The golden era of sports radio in Kansas City is happening right now. The Chiefs have the most exciting player, as well as the most exciting team in the NFL and could be on the verge of the next dynasty in football. The Royals are nearly six years removed from a World Series title, but the excitement level in the city is still high, despite the team being at or below a .500 record every year since.
Ratings are good. Sales are good. It’s a great time to be a host in Kansas City.
Bob Fescoe is right in the middle of the action at 610 Sports as the host of Fescoe in the Morning. He’s one of the most established and beloved hosts Kansas City has ever had and now he’s enjoying the success of the two hometown teams. He’s truly living his best life.
But it’s not exactly where the eight-year-old version of himself thought he would be. A huge New York Giants fan in the 80’s, Fescoe was more drawn to the play-by-play side of the business, because of Pat Summerall and John Madden
“John Madden was so entertaining to me,” said Fescoe. I always loved him and I realized at that time I was never going to play professional sports. I could already tell that at 8 years old. So what was the next best thing? Being behind the mic. I always thought I wanted to do play-by-play and thought I could be good at it.”
Fast forward a few years and the kid from New Jersey is in south Texas for his first radio job out of college. He still had aspirations in play-by-play and was doing it heavily at KWED in Seguin, Texas, a town right outside of San Antonio. Fescoe was the voice of Texas Lutheran University, a Division 3 college football program and was traveling in busses all across south Texas, north Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
“I was also doing play-by-play for four or five different high schools and dealing with their coaches, which was a lot of fun,” Fescoe said. “I learned so much as to why certain coaches are really good at what they do. I also got to cover the San Antonio Spurs. That was 1999 and they had just won their first championship that year. I really wish I could go back to those years and understand who I was around and who I was covering. At 22 or 23 years old, Greg Popovich wasn’t the same guy as he is today. He was a totally different guy. David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Avery Johnson, Sean Elliott, it was an unbelievable group of people I got to be around, but I didn’t pay much attention to it because it was the Spurs and it was just the beginning of their dynasty. I really wish I could go back and appreciate being around those guys a little more.”
After nearly two years at KWED, Fescoe made the move to Kansas City to work at KMBZ where he truly discovered his love for sports talk radio. The station was the flagship for both KU basketball and the Royals and he was immediately drawn to the format and the ability to talk about what was happening in the community. There was something about the ability to make a difference in people’s lives that instantly stuck. He realized his new passion. It wasn’t play-by-play, it was being a host on a sports talk radio station.
He was hired to be the producer of the afternoon show. After just a couple of months, he had his own show.
“People say you never remember where you were on September 10th, 2001, but I do,” Fescoe said. “That was the first day I got my own talk show. It was a night time talk show and another guy did that while I was producing the afternoon show. There were a lot of KU and Royals games at night, so there weren’t a lot of night-time shows until the winter time. But that first day we were on the air on September 10th talking about sports and the next day, everything changed. For the next two weeks, we were doing news radio and talk radio and dealing with the after effects of 9/11.”
Fescoe would produce the afternoon show and do his night-time show for a couple of more years, before moving across the street to the competition at WHB Sports Radio 810. After three years on the job, he moved outside of the market to St. Louis.
From the outside, one would think Kansas City and St. Louis are very similar markets. They’re both in the midwest, they’re both full of baseball fans and they’re even located in the same state. But though there are some similarities, the differences of the two markets are pretty extreme.
“It’s definitely a completely different market,” Fescoe said. “That may even apply more today than it ever has before, because of the provincial nature of the city. The people in St. Louis had no interest in having me there, and never gave me an opportunity, because I wasn’t from there. St. Louis is all about what high school you went to and they would make their determination on you based on that. I grew up in New Jersey. I didn’t go to high school there. I think it was a little bit of a shock to them that a guy that wasn’t raised there was talking about their teams.”
It just wasn’t a fit for either party. Fescoe would later leave and go back to Kansas City, but he still got a lot out of his radio experience in St. Louis. Mostly, because he was working with Jason Barrett.
“Working with Jason was great,” Fescoe said. “I went to St. Louis to work for him, because I had talked to him about a potential job in Philadelphia. Jason was the first person I was around that I got real, true radio feedback from. I’ll never forget doing a demo show in Philadelphia and the feedback was like 10-15 pages off a three-hour show. I was like, wow, there’s so much to learn. I had the opportunity to work for him and really pick his brain to find out a lot of stuff that makes radio work. Some of the stuff you still do today, I learned from Jason back in 2007.”
Kansas City is where Fescoe belongs. Not only is he a beloved host but he’s made a real effort to endear himself to everyone in the community. That’s extremely important in a market like Kansas City. He’s on the board of directors for multiple non-profit organizations and people have noticed. If you take the time to embrace the community, they’ll embrace you right back.
“Kansas City is the most giving and charitable community I’ve ever been a part of,” Fescoe said. “We treat everyone in this town like they’re our own. That was one of the things I learned during the 2014 World Series run is how many people were using baseball in this town to get through tough times in their life. We had people on the air during that time talking about battling cancer, or their kids battling cancer, or they themselves had illnesses and the only thing that made them happy during the day was watching the Royals at night. Being connected to the community is vital in this town. I don’t know how it compares to other cities, but this is the most charitable place I’ve ever lived.”
Being charitable is never questioned about Kansas City, but it’s favorite sport routinely is. Is it a baseball town or a football town? That’s a popular question people from outside the market like to ask. It’s often debated with the answers almost always seemingly split. But Fescoe can accurately answer the question of if the sports fans in Kansas City prefer football or baseball more with just one word.
“People here are truly passionate about their teams,” Fescoe said. “Since 2014 we’ve been on a fairy tail run. We had the Royals make back-to-back World Series and then we’ve been to three-straight AFC Championship games and two Super Bowls. At its core I think Kansas City is a baseball town, because October of 2014 is the greatest month of my professional career, just to see the way that Kansas City came alive and fell in love with this baseball team and was living and dying with every pitch. It gets me kind of emotional to talk about those teams. People were living it every single day and the joy that ballclub brought everyone. I’ve never seen a team turn around a city from an attitude and a belief standpoint like the Royals did in 2014 in Kansas City.”
That 2014 season is a big reason why Kansas City is in the golden era of sports talk radio. Throw that Mahomes guy in as a big reason, too. The Chiefs and Royals have had success in the past, sure, but never at the same time. The past six years they have, and it’s unveiled a passion that can rival any market in the country.
Kansas City sports radio hasn’t just benefited from the golden era on the ratings sheet, but on sales sheets, as well. Local businesses have flocked to get their name attached to the local teams and it has greatly benefitted stations such as 610 Sports.
“When the sports teams are good it’s something everyone wants to be a part of in Kansas City,” Fescoe said. “In any way they possibly can, whether it’s sponsoring a coaches show or being on the air and mentioning the things that are going on in town, they just want to be a part of everyone’s listening habits, because when those teams are good, obviously the ratings are better, because people care more when the teams are winning. I’ve had conversations with people over the years and they’d ask if I’d rather have a losing team or a winning team. It’s not even close. It’s definitely a winning team. When you’re losing, people check out, but when you’re winning, more and more people than you’ve ever imagined are tuning in. Then you’re capturing all kinds of different audiences.”
The golden era of sports talk in Kansas City will likely last as long as Mahomes is playing quarterback for the Chiefs. Judging by the contract he signed last year, hosts such as Fescoe have a lot to look forward to.
“This is the golden era of Kansas City sports,” Fescoe said. “There’s never been a better time in their successes being at the exact same time. That never happened before 2014.”
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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