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3 Good Reasons You Need a Good Third Mic

Demetri Ravanos

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I am a firm believer that every show that is personality driven and either free of music entirely or plays only very little of it needs a good third mic. It goes without saying that a great host is needed to steer the conversation, and of course you need a co-host that is a master at his craft, whether it is adding perspective or fun to the proceedings. But if you can put a third voice on your show, that voice can take the proceedings to a new level.

That third voice can be an on-air producer, like Mike Ryan on the Dan Le Batard Show, or a rotation of regular guests. That is what Sports Radio 610 in Houston has said it will do for its afternoon show, The Triple Threat, after the departure of Ted Johnson. Some stations simply go with a three host show. That is the set up for successful shows like 3HL on 104.5 the Zone in Nashville.

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Can you do a good show with fewer than three voices? Sure you can, but I am going to give you three good reasons you need a good third mic. 

1. IT GIVES THE LISTENERS MORE OF THE SHOW

I’m a big fan of Petros and Money on AM 570 in LA. I like the show because I like the hosts. I like the cast. It’s not that I don’t want to hear them take calls or interview guests. Hell, Lance Romance and Friday Night Film Fight are two of my favorite caller-driven bits in sports radio, but I became a fan of the show because I find its cast super entertaining.

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More voices makes a show sound bigger, like a party even. Think about sitting at a bar with a buddy after work. it is just the two of you and you’re arguing about sports. That’s an intimate conversation, right? Well, it’s meant to be, let’s say you’re in that situation and another guy at the bar overhears you debating MJ vs LeBron. If he’s a basketball fan chances are he won’t stay silent. He might chime in with the case for Kobe. His argument is stupid because, I mean…come on. But he’s a part of this now.

More voices in a discussion invites more ears. You and your friend debating can stay one-on-one. It can be a very exclusive thing, but add that third voice and suddenly the bartender needs to tell you that rings are all that matters and Jordan has 6 of them! That invites the old barfly that has been sitting on his stool since at least 2 hours before you came in to shout that if rings mean everything, you can all kiss Bill Russell’s ass! And that leads us to point number two.

2. A THIRD MIC FUNCTIONS AS THE VOICE OF THE LISTENERS

Like in our bar scenario, everyone wants their voice heard. A third mic doesn’t need the same credibility or access that the show’s anchor does. A third mic is free to be divisive with his or her opinions. They’re free to be uninformed and shoot from the hip. It doesn’t damage the station or show’s credibility because it can be positioned as the third mic is an outsider.

One of the best third mics I’ve ever heard, regardless of format, is Jim Norton. Now he hosts his own show with Sam Roberts on SiriusXM, but he started in radio as the third mic on the Opie and Anthony Show.

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When he was on that show, I once heard Norton talk about his prep routine as none at all. “I might read a few stories in the paper or on my phone, but I just want to come in and react to what those guys are saying.” It may sound frustrating to hear that a guy on a show that big walked in the door five minutes to air time as part of his strategy, but that’s what made Jim a perfect voice for the listeners.

Your listeners aren’t steeped in the details of every story you talk about. They don’t have the connections that can give them inside information. You give your opinion. They likely are hearing it for the first time and want to react to it. Having someone in the room that is thinking the same way is a great way to connect with your audience without turning your show into three hours of you reacting to phone calls about who the Bills should start at quarterback.

3. THERE’S SOMEONE IN THE ROOM ALWAYS THINKING ABOUT THE NEXT STEP

You could read that headline and think it only applies to shows that do bits and take a very silly approach to sports. Maybe you’re right that having someone always thinking about where to go next with a topic is more valuable to that kind of show, but every show can benefit from having someone in the cast that is the designated long-term thinker.

I once interviewed for a third mic position on a show that was still being assembled. The PD asked me why he would want me in that chair. I told him because I’m funny and I’m always thinking about the third day of a topic.

That’s not to say I am the world’s best third mic. I didn’t end up getting the job, after all, but if I were designing a show, I would want at least one person thinking about what angle we can take on a topic when it’s something every sports media outlet has already been talking about for two days.

Let’s use Jalen Hurts’s recent comments about the Alabama coaching staff not talking much with him about the team’s quarterback situation during training camp as an example. If I’m a PD in Alabama and I have already heard my morning show talk about how Nick Saban will react, what it means for Jalen’s future with the team, does this divide the locker room, and what does the school owe a player like Jalen Hurts, it feels like the topic is pretty exhausted right? But this is still the biggest local story three days later.

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If people are still talking about it, I guess you could rehash some of those same conversations. Personally, I would want to have someone on the show that can say “You know what we haven’t talked about yet? This is the same thing Blake Barnett said in 2016 when he left and the same thing Cooper Bateman said last year when he left. Does a third quarterback saying this about Nick Saban send up red flags with high school coaches? Is this the kind of thing they might pay attention to and a reason they might tell their top quarterback prospects to steer clear of Alabama?”.

That is the kind of role that a strong third mic can fill. His or her only roll is to ask the question. It’s up to the producer (who may be the same guy) to find the guest that can answer it. It’s up to the host to provide the knowledge to answer it. It’s up to the co-host to provide the perspective that gives the answer some weight.

I fully subscribe to the idea that when it comes to radio, bigger is better. A show is always more entertaining when there are more voices. Two hosts are usually better than one and some PDs are content to settle there, but adding that third voice cuts down on the need for callers and guests and gives listeners more of what they tuned in for: THE SHOW!

BSM Writers

The Future Is Now, Embrace Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+

As annoying as streaming sports is and as much as I haven’t fully adapted to the habit yet, Amazon and Apple have done a magnificent job of trying to make the process as easy and simplified as possible.

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This week has been a reckoning for sports and its streaming future on Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+, ESPN+, and more.

Amazon announced that Thursday Night Football, which averaged 13 million viewers, generated the highest number of U.S. sign ups over a three hour period in the app’s history. More people in the United States subscribed to Prime during the September 15th broadcast than they did during Black Friday, Prime Day, and Cyber Monday. It was also “the most watched night of primetime in Prime Video’s history,” according to Amazon executive Jay Marine. The NFL and sports in general have the power to move mountains even for some of the nation’s biggest and most successful brands.

This leads us to the conversation happening surrounding Aaron Judge’s chase for history. Judge has been in pursuit of former major leaguer Roger Maris’ record for the most home runs hit during one season in American League history.

The sports world has turned its attention to the Yankees causing national rights holders such as ESPN, Fox, and TBS to pick up extra games in hopes that they capture the moment history is made. Apple TV+ also happened to have a Yankees game scheduled for Friday night against the Red Sox right in the middle of this chase for glory.

Baseball fans have been wildin’ out at the prospects of missing the grand moment when Judge passes Maris or even the moments afterwards as Judge chases home run number 70 and tries to truly create monumental history of his own. The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand has even reported there were talks between YES, MLB, and Apple to bring Michael Kay into Apple’s broadcast to call the game, allow YES Network to air its own production of the game, or allow YES Network to simulcast Apple TV+’s broadcast. In my opinion, all of this hysteria is extremely bogus.

As annoying as streaming sports is and as much as I haven’t fully adapted to the habit yet, Amazon and Apple have done a magnificent job of trying to make the process as easy and simplified as possible. Amazon brought in NBC to help with production of TNF and if you watch the flow of the broadcast, the graphics of the broadcast, NBC personalities like Michael Smith, Al Michaels, and Terry McAuliffe make appearances on the telecast – it is very clear that the network’s imprint is all over the show.

NBC’s experience in conducting the broadcast has made the viewing experience much more seamless. Apple has also used MLB Network and its personalities for assistance in ensuring there’s no major difference between what you see on air vs. what you’re streaming.

Amazon and Apple have also decided to not hide their games behind a paywall. Since the beginning of the season, all of Apple’s games have been available free of charge. No subscription has ever been required. As long as you have an Apple device and can download Apple TV+, you can watch their MLB package this season.

Guess what? Friday’s game against the Red Sox is also available for free on your iPhone, your laptop, or your TV simply by downloading the AppleTV app. Amazon will also simulcast all Thursday Night Football games on Twitch for free. It may be a little harder or confusing to find the free options, but they are out there and they are legal and, once again, they are free.

Apple has invested $85 million into baseball, money that will go towards your team becoming better hypothetically. They’ve invested money towards creating a new kind of streaming experience. Why in the hell would they offer YES Network this game for free? There’s no better way for them to drive subscriptions to their product than by offering fans a chance at watching history on their platform.

A moment like this are the main reason Apple paid for rights in the first place. When Apple sees what the NFL has done for Amazon in just one week and coincidentally has the ability to broadcast one of the biggest moments in baseball history – it would be a terrible business decision to let viewers watch it outside of the Apple ecosystem and lose the ability to gain new fans.

It’s time for sports fans to grow up and face reality. Streaming is here to stay. 

MLB Network is another option

If you don’t feel like going through the hassle of watching the Yankees take on the Red Sox for free on Apple TV+, MLB Network will also air all of Judge’s at bats live as they are happening. In case the moment doesn’t happen on Apple TV+ on Friday night, Judge’s next games will air in full on MLB Network (Saturday), ESPN (Sunday), MLB Network again (Monday), TBS (Tuesday) and MLB Network for a third time on Wednesday. All of MLB Network’s games will be simulcast of YES Network’s local New York broadcast. It wouldn’t shock me to see Fox pick up another game next Thursday if the pursuit still maintains national interest.

Quick bites

  • One of the weirdest things about the experience of streaming sports is that you lose the desire to channel surf. Is that a good thing or bad thing? Brandon Ross of LightShed Ventures wonders if the difficulty that comes with going from app to app will help Amazon keep viewers on TNF the entire time no matter what the score of the game is. If it does, Amazon needs to work on developing programming to surround the games or start replaying the games, pre and post shows so that when you fall asleep and wake up you’re still on the same stream on Prime Video or so that coming to Prime Video for sports becomes just as much of a habit for fans as tuning in to ESPN is.
  • CNN has announced the launch of a new morning show with Don Lemon, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlin Collins. Variety reports, “Two people familiar with plans for the show say it is likely to use big Warner Bros. properties — a visit from the cast of HBO’s Succession or sports analysis from TNT’s NBA crew — to lure eyeballs.” It’ll be interesting to see if Turner Sports becomes a cornerstone of this broadcast. Will the NBA start doing schedule releases during the show? Will a big Taylor Rooks interview debut on this show before it appears on B/R? Will the Stanley Cup or Final Four MVP do an interview on CNN’s show the morning after winning the title? Does the show do remote broadcasts from Turner’s biggest sports events throughout the year?
  • The Clippers are back on over the air television. They announced a deal with Nexstar to broadcast games on KTLA and other Nexstar owned affiliates in California. The team hasn’t reached a deal to air games on Bally Sports SoCal or Bally Sports Plus for the upcoming season. Could the Clippers pursue a solo route and start their own OTT service in time for the season? Are they talking to Apple, Amazon, or ESPN about a local streaming deal? Is Spectrum a possible destination? I think these are all possibilities but its likely that the Clippers end up back on Bally Sports since its the status quo. I just find it interesting that it has taken so long to solidify an agreement and that it wasn’t announced in conjunction with the KTLA deal. The Clippers are finally healthy this season, moving into a new arena soon, have the technology via Second Spectrum to produce immersive game casts. Maybe something is brewing?
  • ESPN’s Monday Night Football double box was a great concept. The execution sucked. Kudos to ESPN for adjusting on the fly once complaints began to lodge across social media. I think the double box works as a separate feed. ESPN2 should’ve been the home to the double box. SVP and Stanford Steve could’ve held a watch party from ESPN’s DC studio with special guests. The double box watch party on ESPN2 could’ve been interrupted whenever SVP was giving an update on games for ESPN and ABC. It would give ESPN2 a bit of a behind the scenes look at how the magic happens similarly to what MLB Tonight did last week. Credit to ESPN and the NFL for experimenting and continuing to try and give fans unique experiences.

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BSM Writers

ESPN Shows Foresight With Monday Night Football Doubleheader Timing

ESPN is obviously testing something, and it’s worth poking around at why the network wouldn’t follow the schedule it has used for the last 16 years, scheduling kickoffs at 7 and then 10 on their primary channel.

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The Monday Night Football doubleheader was a little bit different this time around for ESPN.

First, it came in Week 2 instead of Week 1. And then, the games were staggered 75 minutes apart on two different channels, the Titans and Bills beginning on ESPN at 7:15 PM ET and the Vikings at the Eagles starting at 8:30 PM on ABC and ESPN+. This was a departure from the usual schedule in which the games kicked off at 7:00 PM ET and then 10:00 PM ET with the latter game on the West Coast.

ESPN is obviously testing something, and it’s worth poking around at why the network wouldn’t follow the schedule it has used for the last 16 years, scheduling kickoffs at 7:00 PM and then 10:00 PM ET on their primary channel. That’s the typical approach, right? The NFL is the most valuable offering in all of sports and ESPN would have at least six consecutive hours of live programming without any other game to switch to.

Instead, they staggered the starts so the second game kicked off just before the first game reached halftime. They placed the games on two different channels, which risked cannibalizing their audience. Why? Well, it’s the same reason that ESPN was so excited about the last year’s Manningcast that it’s bringing it back for 10 weeks this season. ESPN is not just recognizing the reality of how their customers behave, but they’re embracing it.

Instead of hoping with everything they have that the customer stays in one place for the duration of the game, they’re recognizing the reality that they will leave and providing another product within their portfolio to be a destination when they do.

It’s the kind of experiment everyone in broadcasting should be investigating because, for all the talk about meeting the customer where they are, we still tend to be a little bit stubborn about adapting to what they do. 

Customers have more choices than ever when it comes to media consumption. First, cable networks softened the distribution advantages of broadcast networks, and now digital offerings have eroded the distribution advantages of cable networks. It’s not quite a free-for-all, but the battle for viewership is more intense, more wide open than ever because that viewer has so many options of not just when and where but how they will consume media.

Programmers have a choice in how to react to this. On the one hand, they can hold on tighter to the existing model and try to squeeze as much out of it as they can. If ESPN was thinking this way it would stack those two Monday night games one after the other just like it always has and hope like hell for a couple of close games to juice the ratings. Why would you make it impossible for your customer to watch both of these products you’ve paid so much to televise?

I’ve heard radio programmers and hosts recite take this same approach for more than 10 years now when it comes to making shows available on-demand. Why would you give your customers the option of consuming the product in a way that’s not as remunerative or in a way that is not measured?

That thinking is outdated and it is dangerous from an economic perspective because it means you’re trying to make the customer behave in your best interest by restricting their choices. And maybe that will work. Maybe they like that program enough that they’ll consume it in the way you’d prefer or maybe they decide that’s inconvenient or annoying or they decide to try something else and now this customer who would have listened to your product in an on-demand format is choosing to listen to someone else’s product entirely.

After all, you’re the only one that is restricting that customer’s choices because you’re the only one with a desire to keep your customer where he is. Everyone else is more than happy to give your customer something else. 

There’s a danger in holding on too tightly to the existing model because the tighter you squeeze, the more customers will slip through your fingers, and if you need a physical demonstration to complete this metaphor go grab a handful of sand and squeeze it hard.

Your business model is only as good as its ability to predict the behavior of your customers, and as soon as it stops doing that, you need to adjust that business model. Don’t just recognize the reality that customers today will exercise the freedom that all these media choices provide, embrace it.

Offer more products. Experiment with more ways to deliver those products. The more you attempt to dictate the terms of your customer’s engagement with your product, the more customers you’ll lose, and by accepting this you’ll open yourself to the reality that if your customer is going to leave your main offering, it’s better to have them hopping to another one of your products as opposed to leaving your network entirely.

Think in terms of depth of engagement, and breadth of experience. That’s clearly what ESPN is doing because conventional thinking would see the Manningcast as a program that competes with the main Monday Night Football broadcast, that cannibalizes it. ESPN sees it as a complimentary experience. An addition to the main broadcast, but it also has the benefit that if the customer feels compelled to jump away from the main broadcast – for whatever reason – it has another ESPN offering that they may land on.

I’ll be watching to see what ESPN decides going forward. The network will have three Monday Night Football doubleheaders beginning next year, and the game times have not been set. Will they line them up back-to-back as they had up until this year? If they do it will be a vote of confidence that its traditional programming approach that evening is still viable. But if they overlap those games going forward, it’s another sign that less is not more when it comes to giving your customers a choice in products.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: Sunday Ticket Has Problems, Marcellus Wiley Does Not

Demetri Ravanos

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On this episode of Media Noise, Demetri is joined by Brian Noe to talk about the wild year FS1’s Marcellus Wiley has had and by Garrett Searight to discuss the tumultuous present and bright future of NFL Sunday Ticket.

ITunes: https://buff.ly/3PjJWpO

Spotify: https://buff.ly/3AVwa90

iHeart: https://buff.ly/3cbINCp

Google: https://buff.ly/3PbgHWx

Amazon: https://buff.ly/3cbIOpX

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