When the BSM Summit convenes in Los Angeles at the end of next week, you can be sure plenty of programmers, hosts, and executives will show up looking for ideas and pointers on how they can give their audience more of what it wants.
There will be panels on evaluating talent, social media and digital content, and research and audience analysis amongst an array of other topics. Certainly there will be a lot to learn. One of the most anticipated panels will be the one we are putting together on sports betting and how broadcasters can make the most of that content.
Joe Fortenbaugh of 95.7 the Game’s Joe, Lo, and Dibs will be the moderator. He’s the perfect choice. Fortenbaugh was immersing himself in point spreads, over/unders, and numbers that could swing the money in Vegas long before the US Supreme Court even considered cases involving the federal ban on sports gambling.
He was living at his parents’ home in Pennsylvania, working his ass off and still barely able to save a dime when he decided on a whim to pack up and move to Las Vegas.
In the summer of 2011 Fortenbaugh was part of the National Football Post and was visiting Vegas to try and work out an arrangement with two casinos to do business with his site. During that visit he spent an evening with some professional gamblers. He said it was one of the best nights of his life.
“I remember flying back saying ‘You know what? I gotta get back out West. I’m gonna spend the fall writing about and covering the sports betting industry.'”
Not only was Joe successful in his writing efforts, he also made connections that got him regular guest spots on radio shows. One of those appearances was heard by Jason Barrett, who was programming The Game at the time. That lead to a job offer and an unplanned career in sports radio.
Now in addition to bringing gambling content to his San Francisco audience, he also hosts The Sharp 600. It’s a short podcast where Fortenbaugh gives listeners his best tips and information about upcoming games.
What does he hope attendees can take away from the panel? Fortenbaugh says he wants hosts and PDs to understand that gambling is like anything else in sports radio. It pays to do your research and know what you’re talking about.
“There are a lot of media guys, give them credit, that are talking about (sports gambling) now whether they know it or not. It’s important that they are in the space.
“There aren’t a whole lot of people that have robust backgrounds, that understand how the industry works, that get how both sides of the counter work, that know the terminology, but you see this in everything. You see this in fantasy sports. You’ll see it when guys talk basketball and maybe they don’t know basketball.”
Fortenbaugh says what he wants to hear are less picks and more thoughtful gambling-themed content.
“The key for executives is to find the individuals who know this stuff and who can go on air…and give you credible information. Yes, picks are a big part of it, people love picks. But how can you educate them on this stuff? How can you take them through the process? How can you show them a new way of looking at a game?”
Guys that know their stuff and have credible information. That is a theme when it comes to what the people on this panel at the BSM Summit want from talent that talk about sports gambling. The lack of credible information helped drive the formation of the Vegas Stats and Information Network.
“For years I was frustrated by the absence of a credible news source for sports bettors,” VSiN Founder and Chairman Brian Musburger told me in an email. “Billions of dollars are wagered every year on sports, yet I could not find a source that I could trust. I didn’t want people selling picks or pushing action to unregulated books where I found the content served an agenda.”
Musburger will be on the sports gambling panel at the BSM Summit and knows that his network changed the way a lot of people got the information they wanted before placing a bet. “Most of the shows that existed prior to our launch were time buys where touts marketed shady pick selling services.”
Chad Millman will be on the panel too. He is the Head of Media for The Action Network, a company that has grown by leaps and bounds since the US Supreme Court repealed the federal ban on sports gambling. I asked him if he thought that kind of growth would have been possible even without the Supreme Court ruling.
“We announced the formation of the company in October of 2017 and launched in January, long before the Supreme Court ruling in May. So we were doing this regardless and always felt like there was going to be an audience for this kind of content,” Millman told me. “So our plan from that POV didn’t really change: produce the highest quality pieces, highlight our proprietary data and information, explain what’s happening in the market and entertain, so the broadest possible audience engages with what we are doing.”
The Action Network’s audience is definitely broadening thanks to its talent acquisition. In August of last year the company announced that Rob Perez, better known as World Wide Wob to NBA Twitter, was joining the company. Then in November it was ESPN’s Darren Rovell that came aboard.
“They are hugely important,” Millman said of Perez and Rovell. “They bring credibility, an audience, and recognition. A good portion of the people who follow them and love their content become users of Action by way of their introduction.”
Fortenbaugh says he will never advocate for how air talent and other sports bettors make their picks. All he says is that if you are making picks on air and giving tips to listeners, make sure you’re entertaining and that your analysis is relevant.
It is a position Millman echoes. “I think our user is coming to us to get smarter, go deeper into the game, and get access to our tools and data and research.”
The “entertaining” part comes second at VSiN according to Musberger. “From the beginning, we were looking to put together a team of credible and knowledgeable sports bettors. Most are not professional broadcasters,” he says of VSiN’s on-air lineup.
“Our audience wants people that give them information that provides an edge, and they’re willing to forgive a little lack of polish on delivery if the content is strong. I love that we have put folks on the air that would never be found on traditional broadcasts.”
Both the Action Network and VSiN offer a product that is accessible and also credible. Musburger may argue that his network’s primary concern is accurate, relevant information, but take a listen to VSiN. Hosts like Jonathan Von Tobble, Matt Youmans, and Pauly Howard are very entertaining!
The same can be said of The Action Network. For the sharps there is proprietary information and analytics that make checking out TAN content worth your time, but if you’re just an average sports fan, there is plenty to be entertained by on the podcast network the brand launched in August.
Joe Fortenbaugh, Brian Musburger, and Chad Millman (along with Kip Levin of FanDuel) will have plenty to say and teach at the BSM Summit next week, so plan to be at the sports gambling panel. Millman offered a little free advice for broadcasters trying to wrap their heads around sports gambling for the first time.
There is a bare minimum about your local team every personality should know from a gambling perspective. Millman says it’s “Are they favorites (or) underdogs? What is the spread? What are the majority of bettors thinking about this team?”
Again, that’s the bare minimum. If you want more insight than that, you need to make plans to join us at the BSM Summit next week in LA.
Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing
…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.
In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.
“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.
“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”
Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.
The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?
That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.
You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.
“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”
Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.
Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”
Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”
Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”
Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”
It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.
My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.
My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.
After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.
Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.
Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”
My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.
My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.
Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.
And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.
Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.
A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours.
But is that why you sell sports radio?
In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.
A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family.
Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.
I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.
Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important.
So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.