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The Talent Vote: Sports Radio Stations

Everyday a new Top 20 is released, I will turn to a few talents in those same categories with a simple question: If you had a vote, who would be #1 on your ballot?

Demetri Ravanos

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The BSM Top 20s are generators. They generate clicks, comments, and conversation in our industry. Every year, JB reaches out to dozens of PDs and executives to generate those lists.

I thought it might be fun this year to add a new twist and let talent get in on the conversation. Everyday a new Top 20 is released, I will turn to a few talents in those same categories with a simple question: If you had a vote, who would be #1 on your ballot?

Boston and Pittsburgh are the big winners this year. Congratulations to the Sports Hub and 93.7 The Fan! PDs and executives voted them the top stations in major and mid markets respectively. Let’s see what the talent had to say though. What stations do the people that make stations special think are the most special?


TIM MONTEMAYOR – FORMERLY 1320 KFAN (SALT LAKE CITY), KNBR (SAN FRANCISCO), KTRS (ST. LOUIS), KHTK (SACRAMENTO)

There are a lot of great sports talk radio stations in this country, and I listen to many of them on a daily basis, but the job of naming the best one is difficult at best. For me it is about understanding who you are, where you are, who listens to you, and how they listen to you. 

Major markets are stocked with great sports talk stations, but there is nothing like two titans throwing haymakers at each other all day long. Chicago has ESPN 1000 pushing The Score, in New York, Craig Carton on FAN and Michael Kay on ESPN NY are going head to head, and in Boston 98.5 The Sports Hub recently pulled an 11 share, leaving long time GIANT WEEI in their wake …again. 

But when you want a local radio battle, that involves the single best sports talk radio station in the country, you go to San Francisco! The Bay Area had long been dominated by KNBR 680 – THE Sports Leader. Then came 95.7 The Game, and the new guy on the block stole the Warriors and built a strong local lineup, including a guy I think is the best PD in the business, Matt Nahigian. 

So KNBR gave up right? Just turned off the transmitter and went home? Nope, KNBR is the best sports talk radio station in the country for one reason, they are Bay Area Sports. Murph and Mac are must listen in the morning, especially when big things are happening. Tom Tolbert is Bay Area sports, and Larry Krueger is one of the most underappreciated hosts in the country. 

However, KNBR is the best sports talk station in the country because they know who they are, THE Sports Leader. When a story breaks, they are on it. They know where they are, so they deliver personality driven, local radio, that listeners can count on. Giants, Niners, NFL …it’s KNBR. Steph Curry and the Warriors? How about Tom Tolbert on KNBR. You want it on your phone? KNBR. Online? KNBR.com is easy to navigate and optimized for smartphones. Anywhere you want to get KNBR, it’s there.  

KNBR is the best on air, online, and on mobile …because they are live, local, and listeners know exactly what they are going to get when they turn it on! KNBR uses all of that to leverage their heritage, partnerships, and listeners to drive ratings and revenue, and a lot of both!

KNBR finished #5 in the BSM Top 20 of Major Market Sports Stations

SCOTT KAPLAN – ESPN 710 LA (LOS ANGELES), THE MIGHTIER 1090 (SAN DIEGO)

For me, the best sports station is ESPN 710 LA. Yes I am a homer, but I have loved this station for as long as I can remember. 

Here’s why I think it is a great station. 710 is owned and operated by ESPN, it has rights deals with the biggest brands in LA sports – the Lakers, Rams and LAFC. It has a heritage show in Mason and Ireland, with reputable, local and credible talent in Jorge Sedano and LZ Granderson.

Obviously with National ESPN programming, you have to figure a way to be local, PD Amanda Brown has found a nice balance with local coverage during the Keyshawn morning show, and the imaging of Chris Morales makes 710 sound totally unique all day.

ESPN LA 710 finished #5 in the BSM Top 20 of Major Market Sports Stations

ZACH MCRITE – FORMERLY 101 ESPN (ST. LOUIS), 107.7 THE FRANCHISE (OKLAHOMA CITY), KENTUCKY SPORTS RADIO

When this pandemic began and it dawned on many of us drivetime commutes would be, well, mostly commuted. Many thought that the mid-market radio industry–especially sports radio–would take one of the more severe hits. And, while that was true in some cases, the status quo also prevailed in some markets. 

But there were a select few that gained in a pandemic year. Kudos to all of them, but the one that kept getting my attention and gets my number one vote in this category for 2020 is 97.1 The Fan Columbus.

Never mind the surefire gains that the station will receive thanks to the college football Buckeyes’ CFB Playoff title game run, but right in the middle of the 2020 economic nightmare, when others were subtracting, The Fan added a local morning show once ESPN’s national morning show, Golic & Wingo, called it quits. That takes some major cojones.

Even so, and maybe even more impressively, The Fan beat out all other formats and led the way in the entire market in M25-54 during the “dog days of COVID-19,” with massive double-digit shares in their afternoon slots. That’s a pretty rare story in 2020 and worthy of major consideration at the top of the mid-market list.

97.1 The Fan finished #6 in the BSM Top 20 of Mid Market Sports Stations

BRADY FARKAS – WDEV (VERMONT)

WGR in Buffalo does a great job at being engaging and active on social media and I think that’s hugely important to the current audience and current marketplace. The Twitter account alone is a great news source for Bills and Sabres content. I think the One Bills Drive from 12-3 is a great show that captures the Bills love of the city and continues to tie the station in with the Bills brand. And in 2020, I think the station did a great job in a unique situation regarding the Toronto Blue Jays. The hosts discussed the Blue Jays move to Buffalo for the season, had game stories online, had video of the first pitch at the stadium that Canadian outlets picked up and I think they made the most of the unique opportunity in a unique year.

I also think that WGR personalities do a good job of making themselves accessible on other stations. I know Sal Capaccio does weekly hits on other radio stations and I think that kind of brand recognition and brand awareness is great for the station, both in the area, and outside the area. Eric Wood, who also does color for the games, is a great analyst who appeared on “The Herd” and I think that altogether, this kind of exposure, and the recognition of how valuable that exposure is, is a big deal.

WGR 550 finished #5 in the BSM Top 20 of Mid Market Sports Stations

We’re almost done, but I have been promising you all along that we will dive into every single list that JB puts out. There’s one left and it is original sports podcasts.

By the way, just because I didn’t reach out to you to contribute doesn’t mean you can’t have a say. Who do you think the best sports talk station in the country is? Feel free to add your comment below.

BSM Writers

Mike Tirico Has ‘Never Pretended to Be Friends’ With Athletes

“I like having a healthy relationship where if I need something, I can ask whether it’s for on-air or for background and build trust.”

Ricky Keeler

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Mike Tirico has been covering sports on network television for 32 years. Over those 3+ decades, he has made it a point to not be so close with the athletes he covers in whichever sport he is broadcasting.

Tirico was a guest on the most recent episode of the GOLF’s Subpar podcast with Colt Knost and Drew Stoltz. While Tirico knows he is not doing extensive journalism work, he wants to make sure that he can be able to ask the hard questions if he has to any athlete.

“I never pretend to be friends with the athletes I cover. I like having a healthy relationship where if I need something, I can ask whether it’s for on-air or for background and build trust. I’m not in a position where I’m working for Outside the Lines at my old place, ESPN. It’s not a knock. It’s just you’re not in a position where you have to do these journalistic-type interviews all the time, but there are times you have to ask hard questions. I always try to keep a little bit of a buffer or a distance.”

The context of that question came when Tirico was asked about how good of a relationship he has with Tiger Woods.

“It’s good….If I reach out, he will usually get back to me. He’s been really good and really nice along the way.”

As for broadcasting sports in this day and age of social media, Tirico believes that it can make a broadcaster better whether or not the complaint from someone on Twitter is real or not.

“It makes us better because you know that people are going to catch you. If something is artificial or not, real or not, embraced or not, it forces you to be better at what you do.”

For that same reason, Tirico thinks that LIV Golf is going to make the PGA Tour have to be better going forward because now they have another tour to go up against.

“I think LIV Golf, and we all have our own opinions on it, is going to force the PGA Tour to be better. Competition is good. Checks and balances are really good.”

Even though Tirico doesn’t feel nervous about many broadcasts anymore, there was one event in the last decade where the nerves kicked in when he was hosting his first Olympics at NBC.

“The only time in the last 10 years that I’ve been nervous was coming on for the first time hosting the Olympics because Bob Costas has done that since most of us have been alive and most people had never seen anyone but Bob Costas host the Olympics in primetime…2 minutes before, I’m like ‘should I be this? Should I have fun?’ and then the minute before, I cracked a joke in the studio.”

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BSM Writers

Kyle Brandt’s Rant a Reminder to Consider the Messenger

This doesn’t mean Brandt is wrong or even that he is being told to echo the NFL’s position, it’s to note that he took a very powerful stance on a very powerful platform and they both matter.

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Kyle Brandt

This week, a massive announcement was made in the National Football League regarding the immediate future of Deshaun Watson. Judge Sue L. Robinson recommended a six -game suspension with no additional monetary fine for the quarterback. While the NFL mulls what it will say further, most others didn’t, including a really prominent personality: Kyle Brandt.

Brandt, a co-host on Good Morning Football, reacted like a lot of people did upon hearing the decision: forcefully. On Monday, Brandt denounced the decision to limit Watson’s suspension to six games, saying in part, “…I look at six and I find it very light. I hope it doesn’t stay that way personally. I think that Deshaun Watson leveraged his status as an NFL player against women. In my opinion. And I think it happened more than one time and I think it was was in closed doors in small rooms against women who were probably intimidated. And it pisses me off to even talk about it. And frankly it pisses me off to see the number six. And I don’t think it’s going to stay that way and I hope it doesn’t.”

Those words resonated. Once they were said, the clip was grabbed from the show and then distributed on Brandt’s Twitter account which reaches 333,000+ followers and on his Instagram which speaks to 96,000+ followers. That video has been seen over two million times. Viral, they say. Here it is if you did happen to miss it. Passionate stuff from Brandt.

If you believe in the message, it’s an easy to like, retweet or share idea. It’s not a hot take, frankly, because there is a large section of those that have been following this story that agree. Deshaun Watson is settling cases because people believe he did something bad. Something bad enough that judge did seem fit to point it out and recommend what is generally speaking, a strong suspension. The only problem here is the platform hosting the message.

This is not a Kyle Brandt-bashing piece. He isn’t the platform. If anything, he’s the vessel of this message he wants out. He also, very likely, feels exactly the way he said he did in the above tweeted video. In fact, the next day, Tuesday, Brandt doubled down on his opinion. The newer video was viewed over 400,000 times. You can check it out right below these words.

The distinction needs to be noted that the message Brandt is delivering, is the NFL’s message. It is what Roger Goodell wants to be the prevailing wisdom regarding how we feel about the current state of Watson’s suspension. That message is being amplified by a very popular co-host, on a very popular morning television show that is seen by a lot of people and that is owned by the National Football League.

Again, I am here waving to you wildly to say that I have no reason to believe that Brandt is being told this particular messaging needs to be voiced. But, I do know that the NFL has until Thursday to appeal the decision. Three days is a lot of time to gather data on whether or not the public might support you appealing for more games, something that the league most certainly will look into judging by their statement released shortly after the ruling.

I also know that the NFL was seeking a much longer suspension as well as a hefty fine to be issued to Watson. The NFL has taken a lot of hits for how it has handled players violating league rules and the player conduct policy. No matter which case you look at, comparing it to the one previous or the one right after is an exercise is madness. The one common theme seems to be is that when the NFL feels like it is delving out punishment, it wants to be severe, no matter the consistency. Remember, Tom Brady was a short ‘yes’ answer away from appealing his case to the Supreme Court. The NFL isn’t particularly interested in just letting things go.

It is well within the realm of possibility that the NFL is getting what it rarely gets: an overwhelming opinion that actually sides with it in terms of punishment. For the majority of the modern cases I can remember, more fans than not disagreed with the NFL’s stance on a case. This time, they might have the court of public opinion on their side. I hear far more ‘kick him outs’ in reference to Watson than I do ‘no suspensions’.

We might have the perfect storm for the NFL in terms of support and Kyle Brandt’s message lines up exactly with the leagues desires, no matter how they may have gotten there. Both want more punishment for the Cleveland quarterback. Brandt can hope, the NFL can fight.

This doesn’t mean Brandt is wrong or even that he is being told to echo the NFL’s position, it’s to note that he took a very powerful stance on a very powerful platform and they both matter.

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BSM Writers

Producers Podcast Episode 6: Jackson Safon, The Volume

Brady Farkas

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Jackson Safon has produced for a number of high profile digital networks. Now, as a freelancer, The Volume has put its faith in him to get the most out of Draymond Green, and CC Sabathia and Ryan Ruocco have trusted him to make R2C2 the best it can be.

iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-producers-podcast/id1630978079

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/2XBTp3PnrBvGv2n4Y19tCE?si=c84eee71512e49a5

iHeart: https://www.iheart.com/podcast/269-the-producers-podcast-98564690/

Google: https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9mZWVkcy5ibHVicnJ5LmNvbS9mZWVkcy9wcm9kdWNlcnNwb2QueG1s?sa=X&ved=0CAMQ4aUDahcKEwiQpvak__P4AhUAAAAAHQAAAAAQRw

Amazon: https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/241160ba-ad26-4297-a37a-107dfb10b462/the-producers-podcast 

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