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Personality Profile: Rob Ellis

Jason Barrett

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In the city of brotherly love, sports and passion go hand in hand. Having worked a short time there back in 2006, I learned how much sports talk radio means to people and how important of a role it can play in the lives of the listening audience.

wingbowlWhile the Eagles, Flyers, Sixers, Phillies and Big 5 colleges certainly matter to local people, what stood out even more during my short stay in Philly was how invested the audience was in the on-air personalities and local sports talk radio stations. Hosts were seen as larger than life celebrity figures and when public events were held such as WIP’s Wing Bowl, the response was as strong as any I’ve seen in local markets.

As the years have gone by, the interest in Philadelphia sports radio has only increased and it remains to this day one of the top performing markets in the entire country. One of those reasons is due to great programming from two top-notch stations, WIP and 97.5 The Fanatic. I am a firm believer that competition makes everyone better and there’s no doubt that both stations have had a tremendous impact on raising the bar in the Philadelphia market.

robellisThis week I have the opportunity to chat with someone who’s experienced both sides of the Philadelphia sports radio battle, WIP afternoon drive-time host Rob Ellis who works weekdays from 1p-6p opposite Anthony Gargano. Rob has been with WIP since May, 2007 and prior to his move to afternoons, he hosted nights and weekends. Rob is from Upper Darby, PA and a proud alum of Temple University and holds the distinction of being a four-time winner of WIP’s Great Birds Debate.

What makes this week’s chat a little different is that I’m chatting with someone who started his radio career under my watch. It was March 2006 when I received a call from Rob who at the time was working as a television producer for CSN Philadelphia and upon our chat I could tell quickly that he was smart, passionate, knowledgeable and hungry. I was in the market looking for talent to help the radio station and while his radio experience was non-existent, something about him stood out.

I took a chance and threw him into a 3-man show one night and as luck would have it, he came to the table with strong opinions, great information and an ability to click and form great chemistry with his partners. When you listen to Rob today, you’ll see those same ingredients still on display!

robellis5Since then Rob’s star has only grown brighter and much of that in my opinion is due to his commitment to continue working at his craft while taking advantage of every opportunity that’s come his way. I think it’s also important to point out the great job that’s been done by WIP Operations Manager Andy Bloom in helping Rob’s development. Every great talent needs a good leader who believes in them and by moving Rob to prime time opposite Anthony Gargano, Andy showed his confidence in Rob’s ability to make a difference.

I exchanged some notes back and forth with Rob on the challenge of doing a 5-hour show, working solo vs. on a team show and what he believes matters each day to his audience and below are the results of our conversation.

Q: Who did you listen to growing up that influenced you to want to pursue a career in this business?

A: I listened to a lot of national and local radio. Nationally I was influenced by Dan Patrick, Bob Costas, John Barr. Locally, Howard Eskin, Jody McDonald, Angelo Cataldi.

Q: What’s your prep process for each day’s show (what do you read, watch, listen to, who do you meet with, when do you get in, etc)?

A: I typically spend 2-3 hours minimum before each show. I read espn.com, philly.com, csnphilly.com, profootballtalk.com, deadpsin, aol.com, tmz.com to name a few. I watch ESPN’s SportsCenter, as well as local CSN, and Fox Sports1. I also will touch base with my contacts/sources with the teams depending on what is happening. And I speak to and or e-mail with my co-host and producer.

Q: You’ve worked solo shows, two-man shows and even three-man shows – what are the biggest challenges and benefits of each?

robellis8A: The biggest challenge of a solo show is you better be prepared. It is all on you, you cannot take a segment off. You could have a game plan that you think will work for a show and it goes no where, so you better have a “Plan B”. Conversely, you may stumble upon something that touches a nerve, if so, roll with it.

The challenge of a two-man is, if you are not driving to a certain extent you are at the mercy of your partner, which can limit what you want to do or how you’d steer the show. It can also be tricky if you agree too much. That can be boring. You need a balance. You cannot be afraid to voice your opinion to your partner if you want  to take things in another direction. Happy medium’s can be a challenge at times.

Three-man shows are tricky because you need to maximize your voice without stifling your co-horts. You must try not to talk over one another which is not an easy task if your are aggressive.

wingbowl2Q: WIP is known for venturing into lifestyle/entertainment subjects in addition to every day sports topics – why do you believe this concept works in your market?

A: I think mixing things up with lifestyle/entertainment is good because it simply breaks things up. Going at the same one or two subjects when doing a local show can become tedious which leads to changing the dial. If you can mix in something about your wife or kids that connects with your audience is a great tool to have. It’s relatable. It can’t be your driving force but it’s a nice change-up.

Q: You’ve climbed the ladder & landed in PM drive opposite Anthony Gargano. In making that jump to prime time, what have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced?

A: My biggest challenge in moving into afternoon drive from being behind the scenes in TV was making myself and my name a brand and a house-hold recognizable commodity. Establishing what my personality is and who I am. I made it a point when we had station debate with other on-air talent such as Angelo Cataldi and Howard Eskin, to go after them and not be afraid to mix it up. Respect but not reverential. I also had to prove myself in the toughest of time slots. 5 hour solo’s during Christmas, late night, delivering when given the shot in day parts from morning to afternoons.

Q: You’re on the air every day for 5 hours – what do you do to stay mentally focused and engaged in every segment?

robellis7A: The biggest key for me is pacing, if the show stays fresh for me by moving it along, it will stay fresh for the audience. I need variety, Topic branches, guests and different takes keep me engaged. Don’t get me wrong, 5 hours is a grind. But if you keep it moving it keeps you as the host mentally in it.

Q: Looking at the layout of a 5-hour program, how many guests do you like to have on during the course of a full show? What’s the reasoning behind your strategy?

A: This one really depends on the day. With 5 hours, I typically like to have at least 2 guests usually spread about two hours apart. But there are days when that varies due to guest availability and breaking news. It really is a feel thing. But with five hours I like to break up host banter and calls with some guests.

Q: How often do you recycle topics during the course of your show? How do you keep those stories/angles fresh?

A: I’m a fan of re-visiting subject matter if it warrants. If we do an interview in our first hour or two (non-drive time) I think it is vital to re-play it in say the five o’clock hour. That is one way. There are also plenty of twists you can put on a story. “How does the LeBron signing impact the 76ers”? As opposed to just five hours of LeBron talk tie it in locally. Pose a question you threw out there in hour two for folks who didn’t hear it or have a chance to react to it via a phone call.

robellis4Q: When it comes to interaction with your audience, why do you believe callers are so critical to the presentation in your market?

A: Calls are a great way to foster and further conversation but they cannot be a crutch. Anyone can be a call jockey. I want calls who give a new take or disagree or agree in an intelligent way. Calls aren’t a right they are a privilege. I do think they are necessary because folks want to have a voice and they want to feel like they are a part of what we are doing. Overall I think interaction is great.

Q: How important do you believe it is for an on-air personality to be accessible and engaged with the audience regularly on social media?

A: It is very important to be accessible but you have to be careful with social media. Always remember you represent your employer. Engaging in a pissing match with a knucklehead on Twitter or Facebook is a losing battle. And your paid to give your opinion on the radio so don’t give a ton out for free. But I think it is very important from a promotional standpoint to use those tools to your advantage.

The Anthony & Rob show featuring Anthony Gargano and Rob Ellis airs weekdays from 1p-6p on SportsRadio 94WIP. To stream the show or catch up on previous audio clips from the show click here.

Sports Radio News

Chick Hearn Headlines Radio Hall of Fame Legends Inductees

Amongst other accolades, he is credited with broadcast 3,338 consecutive Lakers game from November 21, 1965 to December 16, 2001.

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Chick Hearn

The Museum of Broadcast Communications announced today the selection of 10 new Legends inductees into the Radio Hall of Fame for 2022. This distinction honors those in the industry who have contributed greatly to it and have since passed away.

Chick Hearn, the longtime voice of the Los Angeles Lakers, will be amongst those inducted in Chicago next month. Hearn was the voice of the Lakers for 41 years (1961-2002). Amongst other accolades, he is credited with broadcast 3,338 consecutive Lakers game from November 21, 1965 to December 16, 2001.  

The full list of those to be inducted as part of the Legends class are:

  • MrDoug Banks– Nationally syndicated on-air personality;
  • MrJames Brown– Legendary singer, to be inducted as a radio station owner of WJBE Knoxville, TN;
  • MrBob Coburn– Host of the syndicated Rockline show;
  • Mr. Chick Hearn– Play-by-play announcer/voice of the Los Angeles Lakers;
  • MsBernice Judis– Owner and General Manager, WNEW-AM, 1930’s–1950’s;
  • MrSid Mark– Host of syndicated program, Sounds of Sinatra show for 60+ years;
  • Mr. Bobby O’Jay– On-air personality, WDIA-AM/Memphis;
  • MrPervis Spann– On-air personality, WVON-AM/Chicago;
  • Mr. James Thompson– Group W Broadcasting President and President of the Broadcasters Foundation;
  • Ms. Rosalie Trombley– Music Director of CKLW-AM/Detroit in the 1960’s–1970’s.

“The Radio Hall of Fame is dedicated to recognizing the individuals who have made the greatest impact on our 100+ year old industry,” Kraig T. Kitchin, Co-Chairman, Radio Hall of Fame said. “I’m thrilled to see the Nominating Committee confirm the induction of these 10 individuals who each made such an impact on our industry in their time.”    

The Radio Hall of Fame will recognize its 2022 class of inductees, including the class announced in July, during a ceremony on Tuesday, November 1st.

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Sports Radio News

Tobin and Leroy Debut on WQAM Middays

“This is a big change for us,” Tobin said. “I’ve been doing morning drive, producing or hosting now, for the last decade. Now it’s to middays we go.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Tobin and Leroy

After a brief hiatus and the closure of 790 The Ticket, Brendan Tobin and Leroy Hoard officially returned to the Miami airwaves on Monday on 560 WQAM.

Tobin and Leroy debuted in its new midday timeslot of 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on the station.

“This is a big change for us,” Tobin said. “I’ve been doing morning drive, producing or hosting now, for the last decade. Now it’s to middays we go.”

Tobin added that the timing between when they made their exit from The Ticket and returned on WQAM was a bit off.

“It was a very weird week for us to take off last week. Because they were like, ‘Hey, you’re change times, you’re gonna change stations, and also it’s gonna be the busiest sports week of the year,'” he said. “So now we’re back, and nothing will happen this week.”

“There has been less action on days we thought we had to be here than what happened last week,” Hoard added.

Hoard actually arrived to the show late, citing traffic issues getting to the station. That was something even Tobin noted is an adjustment they have to make from when they were doing morning drive.

“We’ve all discovered here today is traffic is not the same at 8 a.m. as it is at 4 a.m.,” he said. “Very different.”

Tobin made sure WQAM listeners knew that even though they switched stations, the show isn’t changing. They continued with all the usual segments that fans know and love on Monday.

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Sports Radio News

Mike Rhyner Introduces Dallas to 97.1 The Freak

“So, where were we?” began Rhyner.

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Ben Torres / Special Contributor Dallas Morning News

There’s a new radio station in Dallas which features a number of personalities familiar to local sports radio listeners. 97.1 The Freak made its much anticipated debut and the first voice to be heard belonged to the ”Old Grey Wolf” Mike Rhyner.

97.1 The Eagle stopped regular programming late Monday morning and began stunting, a technique radio stations use to separate listeners from old programming and prepare them for new content. The station began by playing songs with the word “freak” in them before transitioning into a continuous loop of “The Waiting is the Hardest Part” by Tom Petty until 3p CT. Then, a voiceover detailing the Eagle’s history switched into the voice that Dallas-Forth Worth residents have gotten to know so well, Mike Rhyner.

“So, where were we?” began Rhyner.

Rhyner went on to relive his final moments at The Ticket in Dallas. He said he was getting his “head around being a Paw Paw” before getting a call from Ben Rogers of the Ben and Skin Show and thus an idea for The Freak began to take shape.

After that, the show’s intro music played and Rhyner welcomed in Mike Sirois and before you knew it, the guys were wondering about a quarterback controversy in Dallas.

97.1 The Freak is off and running with a lineup that includes “The Speakeasy,” with Jeff Cavanaugh, Kevin “KT’ Turner, Julie Dobbs, and Matt Cather in mornings (7-11am), “Ben & Skin Show” in middays (11am-3pm) and “The Downbeat” in afternoons (3p-7p) featuring Mike Rhyner alongside Mike Sirois and Michael “Grubes” Gruber.

The station is positioning itself as a lifestyle brand but given its talent connection to local sports radio and the strong interest in Dallas sports, it’s likely the talent will weave sports talk into their on-air discussions. Sports Radio 1310/96.7 The Ticket and 105.3 The Fan have enjoyed good ratings with the male 25-54 demographic and The Freak is expected to challenge them and every other brand that produces spoken word content.

“We’re beyond excited to introduce 97-1 the Freak – the level of talent is insurmountable, and we’re thrilled for the opportunity to further connect with Dallas Fort Worth,” Patrick Davis, Regional Senior Vice President of Programming Dallas, shared in an announcement.

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