In southeastern Tennessee, along the Tennessee River in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, lies the bustling city of Chattanooga. The rapidly-growing city, that’s the fourth-largest in the state, is known for a few things, but probably best-known best for its Civil War history and beautiful landscape that makes it one of the most picturesque towns in the south. But if you think Chattanooga is all about re-enactments of the Battle of Lookout Mountain you’re mistaken. Sure, the city clings tight to its important history, but there’s a strong appetite for sports in the Scenic City. Especially when it comes to SEC football.
Though Chattanooga doesn’t house an SEC school, the city is located in an area that makes for an interesting dynamic. 113 miles to the northeast is the city of Knoxville and the Tennessee Vols. 176 miles to the southeast sits Athens and the Georgia Bulldogs. Then, 205 miles to the southwest straight down the highway out of town, you’ll find Tuscaloosa and Nick Saban’s dominant dynasty. That’s three major SEC programs with huge fan bases. And each one is situated just a short drive away.
ESPN 105. 1 The Zone in Chattanooga has taken advantage of its geographical fortune by going all-in on the Vols, Bulldogs and Crimson Tide.
“We’re inside the state of Tennessee, so the Vols are going to be the biggest fan base in town,” said program director Wells Guthrie. “But to be honest, I have no idea who the second biggest would be. Since we’re situated right on the state line by Georgia, there’s also a lot of UGA fans here. But there’s also a lot of Alabama fans here and that does really affect the programming.
“I’ll give you an example: During football season our afternoon show talks Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama throughout the week, but we also have an appointed listening segment devoted to each one of those teams. It takes place on the day of the press conference for each team’s coach. We do that, because we know we have to cater to each of those fan bases, because they make up a large portion of our listening audience.”
By the way, do yourself a favor and Google pictures of Chattanooga. Having not passed through the town since my childhood, I found myself saying, holy crap! I need to spend a weekend there! Seriously, the photos and views around the city are that breathtaking. But when I see pictures of Chattanooga, I envision a city that’s growing and progressing, but also one that’s always stuck true to its small town feel. When it comes to radio, that means an ever-important strategy to be a key staple in the community.
“The way I would describe Chattanooga is that it does have a small-town vibe, to use your words, but at the same time it’s not that small of a city,” said Guthrie. “It’s growing, it’s got the southern roots, it’s got the old money and it has the charms of an old southern city that’s been around forever. But it’s also vibrant and progressive in its thinking. It’s artsy and has that type of vibe. But when it comes to what we do on the radio, yes, you have to be out there in the community and doing live remotes. Sometimes, it’s just station events, not even things where a client is necessarily paying you to be there. You have to put in that extra effort to go out there and be seen as much as you can. Physically meeting someone in the flesh, shaking their hand, taking a picture with them, that’s extremely important for us in a market like Chattanooga.”
Making an effort to be out of the studio and face-to-face with listeners is always an exceptional idea. And as Guthrie stated, especially in a market like Chattanooga. But there’s also other ways to make listeners feel more involved with the day-to-day operations of the station. Guthrie believes it’s all about letting everyone have a voice.
“When you’re programming a station in a market like Chattanooga, a town that’s this big and has a small town feel, you cannot alienate your callers,” continued Guthrie. “You have to give them an opportunity to speak their mind and come on the show. Big market and syndicated radio isn’t like that but here you have to give people a voice. One thing we’ve tried to do here is give them that opportunity.”
ESPN 105. 1 is the only 24-hour sports radio station in Chattanooga. So, from a competition standpoint, that presents a lot of advantages. But the one thing about small markets is that the biggest competitors often come from non-sports stations. That’s the case in Chattanooga, where a local news/talk station is often vying for the same listeners and advertisement dollars as ESPN 105.1.
“The way we operate our station is we have two local shows. One is a local show from 2-3 p.m. the other one is our mainstay three-hour local afternoon show called Press Row, which airs 3-6. As a station, we’re live every weekday from 2-6. The station across the way, I believe, they’ve recently switched some things up, but I think they’re doing 3-6 local. They’re on the same time we are, so yeah, that would be competition within the market. ”
Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia football will always control much of the content as long as ESPN 105.1 is on the air. But with all the points Guthrie has made about Chattanooga having its small town feel, it does mean, if only partially, that you have to cater to the local sports in the area.
That includes D-2 athletics with UT-Chattanooga, Chattanooga FC, Chattanooga Red Wolves, the Lookouts and even the local high school sports scene. The station caters to those needs by airing The Local Zone with Brooks Carter from 2-3 p.m. every weekday. The hour-long show stays local as much as it can, but still dabbles at times in the Vols as well as the rest of the SEC. Then, from 3-6 p.m. it’s Press Row with Guthrie alongside David Paschall and Jay Greeson from the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Guthrie figures that 75-80 percent of the content, especially during football season, is centered on the Vols, Bulldogs and Crimson Tide.
That’s exactly the dynamic Guthrie enjoys most about doing sports radio in Chattanooga. It’s the fact he gets to heavily cover three teams, instead of just one local team. In terms of content, that certainly helps with keeping things fresh and relevant. Plus, if you talk Georgia, the Tennessee and Alabama fans are still tuned in because there’s an interest to hear what their rivals, or in this case, Bama’s chief competitor in the SEC, is up to.
“The connection with Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama is really special,” continued Guthrie. “Chattanooga does not house an SEC institution, yet of all the towns I’ve been through in the south, whether they have an SEC school or not, Chattanooga is one of, if not the biggest, melting pot of SEC sports fans I’ve ever seen in my life.
“This is no disrespect to whatever station is the Auburn flagship in Auburn, Alabama, or up in Knoxville with Tennessee, but when you’re in a market like that, you have to talk about the specific team in town a ton. I like the fact we get to spend a lot of time on the nearby SEC schools and don’t have to focus on just one. Georgia and Alabama are experiencing a ton of success right now and we get to treat those two programs as our 1A and 1B.”
Don’t be surprised if Chattanooga continues to keep growing. A vibrant city with beautiful scenery and loyal football fans will keep attracting people from the south. With the city showing so much recent growth, it’s been extremely beneficial to the growth of ESPN 105.1.
“It’s positively affected not only ESPN in Chattanooga, but our cluster in general,” said Wells. “There’s more and more businesses opening up their doors. A lot of the business that have opened up are bars, restaurants, so that’s really helped with bringing in new business inside our door.”
Adam The Bull Is Giving Cleveland Something It’s Never Had Before
“It was only more recently that I was like why do I have to only be a radio guy?”
After spending 22 years on the radio, Adam “The Bull” Gerstenhaber was ready for a new adventure. In fact, the former co-host of Bull and Fox on 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland did not have a new job lined up when he signed off from his 11-year radio home last month.
“I was already leaving without having a new project,” admitted Gerstenhaber during a recent phone interview with BSM. “I left before I knew for sure I had a ‘next project’.”
Gerstenhaber was preparing for his final show with co-host Dustin Fox on April 1st when he was contacted by an executive producer for TEGNA, a company that was developing a Cleveland sports television show on YouTube. The executive producer, who had just found out that Bull was a free agent, made it clear that he wanted Bull to be a part of the new project.
It all came together very quickly.
“Let’s talk on Monday,” Gerstenhaber told the executive producer. “And within a week they signed me up.”
The Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show on YouTube featuring Gerstenhaber, former ESPN personality Jay Crawford, 92.3 The Fan’s Garrett Bush, and rotating hosts to make up a four-person round-table show, made its debut last Monday. The show, which airs weekdays from 11am to 1pm, features passionate Cleveland sports talk, live guests, either in-studio or via Zoom, as well as interaction from the audience through social media.
“I’m very excited,” said Gerstenhaber. “It’s a definite adjustment for me after 22 years on radio doing television. For the last 11 years, I’ve been doing a radio show with just one other host and I was the lead guy doing most of the talking and now I’m on a show with three other people and it’s such an adjustment. So far, I’m having a ball.”
And so far, the reaction to the show has been very positive.
A big reason why is that it’s something that Cleveland didn’t have and really never had, unlike a city like New York, where there are local radio shows that are simulcast on regional sports channels.
“There’s nothing like that in Cleveland,” said Gerstenhaber. “And there was certainly nothing like this with a panel. Cleveland is such a massive sports town and now people that don’t live in Cleveland that are maybe retired in Florida or Arizona, now they actually have a TV show that they can watch that’s Cleveland-centric.”
The new venture certainly represents a big change in what Bull has been used to in his radio career. He’s enjoying the freedom of not having to follow a hard clock for this show. In fact, there have already been some occasions where the show has been able to go a little longer than scheduled because they have the flexibility to do that on YouTube.
Doing a show on YouTube gives the panel a great opportunity to go deep into topics and spend some quality time with guests. And while there is no cursing on the show at the moment, there could be the potential for that down the road.
Don’t expect the show is going to become X-rated or anything like that, but the objective is to be able to capture the spirit and emotion of being a sports fan and host.
“It’s something we may do in the future,” said Gerstenhaber. “Not curse just to curse but it gives us the option if we get fired up. It is allowed because there’s no restrictions there. The company doesn’t want us to do it at the moment.”
There’s also been the shift for Gerstenhaber from being the “point guard” on his old radio show, driving the conversation and doing most of the talking, to now taking a step back and having Crawford distributing the ball on the television show.
For a guy called “The Bull”, that will take some getting used to.
“Jay is a pro’s pro,” said Gerstenhaber. “He’s the point guard for this but he’s also part of the conversation. I’m not used to not being the point guard so I have to adjust to that. I think it’s gone pretty well and the chemistry is pretty good and with time we’ll get used to the flow of it.”
Gerstenhaber’s move from sports radio to an internet television show is a perfect example of how the industry is changing. A good portion of the listening and viewing audience these days, especially those in the younger demographic, are not necessarily watching traditional television or listening to terrestrial radio. For a lot of sports fans, watching and listening on a mobile device or a computer has become a very important way of life.
The desire to adapt, along with a shorter workday, was very enticing to him.
“It was only more recently that I was like why do I have to only be a radio guy?” wondered Gerstenhaber. “There were things about my job that I was unhappy about. I was doing a five-hour radio show. It’s too long. That’s crazy. Nobody should be doing a five-hour radio show at this point.”
Broadcasting on the internet has arrived and it’s not just a couple of sports fans doing a show from their garage anymore. The business has evolved to the point where the technology has provided more opportunities for those who have already enjoyed success in the industry and are looking for new challenges.
Kind of like Adam The Bull!
“I think years ago, probably like many people in the radio business, we looked at internet and podcasts as like whatever…those guys aren’t professionals…they’re amateurs,” said Gerstenhaber. “But the game has changed.”
Gerstenhaber, Crawford and everyone associated with the “Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show” should not have much of a problem attracting the younger audience. That demographic is already accustomed to watching shows on YouTube and other streaming platforms. The challenge now is to get the more mature audience on board. There are certainly some obstacles there.
I know this from experience with trying to explain to my mother in Florida how she can hear me on the radio and watch me on television simply by using her tablet.
Bull can certainly relate to that.
“My mother is still trying to figure out how to watch the show live,” said Gerstenhaber with a chuckle. “The older fans struggle with that. A lot of my older fans here in Cleveland are like how do I watch it? For people that are under 40 and certainly people that under 30, watching a YouTube show is like okay I watch everything on my phone or device. It’s such a divide and obviously as the years go by, that group will increase.”
With the television show off and running, Gerstenhaber still has a passion for his roots and that’s the radio side of the business. In the next couple of weeks, “The Bull” is set to announce the launch of two podcasts, one daily and one weekly, that will begin next month. But he also hasn’t ruled out the possibility of returning to terrestrial radio at some point.
“I have not closed the door to radio,” said Gerstenhaber. “I still love radio. I would still, in the right set of circumstances, consider going back to radio but it would have to really be the perfect situation. I’m excited about (the television show) and right now I don’t want to do anything else but I’m certainly going to remain open-minded to radio if a really excellent opportunity came up.”
The landscape of the broadcasting industry, particularly when it comes to sports, has certainly changed over the years and continues to evolve. Adam Gerstenhaber certainly enjoyed a tremendous amount of success on the radio side, both in New York and in Cleveland, but now he has made the transition to something new with the YouTube television show and he’s committed to making it a success.
Why You Should Be Making Great TikTok Content
“We’re specially trained in the world of TSL (time spent listening), and the longer people view your content on TikTok, the more the app rewards you by shoving your content into more and more feeds.”
It feels like there’s a new social media platform to pay attention to every other week. That makes it easy to overlook when one of them actually presents value to your brand. It wasn’t long ago that TikTok was primarily used by teenagers with the focus being silly dance trends filmed for video consumption with their friends and followers alike. Now, as the general public has become in tune with how this complicated app works, it’s grown far beyond that.
TikTok is now an app used by all types of demographics and unlike TikTok’s closely related cousins Instagram and Facebook, this app provides a certain type of nuance that I think people in our line of work can really excel in.
Before I get into the nuts and bolts of how you can use TikTok to your advantage and how to make your videos catch on, I think it’s important to first mention why this matters for you. Now, if I’m being realistic, I’m sure there are some that have already stopped reading this or those that could scroll away fast enough when they saw the words TikTok. You might be thinking that this doesn’t fit your demo, or maybe that it’s a waste of time because productivity here won’t directly lead to an uptick in Nielsen ratings. But I’m not sure any social network directly leads to what we ultimately get judged on, and we aren’t always pumping out content directly to our core audience.
TikTok, like any other app you may use, is marketing. This is another free tool to let people out there know who you are and what you offer in this endless sea of content. And the beauty of TikTok is that it directly caters its algorithm to content creators just like us. Bottom line, if you are a personality in sports talk, there’s no reason you can’t be crushing it on TikTok right now. All it takes is a little direction, focus, consistency, and a plan.
Unlike Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter where you can throw a photo up with a caption and be done for the day, TikTok’s whole model is built on creative videos that keep users engaged for longer periods of time. This approach works. According to Oberlo, a social media stat tracking site, people spend more time per day on TikTok than any other popular social media application. 38 minutes per day!
This is where this is good news for us in talk radio. We’re specially trained in the world of TSL (time spent listening), and the longer people view your content on TikTok, the more the app rewards you by shoving your content into more and more feeds. TikTok’s algorithm doesn’t care how many followers you have, your level of credibility, or the production on your video. All ir cares about is 1) Is your content good. and 2) Are people watching it. 3) How long are they watching it. The more people watch and the longer they watch creates a snowball effect. Your videos views will skyrocket, sometimes within hours.
So, how do you create content that will catch on? It’s really not all that different than what you do every day. Create thought-provoking commentary that makes people think, argue, or stay till the end to get the info you teased up for them. I’ve found through my own trial and error that it’s best if you stay away from time-sensitive material, I’ve had more success the more evergreen my content is. That way, the shelf life expands beyond just that day or week. This is different for everyone and there’s no one-size-fits-all, but this is where I’ve seen the most success.
Also, put yourself out there, don’t be afraid to say something that people are going to vehemently disagree with. Again, it’s not unlike what we do every day. It’s one thing to get someone to listen, it’s another to get them to engage. Once they hit you in the comment section, you’ve got them hooked. Comments breed more views and on and on. But don’t just let those sit there, even the smallest interaction back like a shoulder shrug emoji can go a long way in creating more play for your video.
If you want to grow quickly, create a niche for yourself. The best content creators that I follow on TikTok all put out very similar content for most of their videos. This means, unlike Instagram where it’s great to show what a wildly interesting and eclectic person you are, TikTok users want to know what they’re getting the second your face pops up on that screen. So if you are the sports history guy, be the sports history guy all the time. If you are the top 5 list guy, be the top 5 list guy all the time, and on and on, you get the point.
Other simple tricks:
- Splice small videos together. Don’t shoot one long video.
- 90 seconds to 2 minutes is a sweet spot amount of time.
- Add a soft layer of background instrumental music (this feature is found in the app when you are putting the finishing touches on your video)
- Label your video across the screen at the start and time it out so that it disappears seconds later. This way a user gets an idea of what the content is immediately and then can focus on you delivering your message thereafter.
- Research trending hashtags, they are far more important than whatever you caption your video.
- Use closed captions so that people can follow your video without sound.
Finally, don’t be intimidated by it or snub your nose at it. Anything that helps your brand is worth doing and anything worth doing is worth doing well.
Does Tom Brady’s Salary Make Sense For FOX In a Changing Media World?
“The risk here doesn’t have to do with Brady specifically, but rather the business of televising football games in general.”
FOX is playing it too safe when it comes to adding Tom Brady.
That’s going to sound weird given the size of Brady’s broadcasting contract. Even if that deal isn’t worth as much as initially reported, it’s a hell of a lot of loot, especially considering Brady has remained steadfastly uninteresting for a solid 20 years now.
Let’s not pretend that is a detriment in the eyes of a television network, however. There’s a long line of famous athletes companies like FOX have happily paid millions without ever requiring them to be much more than consistently inoffensive and occasionally insightful. Yes, Brady is getting more money than those previous guys, but he’s also the most successful quarterback in NFL history.
The risk here doesn’t have to do with Brady specifically, but rather the business of televising football games in general. More specifically, the fact that the business of televising football games is changing, and while it may not be changing quite as rapidly as the rest of the sports-media industry, but it is changing. There’s an increasing number of choices available to viewers not only in the games that can be watched, but how they are consumed. Everything in the industry points to an increasingly fragmented audience and yet by signing Brady to be in the broadcast booth once he retires, FOX is paying a premium for a single component in a tried-and-true broadcasting formula will be more successful.
Think of Brady’s hiring as a bet FOX made. A 10-year commitment in which it is doubling down on the status quo at a time of obvious change. FOX saw ESPN introduce the ManningCast last year, and instead of seeing the potential for a network to build different types of products, FOX decided, “Nah, we don’t want to do anything different or new.” Don’t let the price tag fool you. FOX went out and bought a really famous former player to put in a traditional broadcast booth to hope that the center holds..
Maybe it will. Maybe Brady is that interesting or he’s that famous and his presence is powerful enough to defy the trends within the industry. I’m not naive enough to think that value depends on the quality of someone’s content. The memoir of a former U.S. president will fetch a multi-million-dollar advance not because of the literary quality, but because of the size of the potential audience. It’s the same rationale behind FOX’s addition of Brady.
But don’t mistake an expensive addition from an innovative one. The ManningCast was an actual innovation. A totally different way of televising a football game, and while not everyone liked it, some people absolutely loved it. It’s not going to replace the regular Monday Night Football format, but it wasn’t supposed to. It’s an alternative or more likely a complement and ESPN was sufficiently encouraged to extend the ManningCast through 2024. It’s a different product. Another option it is offering its customers. You can choose to watch to the traditional broadcast format with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman in the booth or you can watch the Mannings or you can toggle between both. What’s FOX’s option for those audience members who prefer something like the ManningCast to the traditional broadcast?
It’s not just ESPN, either. Amazon offered viewers a choice of broadcasters, too, from a female announcing tandem of Hannah Storm and Andrea Kramer beginning in 2018 to the Scouts Feed with Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks in 2020.
So now, not only do viewers have an increasingly wide array of choices on which NFL games they can watch — thanks to Sunday Ticket — they in some instances have a choice of the announcing crew for that given game. Amid this economic environment, FOX not only decided that it was best to invest in a single product, but it decided to make that investment in a guy who had never done this particular job before nor shown much in the way of an aptitude for it.
Again, maybe Brady is the guy to pull it off. He’s certainly famous enough. His seven Super Bowl victories are unmatched and span two franchises, and while he’s denied most attempts to be anything approaching interesting in public over the past 20 years, perhaps that is changing. His increasingly amusing Twitter posts over the past 2 years could be a hint of the humor he’s going to bring to the broadcast booth. That Tampa Tom is his true personality, which remained under a gag order from the Sith Lord Bill Belichick, and now Brady will suddenly become football’s equivalent of Charles Barkley.
But that’s a hell of a needle to thread for anyone, even someone as famous as Brady, and it’s a really high bar for someone with no broadcasting experience. The upside for FOX is that its traditional approach holds. The downside, however, is that it is not only spending more money on a product with a declining market, but it is ignoring obvious trends within the industry as it does so.