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Under The Radar – February 6, 2018

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A week on radio row in Minneapolis was the focus for most sports radio broadcasters last week. While everyone was busy chasing down guests, riding roller coasters, braving the elements, and dining at Shake Shack, news was being made throughout the industry. Here are some of the developments you might have missed. As always, please pass along any news tips via email to JBarrett@hvy.tcp.mybluehost.me.

Unrelated to this week’s UTR news, I want to applaud the city of Minneapolis for being a great Super Bowl host city. The people were friendly, transportation was readily available, security moved people along smoothly at the airport and the city looked fantastic. This was my third time visiting and I’ve enjoyed each experience.

I wish I could say the same for the NFL which doesn’t undervalues the support it receives from radio partners on radio row. Cramming 100+ stations into a tight space outside of a food court made it extremely difficult for hosts and guests to move around. It was even more noticeable when shows left their tables to grab a bite or use the bathroom during commercial breaks and had to fight crowds to get back on the air in time.

One particular story which was relayed to me involved a wounded warrior needing to get out of his wheelchair (it wouldn’t fit thru the small walking space) and crawl to a guest appearance a few tables away. I also personally witnessed a woman with an infant child in a stroller and young child holding her hand almost get trampled and have the stroller flipped by a mob of people trying to get close to Terrell Owens. I understand the public’s passion to meet players but people shouldn’t be put in a position of danger in the process.

I did like the visuals for stations broadcasting inside the Mall of America. It looked great on TV and social media. The check in process was much smoother and the back and forth jousting between Patriots and Eagles fans added additional entertainment value to the week. A verbal spat between two hosts/stations gave folks additional material to work with.

From a location standpoint, choosing the Mall of America made a ton of sense. What I don’t understand though is why the NFL didn’t work with the largest mall in the country to provide enough space for shows and stations to operate let alone be able to walk, store equipment or even stretch their arms or legs. These stations dedicate dollars, manpower, and hours of programming to selling the NFL’s final game of their season. Hopefully they take that into deeper consideration when planning future Super Bowl weeks.

Now on to the news!

680 The Fan has made a change to its weekday lineup. “The Front Row” which features Steak Shapiro, Brian Finneran and Sandra Golden has moved from middays to mornings. Chris Dimino and Nick Cellini shift from mornings to middays. The new schedule went into affect on Monday.

Congratulations to Dan Bennett, Jeff Catlin, Bruce Gilbert and the entire Cumulus Dallas team on the 24-year anniversary of Sports Radio 1310 The Ticket. The Dallas Morning News ran a few stories highlighting the station’s start and popular moments along the way. To read about the birth of the station click here. For insight on the creation and popularity of the Fake Jerry Jones click here. For a firsthand account of the station’s first 24-hours click here.

Red Zebra Broadcasting in Washington DC has chosen to re-brand ESPN 980. The radio station has dropped ESPN from its name and embraced the new moniker, The Team 980. The station planned to make the change last Wednesday morning but when the Redskins traded for Alex Smith on Tuesday night, on-air plans had to be changed and the station decided to let the cat out of the bag early. For more on the story click here.

WEEI in Boston has announced a renewal of Patriots Monday and Friday with the defending AFC champions. The partnership between Entercom Boston and the New England Patriots began in 1995 and expanded in 2008. It includes weekly appearances during the NFL season by Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and other Patriots players. The deal is said to be a multi-year agreement. For more click here.

Former WWE wrestler Mark Henry, who made a few hosting appearances in Austin, Texas on AM 1300 The Zone, has apparently caught the radio bug. “The World’s Strongest Man” has agreed to join SiriusXM‘s ‘Busted Open’ as a third host alongside David LaGreca and Bully Ray on Tuesdays. The show airs on SiriusXM Rush 93 from 9a-12p ET.

103.7 The Buzz in Little Rock, Arkansas came under fire for running its annual “Babe Bracket” contest. The promotion has been in existence for over two decades and pits 16 female anchors and reporters against each other with the audience determining who advances. A poll which ran afterwards asking local fans if the bracket should be ended produced a 60-40 result in favor of it continuing. To read more click here.

As bankruptcy issues occupy the focus of Cumulus Media, the situation created an opportunity for 670 The Score. The Chicago sports radio station was able to lure away the radio rights to the Chicago Bulls from Cumulus NewsTalk station WLS. The Bulls played their first game on The Score this past Saturday. Chuck Swirsky and Bill Wennington remain on board as the radio broadcast team.

Jim Henderson is riding off into the sunset. The longtime radio voice of the New Orleans Saints has decided it’s time to turn off his microphone and hand the reigns to someone else. Henderson had been part of the Saints broadcast on the team’s flagship station WWL since 1986.

Behind the scenes news worth sharing from Nashville. Congratulations to Chase McCabe of 102.5 The Game who was recently promoted to Assistant Program Director. McCabe has been with the station for six years and will be counted on by PD Ryan Porth to help the station continue growing. Part of his new responsibilities include serving as the Executive Producer of the station’s morning show.

Meanwhile in Cleveland, former Detroit Sports 105.1 host and contributor Jake Chapman has been named executive producer of 92.3 The Fan‘s midday show, ‘Baskin and Phelps’ and the Cleveland Browns radio network. For Chapman it’s an opportunity to return to his home state after stints in Michigan and Florida.

In the Pacific Northwest, the Seattle Mariners have confirmed the addition of Gary Hill Jr. as the team’s new Executive Producer of Mariners broadcasts. Seattle’s games are heard on radio on 710 ESPN Seattle.

AJ Hawk will reunite with Anthony Rothman on 97.1 The Fan in Columbus starting March 5th. “Off-Season with AJ Hawk” will air each Monday from noon to 1pm ET. The show will be part of the station’s schedule until late August. Hawk will also join Rothman and his on-air partner Bobby Carpenter on Football Friday’s during the fall.

Lineup changes were made in Phoenix at 1580 The Fanatic. Shawn Crespin is now teaming in mornings with Michael Bauer. Craig Fouhy is hosting 12p-1p after previously working the 9a-10a shift. Tim and Jake Montemayor and Jeff Dean are no longer part of the M-F lineup. No word on why the station elected to switch things up.

The Pioneer Press in Minneapolis wrote a good piece on broadcasting from radio row during the week of the Super Bowl. To check it out click here.

MLS broadcasting news out of Atlanta. Mike Conti has been named the new play by play voice of the Atlanta United. Jason Longshore returns for his second season as the team’s color analyst. United games air locally on 92.9 The Game.

Townsquare Media’s 92.9 The Ticket has signed on as the new Boston Red Sox affiliate in Bangor, ME. The Sox previously aired their games on The Pulse 620AM WZON which recently underwent a format change.

All the best to Rob Johnson on his new opportunity hosting weekdays from 4p-6p CT on Sports Radio KMIS 1050AM/103.9FM in southeast Missouri. Johnson’s program ‘Making The Play’ was added to the station’s lineup yesterday.

Good news has found its way to Jake Brown‘s doorstep. The CBS Radio digital host and contributor has accepted an opportunity with MLB.com to become an Associate Site Manager. Brown says the new position won’t affect his ability to continue hosting ‘The Jake Brown Show’ for Radio.com or contributing for SNY.

In minor league baseball broadcasting news, Melanie Newman has been hired by the Frisco Rough Riders as their #2 broadcaster. Newman will be counted on to provide human interest and video pieces for the team and FOX Sports Southwest.

Switching to the television world, Michelle Margaux has been named the new in-game reporter for the Tampa Bay Rays. Rays games air in the Tampa market on FOX Sports Sun.

Jeff Wallner has been added to WCPO‘s coverage of the Cincinnati Reds for the 2018 season. Wallner says he’ll contribute more features and analysis this season than nuts and bolts game coverage.

In the Bay Area, Kerry Crowley has signed on as the new San Francisco Giants beat reporter for the Bay Area News Group. Crowley’s written, audio and video work will appear in both the Mercury News and East Bay Times.

And Nashville’s A to Z Sports has announced that Zach Ragan has signed on to cover the Tennessee Titans and Volunteers. Ragan’s first piece for A to Z’s website was published last week.

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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ESPN Images

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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