Monday Memo: Cue ‘Centerfield’

| February 3, 2020

By Holland Cooke
Consultant

 

BLOCK ISLAND, RI — The morning after the Super Bowl…OOPS…was I supposed to say “The Big Game?”

Anyway: The morning after the Super Bowl is like the morning after the Iowa Caucus in Des Moines or the morning after the New Hampshire Primary in Manchester: sagebrush and tumbleweed.  The crowd has moved on.  And now we turn our attention to…

The Best Radio Sport: Baseball

My two metrics for that designation:

Profit Potential:

  • The NFL is a TV show. Radio stations I’ve worked with that air the Super Bowl say they can’t give it away. Regular season inventory is sparse.  Football plays every week; baseball plays throughout the week.  To make up for it, the New England Patriots’ radio broadcast is SO commercially-cluttered it’s unlistenable. And who sits-through the hours and hours of pre- and postgame audio Styrofoam that teams cram-down?
  • When I programmed WTOP/Washington in the 80s, we flagshipped networks for the NHL Capitals and NBA Bullets (now the Wizards). I drew the logs.  Of all four major sports, hockey offers the most non-stop action; but it’s all the arena crowd can do to follow it, and Jumbotron helps.  Radio tries to keep-up.
  • Basketball rocks, but it’s not a great radio act unless your team is great. The Bullets weren’t, and to their credit, they sold tickets to see Dr. J., Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and other visiting greats (something smart underdog baseball teams do).
  • Baseball is loaded with inventory that doesn’t interrupt the action, and sells without numbers.

Audience Potential, especially if you’re an AM station:

  • What else can you program, nights and weekends, during those months when habit listening is interrupted by summertime-summertime-sum-sum-summertime, AND comes with such pre-existing affinity, and will fit-into any format?
  • By evening and on the weekend, the standard-issue conservative talk radio narrative gets weary. Enough already.  And it’s predictable, compared to baseball, which is suspenseful.  As Larry King says: “No two games are the same;” and “it’s the only sport where the defense controls the ball.”
  • Baseball brings you cume you might not otherwise get; a valuable opportunity to recycle to morning drive.

And close your eyes.  Can’t you hear Jack Buck’s, or Ernie Harwell’s, or Vin Scully’s voice, on a distant station, wafting through the summer night?  Radio can still be that special, if we make the most of opportunities like this.

 “Put me in coach, I’m ready to play.”
Who needs a groundhog?  Just hearing the clapping at the beginning of John Fogerty’s “Centerfield” feels like Spring.

  • Tip: Use that in on-hour Legal IDs that count-down to Opening Day.
  • In-season, use that same 10 seconds to plug team-and-time of next game you’ll air. The on-hour ID is beachfront property, especially if there’s relevant, useful, local news content.  And what you say on-hour, on any station, signs-the-station’s-name to it.  As the availability of the game broadcast so many other places renders broadcast radio’s baseball franchise non-exclusive, BEING KNOWN FOR having the games is real important, especially in diary markets.  😉
  • Use on-hour IN-game IDs to tout drive time shows. When Dan Rather anchored The CBS Evening News, Harvey Nagler got him to deliver the weekday 5P ET radio newscast live, and it really jumped out of the speaker.  That began around this time of year, but Harvey didn’t immediately offer stations Dan-voiced promos until after the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire Primary, the acid test for showing-up for radio.  After perfect attendance, the first affiliate Dan read for was my client WKZO/Kalamazoo, where I scripted his in-game pitch, which aired on-hour, every hour, in Tigers baseball: “What happened since breakfast?  I’ll tell you before dinner!”  Back to the Future: If you’re a baseball and CBS affiliate, ask your network for Norah O’Donnell to do the same for you.
  • Sales: Set a reminder for June: Update any in-game copy that sizzled on Opening Day (“Baseball is back!”) but makes you sound on-autopilot mid-season.

Take ME Out to The Ball Game.

Got tickets?

  • They’re a super Sales tool.
  • And a great on-air prize, especially if you’re as far as, for instance, Champaign-Urbana to St. Louis. Hire a bus and pass out logo’d station swag. At that particular station we sold tickets for the bus trip, and ended up hiring two buses.
  • Put together some sort of VIP treatment, and each winner will tell 100 people. Print station-logo’d laminated lanyard passes and each winner will SHOW 100 people.  Teams have picnic areas, etc.
  • Fun Fact: HOW state-of-the-art is PNC Park in Pittsburgh? Anticipating the eventual need, there are men’s and women’s umpire locker rooms.  I found that out on a radio tour; and my client ConnectFM makes clients and listeners they bring to Pirates games feel super-special by grabbing selfies with the radio voices up in the booth.  Those hit Facebook before the Anthem.

Super-smart stations don’t even wait for April.

  • Bring big baseball advertisers to Spring Training (some will buy the package just for the trip); and you can offer listeners an affordable ride-along, also a GREAT on-air prize.
  • On-air reports are equal part sports news (rookies striving for The Show and creaky veterans trying to grind-out one more season) and travelogue (tell stories about the trip that put the listener there).
  • In March every team is in first place. And as I write this on Super Bowl Sunday, we here in Red Sox Nation are wondering if pitchers and catchers will report before a dang manager is named.  What a story.

Come October, there’s no need to call those last four or five or six or seven “The Big Games.”  Major League Baseball doesn’t sic lawyers on you for calling it “The World Series.”

Holland Cooke (HollandCooke.com) is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet. He is the author of the e-book “Holland Cooke: Greatest Hits” from Talkers Books.  Click the ad banner in the right-hand column on this page for an instant download.  And he hosts “The Big Picture” TV show Friday nights at 7ET on RT America.  Read HC’s Monday Memo each week at Talkers.com, and follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke

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Category: Advice

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