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Under The Radar – May 23, 2017

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The sports media news cycle continues to spin, and this week’s information includes a number of comings, goings, and new additions. To have your station, company or personal news shared in a future edition of UTR, please pass along all information via email to JBarrett@hvy.tcp.mybluehost.me. Now on to the news.

After 16 years, Matt Abbatacola has left 670 The Score in Chicago. The Chicago sports radio veteran served as a producer, anchor and reporter, and enjoyed a long run as Boers and Bernstein’s executive producer. He turned in his resignation to pursue other opportunities according to Robert Feder’s website.

It’s good to see “The Big DogSteve Duemig back on the airwaves in Tampa at WDAE. After a three month absence from the airwaves and an intense battle with cancer, Duemig returned to his afternoon drive slot last Monday. He says he’s feeling good and is excited to be back. To hear his emotional opening monologue click here.

ESPN 99.3FM in Southwest Florida is adding to its afternoon show. Former WEEI host Pete Sheppard has been brought in to partner with Craig Shemon weekdays from 2p-6p ET. “Shemon and Sheppard” made their debut on the station on Monday afternoon. You can learn more information by visiting the station’s website 993ESPN.com

Former ESPN Cleveland 850 WKNR talk show host Mark “Munch” Bishop has resurfaced. Bishop has signed on to host afternoons for FOX Sports Radio 1350 in Akron, Ohio. In addition to being offered locally, Bishop’s program will receive regional syndication on The Sports Animal in Youngstown, and FOX Sports Radio 1340 in Mansfield.

Joe Raineri is back on the south Florida airwaves again. The former sports talk show host on Alpha Media’s FOX Sports Radio 640 has made a format switch. Raineri is now hosting mornings on Revolution Radio 93.5FM. The station bills itself as an electronic dance station.

A new midday show is launching in June on FOX Sports Knoxville. The station has confirmed that “Talk Sports” will debut June 19th and air weekdays from 10a-1p ET. The show will be hosted by Jon Reed and Boomer Dangel.

Coming up on Saturday June 3rd, Mad Dog Sports Radio‘s Morning Men featuring Evan Cohen and Mike Babchik will present their fan appreciation party, FALCon 2017. For information on how you can attend the event click here.

101 ESPN in St. Louis is hosting its 4th Annual Baseball Camp for Kids, which gives kids ages 6-13 a chance to learn the fundamentals of baseball from a few of its hosts, who just so happen to possess on the field credibility. The event takes place at GCS Ballpark on June 3rd! Former Cardinals and World Series Champions Chris Duncan (middays) and Brad Thompson (afternoon show), and former Miami University Baseball Player Kevin Wheeler (middays) will serve as primary instructors. For more information on the promotion click here.

Congratulations to Ryan Chell who has signed on with WFNZ in Charlotte as producer of Primetime with Chris Kroeger. Chell previously worked for SiriusXM in Washington D.C. before making the move.

Ryan Radtke is leaving his position as the University of Nevada Wolf Pack‘s play-by-play voice of football and men’s basketball in order to join Westwood One as a play-by-play announcer for college football, college basketball and other sporting events. Radtke spent nine years calling Wolf Pack games and also served as the voice of the Reno Aces minor league baseball team.

New agreements have been secured by Learfield Sports with two of its existing partners. The broadcast group has extended their partnership with Utah State University and the University of North Dakota.

Alpha Media has launched a brand new sports radio station in Peoria, Illinois. The Larry Wilson led company has introduced 95.9 The Sports Nut to local listeners. The station’s programming will be largely provided by FOX Sports Radio. A local show is being hosted by Scott Robbins from 4p-6p CT.

In Nashville, ESPN 94.9 The Game 2 has added a weekly Soccer show on Saturday mornings at 8am ET. The show, which has been created in conjunction with the Nashville Soccer Club, will feature Julian Council, hosting alongside different members of the club’s front office and coaching staff. To read the press release click here.

Paul Esden Jr. has been hired as a producer at 1260 The Score in Syracuse. Esden previously worked for ESPN Syracuse 97.7 and 100.1.

Speaking of producer hires, congratulations to Gavin Kinsel who’s been named Executive Producer of the NBA on TuneIn.

Gary Lawless has left the Winnipeg Free-Press and TSN in order to join the NHL’s new expansion franchise the Las Vegas Golden Knights. Lawless worked his final shift in Winnipeg on Friday and is in transition to the city of sin. You can read his introductory column to Golden Knights fans by clicking here.

Sports Radio News

49ers-Cowboys Wild Card Game Draws Over 41 Million Viewers For CBS, Nickelodeon

The main CBS broadcast and alternate telecast on Nickelodeon combined to average 41.496 million viewers.

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Sunday’s NFL Wild Card playoff game between the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys was bound to attract a large audience.

The game featured a classic matchup between two of the league’s most accomplished teams. The Cowboys are always a big television draw. Add the 4:30 p.m. ET kickoff that appears to be most fans’ ideal viewing time and everything was in place for big ratings.

Sure enough, CBS was rewarded with huge numbers for Sunday’s telecast. According to the network, the 49ers-Cowboys game earned the highest viewership for an NFL Wild Card playoff game since 2015. (Dallas played the Detroit Lions in that context, televised on Fox.)

The main CBS broadcast and alternate telecast on Nickelodeon combined to average 41.496 million viewers. What became a close, thrilling game resulting in a 23-17 49ers victory attracted 50.229 million viewers at its conclusion.

That viewership is a 35 percent increase from the audience for the networks’ Wild Card game (a less appealing matchup between the Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints). And for CBS, it was the network’s most-watched Wild Card playoff game in 10 years. (Pittsburgh-Denver averaged 42.371 viewers in 2012.)

The 49ers-Cowboys broadcast also drew big numbers for ViacomCBS’s Paramount+ streaming service, notching the largest audience for a non-Super Bowl game.

NBC also drew an impressive for its Sunday night Wild Card playoff broadcast. The Steelers-Chiefs primetime matchup averaged 30.5 million viewers across the regular NBC telecast, in addition to the Telemundo, Peacock, NBC Sports Digital, and NFL Digital platforms. NBC’s audience of 28.9 million viewers was the highest primetime TV audience since last year’s Super Bowl LV.

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Sports Radio News

Adam Schefter Still Yet To Finish ESPN Orientation

“All of a sudden, I get a text saying we need you on SportsCenter, Plaxico Burress just got arrested.”

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When Adam Schefter joined ESPN in August 2009, he was supposed to go into Bristol one day for his orientation. But then, NFL news happened which caused his orientation to be delayed and, well, it has never happened since.

Schefter talked about that experience on his podcast, The Adam Schefter Podcast, when he was interviewing the newest member of the ESPN team, college football senior writer Pete Thamel. Thamel was starting his orientation this week. However, since college football is in the early stages of its offseason, it is less likely that his orientation will be halted by major breaking news.

Here is what Schefter had to say about why he had to miss orientation:

“When I was doing orientation, the plan was to drive to Bristol and then Tuesday, August 20, at 9 AM, I was going to go through orientation. Monday morning, as I was driving up to Bristol from New York, Brett Favre took off from Mississippi to land in Minnesota to sign with the Vikings and I’m doing live hits.”

“The next day, when I was supposed to do my orientation at 9 AM, I showed up at the front door about 8:50 right above the café and all of a sudden, I get a text saying we need you on SportsCenter, Plaxico Burress just got arrested (pled guilty to weapons charge) … I said to the orientators, excuse me, I have to go do SportsCenter. 12.5, 13 years later, I still have not had my orientation at ESPN.”

As for Thamel, he is looking forward to a new challenge at ESPN after writing for established places such as The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, and Yahoo! Thamel is looking forward to being able to do more television and video with his reporting and has received help from other notable ESPN insiders:

I just think having a new forum to tell stories in a different vehicle and a different way and maybe do some video storytelling, maybe utilizing information in different ways other than Twitter. Mastering a new skill, quite frankly. I’ve been on television, video, but I think that becoming a part of what I do is going to be a really fun challenge.”

“I know enough of that space to know that it is not hard to be okay, but it is hard to be great. It’s going to take a lot of reps and a lot of coaching. Many people at ESPN volunteered to be my coaches on that stuff. Jeff Passan has been great giving advice. Woj has obviously been awesome in that space. There will be a learning curve and the difference here is there is no delete button for your mistake.”

So, what is Thamel looking to accomplish while at ESPN? He wants to help people enjoy college sports differently:

“I expect to help the viewers and the readers enjoy college sports in a different way through information and storytelling. I expect and hope to really utilize all the different arms of ESPN to help enhance people’s enjoyment of college football. I hope to channel the energy of my passion and use the power of ESPN’s reach to tell great stories, to give great information, and help make the games a little better, the characters a little bit more alive.”

This episode provides a good mix of the listener learning more about ESPN’s new college football senior writer and Schefter telling stories about his early days at ESPN, sharing a funny experience like missing his orientation. 

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Power Trip Wants To Know Why Marney Gellnar Kept NSMA Award Secret

“Gellner disclosed that she had known about the honor weeks prior to it being announced via a phone call she received.”

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The National Sports Media Association announced its yearly award winners at both the state and national levels Tuesday afternoon. KFAN’s The Power Trip spoke to one of their colleagues who serves as a field/sideline reporter for the MLB’s Minnesota Twins and NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves on Bally Sports North, and as the play-by-play voice for the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx. Gellner has been working professionally in sports media since 1996, and was just named Minnesota Sportscaster of the Year by the National Sports Media Association. In her normal Wednesday morning shift on KFAN, her colleagues congratulated her on the honor and turned it into on-air banter centered around technicalities and betting.

“We’re very happy for you, but we’re a little confused,” said on-air host Cory Cove, who has been with KFAN since 2002. “We’re all Minnesota broadcasters, so… we’re proud of you, but by default since you won ‘Minnesota Sports Broadcaster of the Year,’ then technically the five of us are losers because we should have been at least nominated or considered but we [got] our asses kicked by you.”

“I was thinking it, but I didn’t want to say it,” Gellner responded.

Gellner disclosed that she had known about the honor weeks prior to it being announced via a phone call she received. With the increasing prevalence of sports betting within the sports media landscape, the hosts of The Power Trip were disappointed in the fact that they were not afforded this insider information.

“You’ve been sitting on it for two weeks,” said Paul “Meatsauce” Lambert, co-host of The Power Trip. “Why didn’t you tell us so we could bet on it?”

Betting with inside information about the most likely outcome provoked Cove’s reminiscence of a previous bet he made with longtime KFAN host Mark Rosen about Justin Timberlake’s Super Bowl LII Halftime Show performance in Minnesota.

While Rosen has never admitted it, Cove claims that he had inside information about the plans for the halftime show, most notably that Prince was going to be referenced by Timberlake. When the opportunity presented itself to make a bet on the late Minneapolis native being mentioned, he swiftly put down $100 on it.

“He knew Prince was going to be referenced at the Justin Timberlake halftime show here,” explained Cove. “He 1000% deserved to take my money because if you can’t stop the sucker within the first thirty minutes at the table, then you are the sucker. I walked right into the trap.”

While Gellner did not bet on herself winning the Minnesota Sports Broadcaster of the Year Award, she claimed to have received a million dollars in prize money on the air, something that caused Paul “Meatsauce” Lambert to worry about the “size of her head.”

“I would be,” replied Gellner. “Starting to look like ‘Sauce over here.”

The studio erupted with laughter after that punchline, with its meaning being interpreted more literally than figuratively. Nonetheless, Gellner’s Minnesota Sportscaster of the Year win marks the first of her career, putting her on a list with another prominent broadcaster and colleague.

“You know who has won the Minnesota Sports Broadcaster of the Year before? [Rosen.] 15 times, I think. He’s got $15 million because of it,” remarked Gellner.

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