesting in the country. Whereas the NFL dominates in just about every major market, it’s shunned by many people in the city after the Rams moved back to Los Angeles. It’s one of the few cities where the MLB and NHL fare much better on the air than the biggest storyline happening in football. At its core, St. Louis is a true baseball town with an appetite for the game that takes a backseat to nobody. But if there’s a major city that cares the least about the NFL, it may be St. Louis. From an outsider’s perspective it’s almost as if they want the whole country to know how little they care about it.
“The Cardinals are far and away No. 1,” Karraker said. “Since the Blues won the Stanley Cup they’re a true No. 2. But then No. 3 is overall Major League Baseball coverage. And then at No. 4 you still have the NFL, despite the disdain so many locals have for that league. During the season there is a whole lot of talk about the National Football League. Now, are we talking a whole lot about Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers rumors on a daily basis like the mothership is doing? No, we’re not doing that. I don’t believe that level of interest exists here. And then there’s Missouri with the SEC and closing in on a decade being in this league. That’s a big taking point during their season. We’re not talking about Mizzou football in the middle of May, but we get through most of our days with Cardinals, Blues and then the big stories of the day in sports.”
Luckily for Karraker and the entire 101 ESPN team, the Cardinals are in the hunt just about every single year. But even when the team finally experiences a down year, don’t think baseball talk will slow down on the airwaves.
Especially with Karraker and Smallmon, who seemingly echo the voice of the fan, which has resonated extremely well with the listeners. The audience has also responded very well with a female voice next to Karraker. Some might be surprised,but Karraker sees attendance at games as proof there’s many female listeners in his market.
“Our show is doing really well, obviously our demographic is men 25-54 but we’ve moved up to fifth in persons 18-plus, which we’re very happy with,” Karraker said. “I think the thing we forget in the media, and this is even true with teams, they have a tendency to forget, for example here in St. Louis, 50 percent that walk through the gate at Cardinals games are female. Same thing with the Blues games.”
Karraker’s ability to adapt has been the biggest reason why he’s been such a fixture in St. Louis. He’s showing that every day in his new time slot with his new co-host. The cool thing is how excited and optimistic he is for the future of his new show, while also being proud of his old show, The Fast Lane.
“It’s fantastic,” Karraker said. “It’s a younger vibe and they all know a ton about sports. It’s a fun listen. If you want a show where you want to be informed but also laugh a lot, this is a great show to go to. I’m really proud of those guys. The show is really good.”
Karraker and Smallmon just want to win their own hallway. If that can happen, 101 ESPN could be in position to see its best days as a station.
Keeping Premier League Games Shouldn’t Be A Hard Call For NBC
“Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans.”
NBC Sports is facing some tough, costly decisions that will define its sports brand for the rest of this decade. A chance to connect with viewers in a changing climate and grow Peacock’s audience as well. However, making the right choice is paramount to not losing to apps like Paramount+ (pun intended).
NBC is currently in the business of negotiating to continue airing the Premier League as their current deal ends after this 2021-2022 season. NASCAR is contracted to NBC (and FOX) through the 2024 season.
NBC’s tentpole sports are the NFL and the Olympics.
Negotiations for the EPL are expected to go down to the wire. Rather than re-up with NBC, the league is meeting with other networks to drive up the price. NBC has to then make a decision if the rights go north of $2 billion.
Should NBC spend that much on a sport that is not played in the United States? It’s not my money, but that sport continues to grow in the US.
If NBC re-ups with the Premier League, will that leave any coins in the cupboard to re-up with NASCAR? Comcast CEO Brian Roberts hinted that there might be some penny pinching as the prices continue to soar. This may have been one of the reasons that NBC did not fight to keep the National Hockey League, whose rights will be with Disney and WarnerMedia through ESPN and TNT, respectively.
“These are really hard calls,” Roberts said. “You don’t always want to prevail, and sometimes you’re right and sometimes you’re wrong, but I think the sustainability of sports is a critical part of what our company does well.”
Roberts was speaking virtually at the recent Goldman Sachs 30th Annual Communacopia Conference. He told the audience that between NBC and European network Sky, that Comcast has allocated approximately $20 billion towards these sports properties.
Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh spoke virtually at the Bank of America Securities 2021 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference and echoed that the company is in a good position to make some strong choices in the sports realm.
“The bar is really high for us to pursue outright acquisitions of any material size,” Cavanagh added. “We got a great hand to play with what we have.”
While the European investments involve a partnership with American rival Viacom, the US market seems to have apparent limits.
Last Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series at Bristol Motor Speedway was seen by around 2.19 million people. It was the most-watched motorsports event of the weekend. That same week eight different Premier League matches saw over 1 million viewers. More than half of those matches were on subscription-based Peacock.
Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans. A game of typical soccer fan is used to a sport that is less than two hours long. The investment in a team is one or two games a week.
My connection to the Premier League began before the pandemic. When I cut the cord in late 2017, I purchase Apple TV. Setting it up, it asks you to name your favorite teams. After clicking on the Syracuse Orange and the New Jersey Devils, I recalled that my wife has family based in London, England. They are season ticket holders for Arsenal, and that family redefined the word “die-hard” fans.
I’ve long been a believer that sports allegiances are best when handed down by family. I love hearing stories of people loving the New York Giants because their parents liked them, and they pass it down to their children.
I’ve successfully given my allegiance to the Devils to my young daughters.
By telling Apple TV that I liked Arsenal, I get alerts from three different apps when the “Gunners” are playing. The $4.99 is totally worth it to see Arsenal.
Whenever I told this story, I was amazed to see how many other American sports fans had a Premier League team. Students of mine at Seton Hall University rooted for Tottenham Hotspurs, while an old colleague cheers on Chelsea.
This is not meant to say that NBC should sign the EPL on my account. The key for any US-based soccer fan is that between Bundesliga, Serie A, and other leagues, there will be no shortage of soccer available on both linear television and streaming services.
Besides, Dani Rojas did say that “Football is life.” NBC, originator of the Ted Lasso character, should make keeping its Premier League US connection a priority.
Media Noise – Episode 45
Today, Demetri is joined by Tyler McComas and Russ Heltman. Tyler pops on to talk about the big start to the college football season on TV. Russ talks about Barstool’s upfront presentation and how the business community may not see any problems in working with the brand. Plus, Demetri is optimistic about FOX Sports Radio’s new morning show.
6 Ad Categories Hotter Than Gambling For Sports Radio
“Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life.”
For years sports radio stations pushed sports gambling advertisers to early Saturday and Sunday morning. The 1-800 ads, shouting, and false claims were seedy, and some stations wouldn’t even accept the business at 5 am on Sunday.
Now, with all but ten states ready to go all in on sports gambling, sports radio stations can’t get enough of that green. Demetri Ravanos wrote about the money cannon that sports gambling has become for stations. Well, what if you are in one of those ten states where it isn’t likely to ever be legal like California or Texas? Where is your pot of gold?
Or, let’s face it, the more gambling ads you run, the more risk you take on that the ads will not all work as you cannibalize the audience and chase other listeners away who ARE NOT online gambling service users and never will be. So, what about you? Where is your pot of gold?
Well, let’s go Digging for Gold.
The RAB produces the MRI-Simmons Gold Digger PROSPECTING REPORT for several radio formats. In it, they index sports radio listeners’ habits against an average of 18+ Adult. The Gold Digger report looks at areas where the index is higher than the norm – meaning the sports radio audience is more likely to use the product or service than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. The report, generated in 2020, indicates that sports radio listeners are 106% more likely to have used an online gambling site in the last thirty days. That’s impressive because the report only lists 32 activities or purchases a sports radio listener indexes higher than an average adult. I looked at those 32 higher indexes, and I think we can start looking for some gold.
Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life. The gambling companies who commit significant money to get results will continue advertising and chase the others away. So, the future of sports radio needs to include other cash cows.
If it is evident to online sports gambling services that sports radio stations are a must-buy, who else should feel that way? I looked at the Top 32 and eliminated the media companies. ESPN, MLB/NHL/NFL networks, and others aren’t spending cash on sports radio stations they don’t own in general. But Joseph A Bank clothing, Fidelity, and Hotwire should! Here’s your PICK-6 list I pulled together that’s hotter than sports gambling:
- Sportscard collectors, Dapper Labs, Open Sea- read about Sports NFT $.
- Online brokerage firms-Fidelity, Charles Schwab, Robinhood, Webull, TD Ameritrade
- Golf courses, resorts, equipment, etc.- we play golf at home and vacation
- Hotwire.com, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Airbnb, Carnival Corporation, and Priceline.com- we’ve used Hotwire in the last year.
- FedEx, UPS, U.S. Postal Service, Venmo, PayPal, Zelle-we wired or overnighted $
- Jos. A. Bank, shein.com, macys.com, nordstroms.com- we went to Jos. A. Bank in last three months
The sports card/NFT market is 32% hotter than the sports betting market for sports radio listeners. Everything on the PICK-6 is at least 100% more likely to purchase than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. All listed are at or above indexing strength compared to sports betting. The individual companies I added are industry leaders. Bet on it! Email me for details.
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