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Under The Radar – July 17, 2017

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Is there ever a week where the sports media industry isn’t busy? I keep waiting for one of these periods to emerge where the activity isn’t strong enough to produce a full column yet even on slow weeks, but there’s always something.

Although I’m sure you know the drill by now, I have to be a broken record because new people are also finding the column. If you’d like to have your personal or company news shared with the sports media industry in this article, please pass it along via email to JBarrett@hvy.tcp.mybluehost.me.

Now here are this week’s stories.

Many have inquired about the status of the BSM Podcast. After producing 14 episodes, enough to complete a first full season, a short break was necessary. BSM is happy to report that a new episode will be coming out in the next few days. The first installment of Season 2 is a good one. It features an in-depth conversation with Houston and New Orleans sports radio host Josh Innes. To listen to past episodes click here.

The New York Daily News reported something pretty interested this past weekend. According to Bob Raissman, Clay Travis was offered his own show on FOX Sports 1 by former executive Jamie Horowitz. Except there was one condition – Travis could not discuss politics on television, radio or social media. By taking the job Travis would’ve further elevated his profile and made a ton of money but he declined the offer, choosing instead to stay true to his principles. To read the full article click here.

Although Travis may not be adding a heavy presence on FS1‘s airwaves, the network is scouting others who they feel can enhance their on-air programming. According to Michael McCarthy of the Sporting News, FS1 recently brought in “Today” correspondent and anchor Jenna Wolfe for an audition for their upcoming morning show First Things First which features Nick Wright and Cris Carter. The audition reportedly went well, leading the network to open up discussions with Wolfe and her representatives.

Congratulations is in store for Ryan Ruocco. The ESPN and YES Network play by play announcer and former 98.7FM ESPN NY radio host began hosting a podcast for The Players Tribune with New York Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia. The debut episode features a special appearance by Derek Jeter, and it has quickly shot up the iTunes charts. To take a listen click here.

Meanwhile, one of Ruocco’s former on-air partners, Robin Lundberg, is also in the news. The former ESPN Radio and 98.7FM ESPN New York host stepped in this past Saturday for a few hours on the airwaves of WFAN. Rumors have been circulating about Lundberg being on The Fan’s radar to host a lead-in show to Boomer and Carton, but nothing official has been announced just yet.

Another talented radio personality is diving head first into the podcasting space. Former Houston radio host and current NFL Network draft analyst Lance Zierlein has launched his Off The Script podcast. Zierlein teased an upcoming episode featuring himself and former Astros Lance Berkman and Lance McCullers. He also spoke recently to CultureMap about his decision to leave radio. You can read the interview by clicking here.

A role change could be on the horizon for St. Louis sports radio host and executive Tim McKernan. The 590 The Fan KFNS morning man struck a deal last year with station owner Randy Markel to oversee operations as President and CEO, with the idea being to eventually assume ownership once Markel recouped his investment. However, Markel has been more involved than expected. According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Markel has started talks with McKernan about restructuring his deal and eliminating his ownership stake and CEO and President duties.

Checkpoint Radio continues to gain momentum. The esports show which is hosted by Nate Bender, Robbie Landis, Norris Howard and Joe Sloan has added 101 ESPN in St. Louis and 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia as affiliates. For more information on the show click here.

Unfortunate news out of Boston. Christian Arcand announced on social media that he was laid off by Boston Herald Radio. Arcand is however still hosting WEEI Late Night on the Boston sports radio station.

The news is similar in San Francisco for on-air personality Zakariah. The evening and Athletics Pre/Post game host has been let go by 95.7 The Game. To reach him and discuss future opportunities click here.

Surprising news out of Texas. Rod Babers, who had co-hosted The Sports Buffet on Ticket 760 in San Antonio and AM 1300 The Zone in Austin is no longer active on each stations. Babers and Craig Way had formed a strong team in afternoons but Way left in January to join Austin sports station 104.9 The Horn. With Babers gone, The Ticket afternoon show is being hosted by Chris Duel. AM 1300 has begun airing The Doug Gottlieb Show from FOX Sports Radio.

In Salt Lake City, ESPN 700 (KALL-AM) and the University of Utah and its media rights holder Learfield Utes Sports have extended their broadcast agreement through the 2021-2022 season. The radio station has served as the University’s radio partner for an impressive sixty six years.

The University of Alabama has struck a new deal with Townsquare Media Tuscaloosa. The new agreement is a seven year extension for games to continue airing on Tide 102.9, gospel station Praise 93.3, and country stations 95.3 The Bear and Catfish 1230AM and 100.1FM.

Another play by play agreement has been extended in Bloomington, Illinois. Cumulus Media has signed a new five year deal with Illinois State Athletics and Learfield Redbird Sports Properties. The agreement calls for AM 1230 and 93.7 NASH to continue serving as the flagship stations for Redbird football and men’s basketball.

SportsRadio 850 in Norfolk has expanded its morning show from one hour to two starting Monday July 17th. As a result, Nick Bailey gains an extra sixty minutes to inform and entertain local fans.

Former CBS Radio CEO Dan Mason, who contributes as an analyst for the Horse Racing Radio Network, recently wrote a series on how to break into the horse racing industry. Some of the suggestions he passed along can also transfer to the broadcasting business. To read his latest piece, the fourth part of a five part series, click here.

Sticking with horse racing broadcasting news, the New York Racing Association has added a four-time All-Star to their lineup. Former major league catcher Paul Lo Duca has agreed to become part of the “Saratoga Live” crew. The analytical show runs daily during the 40-day meet for two or two-and-a-half hours and is available on the MSG+ network. Lo Duca will work with Greg Wolf, Andy Serling, Maggie Wolfendale, Tom Amoss and Gabby Gaudet. He’s also expected to contribute on select NYRA broadcasts this the fall when racing returns to Belmont Park.

Congratulations to Dov Kramer of WFAN. The radio station’s executive producer recently celebrated his 30-year anniversary with the radio station.

Washington D.C. radio host Nick Ashooh has launched a website which features audio, video and written pieces. To learn more about it click here.

Many in the sports media business remain curious about the long term prospects of The Athletic. The new digital brand which is reliant on subscriptions has been stacking their talent pool by adding established writers. Stewart Mandel, formerly of FOX Sports and Sports Illustrated, previously announced he’d signed on to write for the website. Now this week, San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami has revealed he too would be joining the platform. Seth Davis, formerly of Sports Illustrated, is also expected to write for the site. For more details click here.

According to The Big Lead, after a company sale and losing its biggest sports asset Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo Sports appears to be ready to add new blood to its sports department. TBL says Pete Thamel is leaving Sports Illustrated to join Yahoo. Thamel covered college football for SI and also worked previously for the New York Times.

Also in the print world, Brian Christopherson has announced that he’s leaving the Lincoln Journal Star after 13 years. Ten of those years involved covering Huskers football. Christopher says he will remain involved covering the Huskers except he’ll be doing so now for 247Sports and Scout Media.

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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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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