Category: Sports

September 2014 PPM Analysis:
MLB Flagships

| October 6, 2014

By Mike Kinosian,
TALKERS
Managing Editor

 

1280px-Major_League_Baseball.svgkinosianLOS ANGELES — Post-season baseball is not only underway, it has already provided several highly entertaining games.

Nonetheless, the fourth in a series of overviews for Major League Baseball flagship stations appears below.

Compared to the June, July, August, and most recent (September) ratings analyses of MLB’s English-language flagships, September stats reflect the best average market rank (#13.38) and highest typical 6+ share (3.81).

Some flagship facilities appear in multiple markets, but we are only listing one PPM market – the team’s recognized “home” metro.

In cases where a team has two flagships, both stations are shown.

Over and above its main flagship, some teams have an emergency alternative, used in isolated cases to resolve programming conflicts; those backup facilities however do not appear here.

The lone non-PPM market within Major League Baseball is Toronto. Consequently, there is no available Nielsen Audio PPM ratings information for CJCL, the key station of the American League East division (Toronto) Blue Jays.

Dickey Broadcasting Company-owned WCNN is one of the Atlanta Braves’ flagships. WCNN is not a Nielsen Audio subscriber and therefore cannot be included in print.

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Headlines

| September 9, 2014

By Richard Neer
WFAN, New York
Talk Show Host

neerwriterNEW YORK — We’re all trying to find our way in this new digital world of ours. Conventional means of promoting our ideas may no longer work. Everything needs to be fresh, immediate, provocative. The attention span of our audiences have shortened and I’m not just talking about millennials. With the constant bombardment of information that we are under, even the most patient of us has a hard time giving every issue the attention it deserves.

Instead, we are expected to have instant reactions — black or white with no shades of gray. There is little time for deep discussions. There is no tolerance for asking questions that have no easy answers. Certain stories are reported from only one angle. Anyone who carefully parses a statement that the press declares politically incorrect is defined as supporting the dark side. Forget nuance, once you are attacked by the consensus bullies, you can only surrender and apologize, lest you lose your livelihood.

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Man Myth: “Ours is a Very Big Sports Town”

| August 25, 2014

By Walter Sabo
Sabo Media
CEO

sabowalterwriterNEW YORK — As a globetrotting consultant there is noticeable bravado in every city about the local level of sports fandom.

When the topic of sports coverage and sports interest is discussed, the local media mavens always say the same things:

*  “This is a very big sports town.”

* “Even women here are nuts about sports.”

*  “You’ve got to understand that this is the biggest sports town.”

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June 2014 PPM Analysis: MLB Flagships

| July 24, 2014

By Mike Kinosian
TALKERS
Managing Editor

 

kinosianMLB Logo2LOS ANGELES If for no other reason than owing to its adherence to an ambitious 162-game regular season commitment, the role – and potential ratings upside – of any MLB flagship is the most extensive of the four major sports.

Typical MLB game length is three hours during a season that extends from April through September. That, of course, does not count pre-season exhibition contests and any possible post-season play.

Factor in pre-game and post-game shows, as well as a variety of sales-driven programming features, and it becomes crystal- clear how a MLB flagship can wind up devoting a sizeable chunk of its programming day and year to its hometown franchise.

By and large, when they are not airing baseball play-by-play (or related offerings) MLB flagships carry spoken-word programming. There are, however, a few exceptions.

For that and several other reasons, doing an MLB flagship overview has its challenges.

The end result though is well worth it and, therefore, an in-depth analysis appears below.

There is, however, more than the usual fine print.

For openers, the following scoreboards are for English-language flagships only.

For these purposes, a flagship is only listed in one PPM market – the team’s “home” metro. In the case of the American League’s Oakland A’s, we are going with San Jose, rather than San Francisco (which we are using for the National League’s Giants).

In cases where a team has two flagships, both stations are shown.

Some MLB teams have a main flagship and an emergency alternative. The latter is used only in isolated cases to resolve a programming conflict; those backup facilities do not appear here.

The flagship for the American League’s Blue Jays (CJCL) is, of course, located in Toronto, the only non-PPM market. Consequently, there is no available ratings information for CJCL.

One of the Atlanta Braves’ flagships is Dickey Broadcasting Company-owned WCNN. That station is not a Nielsen Audio subscriber and therefore cannot be included in print.

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Sports Talk After the Super Bowl

| April 1, 2014

By Mike Kinosian
TALKERS
Managing Editor

 

LOS ANGELES —When the industry adopted electronic-based measurement in the form of Nielsen Audio’s (formerly Arbitron) PPM, it was universally known that January would be a “down” month for those stations that played all-Christmas music during the December and “Holiday” survey periods.

Another significant ratings trend though that conversely has flown considerably under the radar is that – in February – all-sports stations tend to hit the skids.

Typically, the Super Bowl is played the first Sunday in February and, for whatever reason, sports outlets take a bit of a hit immediately after that mega-event.

Good news though is that it does not usually become a prolonged funk for these facilities, as we are presently on the threshold of the 2014 MLB season, which coincides with the tail end of “March Madness.” In addition – and perhaps to a lesser extent – playoffs loom in the NBA and NHL.

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Inside SportsTalkBoston.com

| March 26, 2014

Sports Media Personality Glenn Ordway’s Multi-Platform Venture Is Off and Running

 

By Jason Wolfe
Chief Content Officer
SportsTalkBoston.com

 

wolfejasonwriterBOSTON — I’ve worked in sports radio my entire broadcast career. When I graduated from Syracuse in 1989, I was privileged to land a job in my hometown of Boston right out of college. Talk about young and green. I didn’t have any idea what radio was all about at that time. I just knew I loved it. Twenty-four years later, it’s amazing how much the medium, and the industry, have changed.

In the old days, hosts flipped on the microphone, yapped about their teams, took calls from passionate fans whose very lives seemingly depended on the outcome of the games, and threw in numerous guests to provide more insight into the topic at hand. It was a pretty simple formula. Information ruled the day and that’s what we did, discuss the information.

Nowadays, to be successful in sports talk radio, and most formats, it’s about much more than providing information. Listeners sportstalkboston logoalready have the information you want to discuss, even before you get to the station. You need opinions, humor, edge, attitude, and most of all personality. Fans will listen to hosts they love, and those they hate, because of the personality that exists in both. Personality breeds engagement. Engagement breeds loyalty.  Loyalty breeds ratings and ratings breed revenue. That is the formula hosts and shows need to embrace today if they want to win.

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Civility

| January 28, 2014

By Richard Neer
WFAN, New York
Talk Show Host

 

neerwriterNEW YORK – Would you bet your career on winning the lottery?

Unfortunately, that’s what many of us are doing. Let me explain the analogy.

Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks won the lottery.  His rant after the NFC championship game hit all the viral markers: it was loud, it was outrageous and it reached a huge audience at exactly the right time.  Sherman went from a fine-but-obscure cornerback to a national figure literally overnight.  Blogs, tweets, Facebook pages and every other form of social media either supported or vilified him.  The fame he achieved might last the traditional fifteen minutes, or with clever marketing, catapult his off-field career to new heights.

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Sports Reporting: Dealing with Prickly Coaches

| July 2, 2013

By Richard Neer
WFAN, New York
Talk Show Host

 

NEW YORK — The recently fired head coach (subsequently hired by another franchise)  made it his policy to refuse to answer questions unless they were actually questions, as opposed to hanging statements that invite a comment.

Many coaches would rather be anywhere else than at a post game press conference, especially after a tough loss. Indeed, interviewers should be sensitive to the moment and try to phrase their tough questions carefully so as not to appear to be mercilessly piling on.  But many times, it is the subject who is the bully, and you can’t let that stand.

Many years ago, I questioned a baseball manager with a similar chip on his shoulder and he gave me some contradictory advice.  He said on one hand that managers should never get into disputes with companies that “buy ink by the gallon,” but he also suggested that he worked hard to prepare for his job and he expected reporters to be equally dedicated.

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“Situational Baseball Return Liners” Maximize Play-by-Play Promotional Potential

| May 28, 2013

By Chris Pendl
BONNEVILLE SEATTLE
Creative Director

SEATTLE — If you’ve made the investment on play-by-play sports on your station, it’s important to maximize the return on your investment by trying to recycle that audience to another day part on your station.

Arbitron tells us that MLB drives cume increases anywhere from 50%-65% on flagship stations when the baseball season starts.  This influx of audience is one of the reasons we pay rights fees, share revenue, or give up inventory to carry this programming. In a climate with little or no external marketing dollars, I’ve often joked that our promotional time within baseball play by play is the closet thing we’ll get to an interstate billboard or TV campaign.

A few years ago in Seattle, we decided to take a different approach to how we used our in-game promotional inventory during Mariner broadcasts.  We wanted something that was more dynamic than a recorded promo — something that cut through and made the listener feel like someone was watching the game with them.

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Play Ball: Fun with Flagships

| May 21, 2013

By Mike Kinosian
TALKERS
Managing Editor/West Coast Bureau Chief

MLB Logo2LOS ANGELES — When considering there are more than one month’s worth of spring training contests; a grueling 162-game April through September regular-season schedule; and hopefully – the post season, no professional sport requires as demanding of a commitment for a flagship as does Major League Baseball.

Sandwich a typical three-hour game between pre-game and post-game programming and a station can devote approximately 20% of its 24-hour broadcast day to being a MLB flagship.

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Times Are Tough Enough — Be a Pro!

| April 23, 2013

By Dan Sileo
Sports Talk Personality

 

sileowriterTHE BEACH — I write this article from the infamous “Beach of Radio” at this time.  The reason?  My own stupidity and how I acted on the air at WQAM in Miami.  As many of you know, I am a VERY emotional radio host – almost to a point where many people think I could actually use a doctor that has a pen and note pad.  I was fired from WQAM for the things I said on the air.  Yes, things I said on the air.  You see, I am one of the VERY few sports talk radio host in America that actually gets ratings and revenue.   As my old program director at WDAE — Steve Versnick — would say, “You do 90% of what’s great in radio, the other 10%, maybe the worst.”

If a station has a sports team on their airwaves, they are a broadcast partner and should be treated as any other radio host on a station’s airwaves.  In this form, I failed and I was rightfully fired.  Exiting a station after such a crazy thing will define your next gig.  If you take to Twitter and stupidly say stuff like, “I’ll never change,” well…

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Mohr Radio Dreams Come True

| March 4, 2013

By Mike Kinosian
Talkers
Managing Editor/West Coast Bureau Chief

TLOS ANGELES Anyone connecting the dots to the impressive vitae and past history of one of America’s brightest comics/rock solid actor will not be the least bit astonished that agent “Bob Sugar” in the mid-1990s smash “Jerry Maguire” is on his way to establishing a potent presence in sports talk radio.

Jay MohrSecond-year (2009-2010) plotline for CBS-TV’s “Gary Unmarried” called for its lead character to lessen his role as a housepainter as he transitioned to what he had always wanted to do – host a call-in sports radio program. “It is this crazy scenario that I actually wound up doing in real life what I was doing in a make belief sitcom,” remarks Jay Mohr, whose “Jay Mohr Sports” debuted January 2 on Fox Sports Radio.

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December Sports Scoreboard

| January 4, 2013

Conclusion of a Three-Part Special Feature

By Mike Kinosian
Talkers
Managing Editor/West Coast Bureau Chief

LOS ANGELES — It has been an exciting and historic week in sports radio.

In a special feature series, we have outlined what has been taking place and detailed some possible ramifications.

Our look at the ever-expanding sports format concludes with a December 2012 ratings overview.

Spoken-word stations were particularly vulnerable in the December sweep when at least one station per market generally started playing all-Christmas music.

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Peacock Sports Network Playing The Hits

| January 3, 2013

Part Two of a Special Feature

By Mike Kinosian
TALKERS
Managing Editor/West Coast Bureau Chief
LOS ANGELES — As sure as 2013 has arrived, personal resolutions have been made, and a plethora of prognostications will bombard us.

crystalball130Equally as predictable is that not long into this brand new year, those well-meaning self-promises will be severely compromised, and one’s forecasting ability becomes cloudy-looking, at best.

Here, however, is something that could actually be a trend this year: Don’t be surprised if clusters with multiple talk stations jettison one of those signals to sports.

Associated with that, we very well might witness a spate of under-performing (primarily talk) outlets transition to sports.

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Sports Talk Network Update: Heavyweights Covering All Bases

| January 2, 2013

Part One: CBS Launches New Network

By Mike Kinosian
TALKERS
Managing Editor/West Coast Bureau Chief

LOS ANGELES — “Happy Sports Year!”

That could easily be the battle cry sentiment among ardent fans to welcome 2013, even if it means that many of them will require scorecards to track the whereabouts of some of their favorite sports radio personalities.

A perennial sports talk talent MVP tops the headlines by switching teams, while some new names get to crack opening-day lineups, as not one – but two – national sports networks are being introduced this year, each carrying instantly-recognizable name branding.

One of them in fact, is making its maiden voyage today (Wednesday, January 2) and, if all goes according to plan, many radio station managers and programmers will be echoing that “Happy Sports Year!” declaration in about 11 months as their way of assessing 2013.

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Baseball Stations: PLAN NOW
for Spring Training

| December 14, 2012

By Holland Cooke
News/Talk/Sports Radio Consultant

BLOCK ISLAND, RI — With 2013 expense budgets now in umpteenth revision, this reminder: Be there or be square.

After all the sub-freezing days and nights that chill much of the USA this time of the year – and various off-season trades and free agent signings – The Boys of Summer will be a welcome sound come March.

Yet too few baseball stations establish a presence at their teams’ spring training camps. Smart baseball stations are cheerleaders, and really smart baseball stations start cheering a month before opening day, when every team is in 1st place.

Five reasons this has value:
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Criticism of Bob Costas Unfair

| December 6, 2012

By Richard Neer
WFAN, New York
Talk Show Host

NEW YORK – I’d love to tell Bob Costas “I told you so” if he indeed had read my last column for TALKERS magazine advising sports talk hosts to steer clear of politics (read that here. if you missed it).

The firestorm was created when the NBC Sports host quoted a Jason Whitlock column for Fox Sports.com.  It suggested that the tragedy surrounding Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend may not have occurred had Belcher not been armed.

The reaction was sadly predictable.  No one dares offend the gun lobby in this country, other than New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a few other select pols in “safe” districts.  Both presidential candidates danced around the subject during the debates.  Make an enemy of the NRA and risk being voted out of office.

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The Risk of Talking Politics on Sports Stations

| November 13, 2012

By Richard Neer
WFAN, New York
Talk Show Host

NEW YORK — During the recently concluded election cycle, it was surely tempting at times to inject political notes into our sports programming.  These comments might range from analogies comparing sporting contests to the “horse race” factor of the campaign, to outright endorsements of a specific candidate.  While the former might be be an instructive and harmless explanation of strategy, the latter could result in long term damage.

Most of us are slaves to quarter hours, even more so with PPM methodology, which purports to evaluate even the minutest of  trends.  Some of us see a higher calling however — if you believe the future of our country is at stake, you may feel compelled to speak out strongly in favor of your beliefs.  You might even posit that since it seems everyone is talking politics and news/talk stations traditionally grow this time of year, you might profit from that boost in interest.

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Playing the Hits — All Two of Them

| September 19, 2012

By Richard Neer
WFAN, New York
Talk Show Host

 

NEW YORK – Whereas print and online media have the luxury of providing a rich environment with a wide scope of content including “minor” sports, broadcast sports talk enjoys no such freedom.  A case could be made that this is why nationally syndicated shows are constantly trumped by stations that feature local hosts.  Hockey talk may be big in Detroit — in Atlanta, not so much.

If a magazine or website contains a story that is of slight interest, a flick of the wrist moves on to something more compelling.  A similar action when your station drifts onto something of little import directs the audience not to a different space in your galaxy, it sends them at warp speed to another universe entirely.

Blame the inventor of the remote control or the push buttons on your car receiver for the low tolerance your listeners have for anything that challenges their pre-conceived notions of what they expect to hear.  There might be an interesting story about soccer you’d like to examine, but if the listener is not an MLS fan, they’ll be gone within the first 10 seconds.  In this day and age of PPM, we are forced to narrowcast to a degree that is downright draconian.

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WEEI Goes To Bat For Battling Kids

| September 17, 2012

By Mike Kinosian
TALKERS magazine
Managing Editor/West Coast Bureau Chief

BOSTON — Notwithstanding that the “Old Towne” team has been historically dreadful the past 12 months, diehard members of Red Sox Nation from Boston to Bakersfield, Battle Creek to the Bahamas, and all points around the world, positively love their BoSox while simultaneously loathing the New York Yankees.

There is however an even greater enemy to the vociferous throng of Red Sox partisans than the Evil Empire’s pinstripe-clad nine – cancer that afflicts children.

In 1953, the Red Sox adopted as its charity of choice the Jimmy Fund, which raises money to support cancer care/research at Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

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Sports Talk Radio Scoreboard

| September 14, 2012

By Mike Kinosian
TALKERS magazine
Managing Editor/West Coast Bureau Chief

LOS ANGELES — Ratings results of 40 sports outlets appear in this RadioInfo overview.

In order for a station to qualify, it needed to rank within the top 20 (6+) in any of Arbitron’s 48 PPM-measured markets in the most recent (August 2012) monthly report.

Listed is each station’s 6+ performance over the last six (6) PPM monthlies.

One or two stations that would historically satisfy the (6+) top 20 ranking requirement are missing.  Such omissions most likely stem from a March 2012 de-listing issue Arbitron has with non-subscribing stations.  Exclusion of those stations is beyond our control.

There have been cases though where de-listed stations have returned as subscribers.  In the months in which the station was de-listed, its 6+ share is shown as “###.”

The audio channel for a low-power television outlet is indicated as “LP.”

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A Tribute to Mike Francesa

| July 16, 2012

By Richard Neer
WFAN, New York
Talk Show Host

NEW YORK – Mike Francesa is the number one sports talk host in the country.

Although there are nationally syndicated names that may claim to have a wider cume than Mike Francesa, Mike is the king of sports talk in the number one market in the nation.  He is appointment listening.  Love him or hate him, New Yorkers need to hear his take on major stories.  He cannot be ignored.

What does Francesa bring to the table?  His years as a researcher at CBS television were merely a prelude of what was to come.  His relentless curiosity and work ethic along with his relationship with some of the biggest names in television broadcasting gave him unique insight.  He learned to dig deep into the numbers, but he also understood that the games have a heartbeat.  They are populated by human beings – replete with all their flaws and all their glory.  Mike dreamed of someday being able to share his knowledge behind the mic instead of behind the scenes.  His opportunity came after ceaselessly lobbying the management at WFAN to give him a chance for his voice to be heard.

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Why I Love The Fan

| July 13, 2012

By Dan Sileo
WQAM, Miami
Talk Show Host

 

MIAMI – With the recently passed 25th anniversary of CBS Radio’s WFAN, New York, I’ve been thinking about how huge a fan I have always been New York City’s legendary sports talk outlet – from the times when I listened to in my younger days to the present as a fellow sports talk host.

 

I recently had a chance to have a conversation with WFAN operations manager and CBS Radio vice president of sports programming Mark Chernoff.  The first thing I noticed about Mark is the incredible pride and love he has for the format and the station – and for good reason.  In many ways, this pride in the format in general is justified since The Fan and CBS Radio have had such an incredible influence in the development of a format that is one of the most profitable in radio today.

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A New Show in a New Town Requires a Good Plan

| July 6, 2012

By Dan Sileo
Talk Show Host
WQAM, Miami

 

MIAMI – It’s funny, I have had only two radio station jobs in the past 20 years: KNBR, San Francisco and WDAE, Tampa.  Of course, now I’m doing afternoon drive on WQAM in Miami, which means I’m now starting over with a new show and, the truth of it is, I have to prove myself all over again.

It’s been a humbling experience for me because I have always been used to HUGE numbers and now I’m in the position of retraining a whole new audience here in Miami to my style.

Here are a couple of things I’m learning:

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The NFL’s Power Keeps Media Coverage Biased

| June 13, 2012

Dan Sileo
Talk Show Host
WQAM, Miami

MIAMI – Just like Arnold Schwarzenegger in “The Terminator” who promised, “I’ll be back!” yours truly is back at my favorite magazine to give you the truth!

Allow me to address the recent media coverage of the Johnathan Vilma vs. Roger Goodell lawsuit and how one-sided the coverage has been against NFL players in the “Bountygate” case. I believe the NFL has decided to leak information out to the media instead of actually giving the players the due process this situation needs. Don’t get me wrong, the NFL is smart to try and get the court of public opinion on its side. The potential backlash against the league if it’s determined it had knowledge of the bounty program prior to players – like Brett Favre and Kurt Warner to name two – getting hurt as the result of such a program could be serious. That could mean more lawsuits against the league.

The other part of this is that media people today are so worried about the access that they have to sports teams that they alter their coverage as a result. Can you imagine if a writer or sports radio host takes the players‘ side of this and starts slamming the NFL about not taking care of the players? The NFL will start denying access to certain media people making it very hard for them to cover teams fairly. Biased media coverage is what you get!

Pick any column or listen to any radio talk host today and read it and you will be able to decide which media member has more access to the team. The local team will always be nice to the station or host who gives them more positive coverage. The homer station gets paid for loyalty in access to players and coaches!

Radio hosts who want the respect of their audiences should do themselves the favor of stating their honest opinions. Don’t hide it! If you do, the fans will be able to hear which station is biased and not giving you the truth.

 Oh yeah, one quick note…totally enjoying my awesome new family at WQAM in Miami!

Dan Sileo hosts PM drive at WQAM, Miami. He can be e-mailed at dan@wqam.com.

Prioritize to Stay on Top of the Busy Sports World

| April 24, 2012

By Richard Neer
WFAN, New York
Talk Show Host

 

NEW YORK — This time of year, there’s just too much happening in sports!  You have playoffs in the NHL and NBA, the pro football draft and mini-camps, baseball season in full swing, not to mention numerous golf and tennis tourneys.  Often three or more events are scheduled the same night. What’s a sports talker to do?

Obviously you can’t watch every minute of every game.  And, oh by the way, you do have a life apart from the job.  There are family and friends who deserve attention and other cultural aspects of life that should be acknowledged lest you become too narrowly focused.  So, how can you juggle all these priorities and stay current with your demanding job?

In the beginning, an important key is to confess to your audience that you are only human.  Admit that you didn’t see the third period of that West Coast hockey game when a donnybrook broke out.  A family wedding took your attention away from a rain-delayed baseball game.  As long as you are upfront about your omissions and don’t get defensive about it, most will accept and understand.

However, there are events that you can’t miss, regardless of what’s going in your life.  Clearly, markets are different – one North Carolina sportscast recently led with a college football spring scrimmage – a note that even the most thorough Northeast media outlet would be loath to even mention unless a deadly melee broke out.  It should be obvious – if you know your market – which game your listeners will want to talk about the next day.  The tricky part is when there are two or more equally notable things going on at once, or when the top story involves a sport you personally don’t care about.  For example, if you are a big time baseball fan, the NFL draft may not light your fire but it may be of more interest to your audience than an early season Mets- Reds series.

There are several essential tools that you must incorporate.  A DVR, maybe even two – or a whole-house system, is a necessity.  If you have a family, their needs must be taken into account. If the kids want a “Hunger Games” pay-per-view at the same time as an NBA playoff tiff, you probably need to have that covered. (It’s a legit tax write-off).  I’ve found that DirecTV trumps most local cable companies for selection and versatility when it comes to sports.

Newspapers and magazines are a must, either in print form or online.  You should have several go-to sites bookmarked, with your favorite columnists and writers highlighted.  Peter King’s “Monday Morning Quarterback” is a must read, and there are many others that warrant your attention on a daily basis.  CBS Sports provides not only box scores but full play-by-play for most games – very handy for occasions when walking the dog or a dinner break results in missing an inning or two.  It can also be helpful if there’s a game you didn’t prioritize but turns into a hot topic due to unusual circumstances.

MLB Online gives you access to just about every game played with excellent video quality.  It’s still inexpensive, and its mini-feature allows you to view a game while saving the majority of your screen for other data.

In the end, there’s nothing like actually watching the games as they unfold.  The immediate reactions, the nuances – these still can’t be captured fully even with all the modern technology in our arsenal.  But with judicious use of these incredible tools, there’s no excuse for not being on top of any event that piques your listeners’ interest.

 

Richard Neer is a sports talk host at WFAN, New York, an anchor on A Touch of Grey, and sports editor of TALKERS magazine. He can be e-mailed at info@talkers.com

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When it Comes to Ethnic Slurs, Just Don’t Go There

| February 23, 2012

By Richard Neer
WFAN, New York
Talk Show Host

 

NEW YORK — The nation has been deluged with Lin-sanity.

The story of the young Harvard grad bursting onto the NBA scene from obscurity rivals the media hype in 1975 when Time and Newsweek both deigned to feature Bruce Springsteen on their respective covers, proclaiming him the next Bob Dylan.  Of course, Bruce survived the hype to become one of our most enduring rockers, but can the Jeremy Lin story survive a three game losing streak?

There are so many elements to his rise that have permeated sports talk over the last month.  Why was he overlooked in the draft and subsequently cut by two teams?  Was ethnicity a factor or did this episode just reveal that there are holes in the NBA scouting system?  If he was playing somewhere other than New York and if he wasn’t Asian-American, would the media glare be anywhere near this intense?

Media figures have already been fired or suspended for insensitivity toward his background.  We have reached a point in our nation where any reference to a person’s ethnicity that can be viewed in any way as stereotyping or prejudicial can be grounds for dismissal.

The lesson learned is – DON’T GO THERE!  And this doesn’t only apply to utterances on a radio program.  With the social media being what it is, a seemingly harmless tweet intended to be amusing or even an e-mail sent to a personal friend can go viral and cost you a job, maybe a career.  We have entered an era where you must treat your life as if you are before a live mic 24/7/365.

Interestingly, comedians who previously seemed exempt from this rule are now under increased scrutiny.  Even the idea that, “I’m Italian so I can make mafia jokes” rationale doesn’t fly these days.

It is important to know what the latest acceptable appellation is.  There was a time when “oriental” was deemed appropriate, but many now consider it offensive and substitute the word “asian,” and there may come a time when even that is unacceptable.  Observational jokes about physical characteristics or cultural tendencies are just not going to play anymore.

We continually walk a very fine line.  We are expected to be “edgy” and “hip” and “entertaining.”  We are expected to push the envelope.  Words like “suck,” “bitch,” “piss,” “penis,” and “ass,” which weren’t to be used on the radio, are now being sprinkled into nationally aired commercials.  Subjects that were considered obscene are now casually chatted about.

Does this represent progress for our industry?  Even listening to a sporting event with our kids can lead to embarrassing moments.  We now advertise products that we know don’t work.  We air programs that openly lie or at least mislead the public, but hey, they pay the rent.  These are not things to be proud of.

But increased sensitivity toward the feelings of others is a step in the right direction.  Mocking someone for their ethnic background was never a good thing.  At least it can be said that we have made some progress in a positive direction.

 

Richard Neer is a sports talk host at WFAN, New York, an anchor on A Touch of Grey, and sports editor of TALKERS magazine. He can be e-mailed at info@talkers.com

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Dealing with Habitual Callers

| January 27, 2012

By Richard Neer
WFAN, New York
Talk Show Host

 

NEW YORK –– Consider the fate of the habitual sportstalk caller –– those who phone in on a regular basis, often several times daily.

They develop a sense of entitlement over time, as if they are featured players on the show.  Indeed, some may harbor beliefs that they are more important contributors than the host.  They bristle when they are placed on hold for long periods awaiting their turn at bat, and complain about how they are treated if they don’t feel they are accorded sufficient time to make their point.  Frequent callers believe they have a personal relationship with you and feel betrayed if you don’t reciprocate.

A sports talk host can have ambivalent notions toward regulars.  One one hand, you are thankful for their devotion when calls are slow, yet resentful when they pose an obstacle to continuity if they attempt to muscle in ahead of those more worthy.

Certainly there are regulars who consistently add value to the program –– they may represent a contrarian point of view that spurs heated response or even offer greater expertise than the host on a given subject due to their singular devotion to a particular sport or team.  But for every one of these assets, there are those who merely love the sound of their own voice on the radio and/or whose opinions contribute nothing to the program’s entertainment value.

The sports talker is also a managing editor.  Your main charge is to entertain a (hopefully) vast  audience, not to kow-tow to a small coterie of regular callers.

As a human being, it is hard not to empathize with these callers.  Consider how frustrating it is to call a merchant with a vital issue and have to wade through 10 minutes of menus before being placed on hold to speak to a living person.  You then are dispatched summarily if you don’t have your order number handy.  Calling a popular program can be a similarly unnerving experience, especially if the respondent feels a kinship with the host.

A good producer should help.  If a regular wants to talk tennis in the middle of a heated NFL debate, a kindly request to call in at another time may suffice.  Or the familiar, “We’re experiencing a heavy volume of calls,” when the point they are trying to make is better expressed by others.  It’s a delicate balancing act to keep the steady callers satisfied while not compromising the quality of the program.  To quote Nick Lowe, your producer may need to be “cruel to be kind,” and not accede them air time whenever they choose to pick up the phone.

Perhaps you can judiciously wean out the sense of entitlement and still remain on good terms.  In some cases however, a clean break is the best solution.  It will cause hurt feelings, but your first priority must be to the greater audience.

Richard Neer is a sports talk host at WFAN, New York, an anchor on A Touch of Grey, and sports editor of TALKERS magazine. He can be e-mailed at info@talkers.com