When you love what you do, it shows. When you love the people you work with, it shows even more. Sports radio host Marc Hochman loves his job at Audacy Miami. He also enjoys being around his on-air partner so much, that he considers him to be family. Marc hosts afternoons on 560 The Joe and 790 The Ticket with former Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder. When I tell you that Marc speaks highly of Channing, it doesn’t do it justice. Marc says the radio pairing is a match made in heaven and the greatest experience he’s ever had. That’s quite the statement considering Marc’s resume.
Originally from the suburbs of Chicago in Highland Park, Illinois, Marc made his way to Florida in 1987 when he first attended the University of Miami. The town grew on him like a new variety of cottage cheese. (That’s foreshadowing.) He became buddies with Dan Le Batard while at school. The friendship helped pull Marc away from music radio and into the world of sports talk.
Marc talks about the most impactful rule that Le Batard broke, the mantra of his show, and the biggest reason why he’s bummed when he misses a day of work. Marc is highly entertaining and a great dude. The conversation below showcases both. Enjoy.
BN: Who are the teams you grew up rooting for and still root for?
MH: I grew up rooting for all the Chicago teams, not the Cubs though, the White Sox. I was a White Sox fan. I was the rare north suburbs White Sox fan. But Bears, Bulls; we had season tickets to the Bears, season tickets to the Bulls. My dad gave up the season tickets to the Bulls the year before MJ got there because he was tired of watching them lose. I was a Blackhawks fan.
After I’d been in Miami a while, I went to see the White Sox play the Marlins and I found myself rooting for the Marlins. I kind of realized like whoa, it just kind of happened. Over the course of time, I do not root for any Chicago teams. I’ve been in Miami so much longer than I was ever in Chicago that I am a Miami fan through and through — Heat, Dolphins, Hurricanes obviously, Panthers, Marlins.
BN: Did your dad ever complain through the years about ‘I never should’ve given up those season tickets’ before MJ got there?
MH: [Laughs] Yeah, we used to ride him pretty hard on that. Everybody has got some sports mistakes; leaving a game early before a miraculous comeback, skipping a game that they could have gone to that turned out to be a memorable game. Yeah, old Papa Hochman had a memorable sports mistake giving up his Bulls season tickets just before MJ was there.
Brian Noe: After you graduated college, how did you get your start in sports radio?
Marc Hochman: I worked at the University of Miami radio station all four years that I went to school there. I was a music DJ for the most part. That’s what I planned on going into. After I graduated in 1991, I sent out cassette tapes because that’s what we did back in 1991. I sent them to all the different radio stations that I could find in phone books and the library. I got a job offer at a tiny, little radio station in a tiny, little town on Lake Okeechobee. I went to be a music DJ from 6 to midnight at WBGF in Belle Glade, Florida. Gradually I made my way to the West Palm Beach radio market as a CHR DJ. I loved playing music and doing the nightclub appearances. That was my dream gig.
I didn’t get into sports radio until 2004 when one of my best friends from college, Dan Le Batard, took this afternoon drive job at a startup radio station in Miami. He called me and said I need an executive producer. I was a music DJ. I said to him I don’t do sports radio. I don’t do talk radio. I do music. He said I’m not going to do the typical sports show. I’m going to do the conversations you and I have been having on our phones since college. This is not going to be anything you’ll ever recognize. That was 17 years ago and I have worked in Miami sports radio for 17 years straight.
BN: Isn’t it funny how that idea is pretty simplistic, but it was groundbreaking to be like, I’m going to talk like a dude and talk how I normally talk on the air, instead of being the typical radio guy.
MH: What Dan did on the air in Miami changed all of sports radio forevermore. Sports radio in Miami was Hank Goldberg. Hank Goldberg was “I give you my opinion, and if you disagree with my opinion, you’re a jagoff”. He used to say that on the air all the time. If you’d call into Hank’s show — it was just callers — and you didn’t agree with him, you were a jagoff. Half the time he’d hang up on you. That’s where you got your information. You trusted the expert who was Hank Goldberg or Eddie K in Miami sports radio. Dan was so completely different. It was jarring to me when we started doing the show.
He would say on the air, wow sorry, listeners, that was a terrible interview. Off the air, I would say to him, you don’t acknowledge that you did a bad interview. He would say well why not? And I didn’t have an answer. I don’t know. You just don’t. And he said but do you think the interview went poorly? And I’d say yeah. And he goes, I think the interview went poorly too, and you know the listeners know that it went poorly. They’re listening. So why should we pretend that we’re great at everything? Why don’t we embrace just having fun and being human? It was so revelatory to me.
The most impactful rule that Dan broke was acknowledging on-air when something wasn’t very good. No host would every admit a segment, an interview, or a bit was bad because they thought that would chip away at their standing of being the expert voice on the radio who listeners went to for the correct opinion. Dan broke that rule from the first show. He let the audience in on what we were doing. The audience became an active participant in the show. Instead of, “I’m the expert host, and you’re the lowly listener,” it became, “I’m the guy with the mic, but we’re all gonna do this show together.”
Thank God the original owners of the station had patience because it was jarring for listeners. It was jarring for salespeople and anyone who had anything to do with talk radio. But because they had the patience to let us work the show out and find its footing, it literally launched him into superstardom and changed I think the course of sports talk radio.
BN: What is the most impactful rule that you break on your show?
MH: The most impactful rule we break on our show is we believe in fun first, then sports. Our four hours on the air are meant to be fun. So many people in radio love to throw the term “wacky morning show” around as if it’s an insult. We embrace that. Crowder and I love being your “wacky morning show in the afternoon.” I’d much prefer to make you laugh so hard that you cry, over breaking news about who the Dolphins are going to draft with their first pick. Entertain first is our mantra.
BN: I don’t know how I became a die-hard Dolphins fan, but I have been since I was a kid. So I’ve listened to you and Channing. You guys do a very entertaining show. It makes me think of Le Batard. What do you think your show might sound like if not for Dan?
MH: Oh my God, I wouldn’t be doing a sports talk show if it wasn’t for him. I really wouldn’t. I’d be playing Rihanna, or I guess at 51 years old I wouldn’t. I’d be on an oldies station playing the Eagles. But I really wouldn’t be doing it because I didn’t like sports radio. It didn’t appeal to me until he started doing it. I absolutely would not have been doing it. My show with Channing is very similar to the original incarnation of the Le Batard show because that was the show that he and I had done on our phones and in our off-campus apartment. He’s Cheesecake Factory and I’m Grand Lux. It’s very similar. You go in and you see a lot of the same entrees.
BN: What’s your reaction to a show that’s constructed to be serious?
MH: I don’t have a problem necessarily with people that do a serious sports talk show or a serious talk show in general because that’s their style. I don’t listen to it because I don’t like that. Channing and I, we always laugh when texts come in and they say, “I can’t listen to you guys anymore, all you do is laugh.” Channing and I will look at each other and we go, is that supposed to be an insult? Who doesn’t love laughing? I love laughing. I love cutting up for four hours a day. I love hanging out with people and insults fly, and stories are told, and laughs are constantly being had. I don’t understand the people that tune in to hear a radio show and want to hear serious takes and opinions that are hard-nosed — like no. That’s not what I want to do.
The show is not for everyone. Dan’s show isn’t for everyone. Howard Stern’s show is not for everyone. Pat McAfee’s show is not for everyone. I don’t listen to serious sports talkers. I don’t mind anyone who does a show — if you’re paid to do a show, you do the show that you want to do. If it works, you’ll do it for a long time. If it doesn’t work, you’ll have to figure out a new route. But I could never do a show like that. It’s just not my personality. I wouldn’t talk that way with my friends. I like to laugh. I like to be around people that like to laugh and so those are the people that we try to attract to the show.
BN: Sometimes athletes that get into sports radio are pretty serious. They’ve been serious about their sport and now they’re serious about their new job. Did Channing not have that vibe from the get-go?
MH: Channing loves trash talking, laughing, finding an offbeat route to take with a story. What I love about radio and what I love about our show, is taking up for something in a very serious fashion that doesn’t deserve serious talk. I love talking seriously about the Mount Rushmore of cheese. The passion that we bring to the Mount Rushmore of cheese is the passion that many sports talkers bring to Marino or Montana, Brady or Mahomes. That’s the fun part of our show. But Channing is like that. That’s his personality.
Our radio pairing was a match made in heaven. I can’t even begin to tell you how lucky I feel every day that Crowder is my radio partner. I don’t know how much you listen to the show but Alejandro Solana, who’s our executive producer, this is the greatest experience that I’ve ever had. And again I worked on Dan’s show. We had a lot of fun and great cast members; I’ve never had a better radio experience than me, Crowder and Solana. If I take a day off, I kind of feel bummed. I love spending the four hours with those guys.
BN: That’s awesome, man. I’m happy for you. Did you know it was going to be special like that from the beginning?
MH: No, I was a little trepidatious because Channing is a big dude, and he’s used to knocking people’s heads off. I am super sarcastic, and I get under people’s skin, and I can’t control my mouth. If he had reacted poorly in the first few weeks of the show and exerted his dominance over me, it would have been a disaster. But he let me know early on, you say whatever you want, insult me, joke about me, joke about my career, joke about anything. I’m going to do the same to you, but we’re going to be laughing the whole way through it. Over the five years, a genuine friendship has developed. He was at my son’s bar mitzvah. He’s just a big part of my life. He’s family.
BN: I see your Twitter header where you’re onstage at an improv night. Do you do stand-up at all?
MH: I did a couple nights of stand up. I used to have a character on the Le Batard show called Marc Hochman Sports Comic. It was just a super hacky comic that Dan and Stugotz would boo. It was just truly awful, awful jokes that really were only punched up by a rimshot. They were rimshot jokes that I would write. They were timely and topical for whatever was going on in sports. A stand-up comedian reached out to me and said I think you would do great on stage. And I’m a ham. I agreed to do a show at the Improv. He said he’d put it together.
I don’t ever like to embarrass myself. I do take a lot of pride in the content that I try to put out. So leading up to the show was so much angst and so many stomachaches and headaches because I really wanted it to go well.
It was the greatest night of my life. I killed on stage. I was supposed to do five minutes; I did 25 minutes. The audience came out, and I was afraid they were coming out to boo me, but they came out to embrace and laugh with me. It was the greatest night. But it had so much angst leading up to it, that I said I can never do this again. I’ve had a zillion offers to and I’ve never done it again.
BN: Going back to your time with Dan and knowing him so well, what are your thoughts on his fallout with ESPN, and what do you expect from him with Meadowlark?
MH: Dan has always marched to his own drum. He’s going to have phenomenal success would be my guess doing what he wants to do. I would say that over the course of the last 17 years has shown that he’s got a pretty good idea for what works and what doesn’t work on radio and in audio. I don’t think he’ll look back at all. I think he’s building a monster.
BN: Do you think this might ultimately be the best thing for him where things are headed?
MH: Oh, without question. His personality is — he wants to make decisions that he thinks are the right decisions creatively. He doesn’t want to worry about business ramifications. When you work for a major company like Disney, you’ve got to worry because they’re worried about ramifications. This is tailor-made for him to be able to create the content that he wants to create, when he wants to create it, with whom he wants to create it. He’s on the road to creating like I said a monster.
BN: Chicago is a hardcore sports town. When you linked up with Dan in Miami to do sports radio, did it feel like he was saying, hey man, I’m going to tell some jokes in church?
MH: Yeah, at the beginning of the show, that’s exactly what it was like because that’s all I knew. Growing up in Chicago, I did listen to some really big Chicago personalities that weren’t really sports talk. Steve Dahl was the guy that I listened to in Chicago. Then they had Kevin Matthews for a while. They liked sports but they were really talk shows more than anything. I didn’t get exposed to much sports talk really until I was in Miami and I listened to some Hank Goldberg and some Jim Mandich. It just wasn’t my cup of tea because it really wasn’t even my personality back then. But I know radio. And I knew what the rules were in radio.
When Dan started breaking every rule that I had ingrained in my head, I had interned at the CBS building in Chicago for B96. So I was around WBBM-AM, the most serious talk station that exists. I knew what the rules were supposed to be. When Dan started breaking every single rule, yeah I would break out into hives practically. I was like “Oh my God, we can’t do this! This is not how radio works!” That’s the story of most successful companies, right? The disruptors. Uber disrupted taxicabs. The disruptors are generally the ones that find the success when everyone has told them no, no, no, you can’t do it this way. Yeah, it was very jarring to me.
BN: What if management came to you guys and said we did all this research, we’ve got to be straight-laced and serious. How would you react to that?
MH: I don’t think I could do it. I just don’t think I could do it because it’s not my personality. If you try to force yourself to be serious on someone else, that’s not really going to work. I’ve had different program directors who have different likes and dislikes. I had a program director when Crowder and I first got together. We were on the topic that everyone has done over the last five years; is a hot dog a sandwich. This program director at the commercial break flung open the door and said are you done with that? Good. And slammed the door. I exploded. I ran down the hall and tore him a new one because first of all, I don’t want to be told that in the middle of a show. If you want to say that to me after the show or in an email, that’s fine. But he obviously had a very different idea of what radio could be or should be than I did. We coexisted for a couple of years. He’s not our program director anymore. But I can’t lose my sense of humor. That’s my personality. It’s just who I am.
BN: Do you have any specific goals going forward that you’d like to accomplish in the next few years?
MH: I marvel at the fun that we’re having on the air right now. We’ve had offers from other places. Bigger opportunities. I don’t think I want to do anything other than what I’m doing, for the rest of my time on radio. It’s been a 17-year run in Miami radio. I’m 51 years old and I love it. I love it every single day. I told you working with Crowder and Solana — I couldn’t have scripted a better radio existence than I have right now. There’s literally nothing that appeals to me other than doing what we’re doing right now.
Brian Noe is a columnist for BSM and an on-air host heard nationwide each weekend on FOX Sports Radio. Previous roles include stops in Portland, OR, Albany, NY and Fresno, CA. You can follow him on Twitter @TheNoeShow or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
Evan Roberts, Self-Professed Sports Maniac, Thrives at WFAN
From an early age, Roberts knew that radio was the medium through which he wanted to express his fandom, especially WFAN.
Evan Roberts made his first appearance on WFAN at just 10 years old, filling in for NBA play-by-play announcer Mike Breen delivering sports updates on Imus in the Morning. The opportunity came after he sent a letter on a whim to the station asking for a job since he enjoyed listening to the station with his father. Desiring to become a radio host was the result of dynamic career aspirations that transitioned from wanting to work as an architect to trying to become the play-by-play announcer for his favorite baseball team, the New York Mets.
“Listening to Mike and Chris, and Benigno in the overnights and Somers – I was like ‘That’s what I want to do’,” Roberts recalled. “….It couldn’t be any more specific when I’m listening to the Fan saying ‘I want to be on the Fan.’ About a decade and a half later, I was able to get it done and I’ve been there ever since.”
From an early age, Roberts knew that radio was the medium through which he wanted to express his fandom, especially WFAN. As a native New Yorker, Roberts connected with the teams in the area and sought the chance to talk about them for a living on a sports radio station with a storied history in the area.
Since 1989, WFAN has been one of the pillars of New York sports coverage and a place that helped pioneer the sports talk radio format. Getting there, though, required that Roberts had deft knowledge of sports, an ability to connect with fans, and experience that ensured he was ready for an opportunity in the number one media market in the world.
While attending school, Roberts was hosting a radio show called Kidsports on WGBB, a radio station based in Freeport, N.Y. serving Nassau County on Long Island. He then moved to Radio AAHS to host What’s Up With Evan Roberts and Nets Slammin’ Planet, the latter with famed high school basketball player Albert King and NBA insider Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson. Aside from being able to refine his hosting skills, Roberts made valuable connections in these roles including one that would help him land his first job out of high school: Danny Turner.
Before he was named the senior vice president of programming operations at XM Satellite Radio in Washington, D.C., Turner served as the engineer for Roberts’ shows on Radio AAHS. He helped to coordinate the technology associated with broadcasting since the shows were done remotely rather than from out of a studio.
“[He] ended up working at XM Radio and heard one of my tapes as it went on and said ‘I remember him. I like him,’ and then sent it to the right person and they ultimately hired me,” said Roberts. “It was my first real, real job working out of high school, and that was about meeting someone earlier on and remembering who that person was and sending as many tapes as I could.”
As a graduate of Lawrence High School, Roberts quickly made the move from Cedarhurst, N.Y. to Washington, D.C. to begin working at XM Satellite Radio, a place he would stay for the next two years. Then, he made the move down I-295 from D.C. to Baltimore, Md. where he worked at 105.7 The Fan WJFK-AM and had to adjust his sports consumption to align with the interests of those listeners. It taught him the importance of research and preparation, important aspects of working in sports media that he still utilizes to this day.
“When I was in Baltimore, I had to be Baltimore,” said Roberts. “I had to understand what makes the Orioles fan tick; what makes the Ravens fan tick. I didn’t grow up as an Orioles fan or a Ravens fan. The Ravens had won the Super Bowl years earlier. I know nothing about winning Super Bowls; I’m a Jets fan.”
At 21 years old, Roberts made the move back to “The Big Apple” when he was hired by WFAN as an overnight host, a role he stayed in for the next two-and-a-half years. Simultaneously, Roberts was working on Maxim Radio doing a night show on the Sirius Satellite Radio channel. Balancing those two roles, while it may have seemed daunting, gave Roberts the chance to broadcast in his home market and talk about the teams he grew up rooting for; the aforementioned Mets and Jets, along with the then-New Jersey Nets and New York Islanders.
Then in 2007, Roberts got his big break when he was named the midday co-host with Joe Benigno on the program Benigno & Roberts in the Midday. Benigno, who got his start on WFAN as a regular caller, had grown a rapport with listeners since joining the station in 1995, making the task for Roberts, a 23-year-old at the time, more difficult in terms of fitting in. Roberts is grateful that Benigno, a host he grew up listening to on WFAN, was accommodating and amicable towards him – plus it helped that they aligned in their rooting interests as Mets and Jets fans.
“He was very welcoming, and he didn’t have to be because I was a lot younger; he had no idea who the hell I was,” said Roberts. “….Right out of the gate, I think he saw my passion [and] my knowledge; he saw a little bit of himself in me, and we were able to bond right away.”
To make a name for himself in the new midday time slot, Roberts stuck to the principles that had been given to him from his early days of radio; that is, to be himself. From the start of his foray into sports media, Roberts and most people around him knew that he was, in his own words, “a sports maniac”, and he needed to maintain that genuine identity on the air. His relatability and passion for the teams as a fan made him an ideal fit for the station synonymous with New York City bearing those iconic call letters and an unbeatable afternoon duo.
“I think as time [went] on and Joe and I developed even more and more chemistry, the audience knew who we were,” said Roberts. “They certainly knew who he was, but they learned ‘Evan’s a die-hard Mets fan. He doesn’t miss a game.’”
While it was important for Roberts to emulate his fandom for the teams he roots for, he quickly developed a cognizance for trying to talk about other teams impartially while on the air. It is a challenge, to a degree, to maintain objectivity daily with intrinsic fandom for certain teams, but being able to understand how other fan bases feel after monumental victories or crushing defeats renders the art of appealing to the listening audience easier. It also upholds WFAN’s commitment to serve as an outlet for all New York sports fans rather than just certain cohorts of them.
“We’re trying to appeal to everybody,” said Roberts. “We want everybody listening. Not just Yankees fans; not just Mets fans; not just die-hard sports fans; not just casual fans. How do you keep every single person wanting to listen to the radio?”
When Roberts first joined the station in 2004, most New York sports teams were rebuilding aside from the Yankees. Today, the preponderance of professional teams in the New York Metropolitan area are contending or at least have the chance to appear in their league’s playoffs, something that is exciting for fans like Roberts but presents a challenge in doing effective sports radio that accurately depicts the emotions of listeners.
“I think what’s going to be a real challenge… is [when] the Mets are in the playoffs, the Yankees are in the playoffs, the Jets look competent, and the Giants look competent, and it’s a Monday,” Roberts expressed. “You’ve got four monstrous fan bases that care about their team. How the hell do you find a way to keep them all entertained?”
To express the true extent of his fandom for niche sectors of the audience, Roberts turns to another form of aural consumption: podcasts. There has been much discussion over the ability of traditional radio and podcasts to coexist in this digital age of media; however, Roberts believes that the two mediums provide a unique combination that was previously nonexistent.
In his opinion, podcasts are a method to delve deeper into topics or teams that do not garner as much time on the radio, specifically those that do not generate as large of a market share or which are not as representative of the interests of the majority of listeners.
“I do a Mets podcast specifically – I called it Rico Brogna because I loved Rico Brogna as a kid and I figured ‘Why the hell not?’”, Roberts said. “…I do an hour breaking down the Mets in a hard-core way that I’m not going to do on WFAN for an hour. I may do it for a couple of minutes. I think those two things work perfectly side-by-side.”
Still, most listeners, according to Roberts, will likely turn to terrestrial radio to get their sports fix, especially if they do not express allegiance to solely one team.
“The majority of people are still going to turn on WFAN and say ‘Okay, entertain me. I don’t know what I want to hear. You just entertain me’,” said Roberts. “I think those two forms of entertainment can work side-by-side. That’s why we do it.”
When Mike Francesa signed off WFAN in December 2017, the station had to make changes in the afternoon drive-time slot which it did with the debut of Carlin, Maggie & Bart. The show was eventually disbanded though when Francesa ended his retirement just over four months later, returning to afternoons. His return to WFAN did not last long though, departing the station again in December 2019. Again, WFAN had to make a change in afternoons, this time moving Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts to do a 2 to 6:30 p.m. show renamed Joe & Evan.
For Roberts, the opportunity to host in the afternoon slot that he had grown up listening to Mike Francesa and Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo make famous with their program Mike and the Mad Dog was an opportunity he did not hesitate to accept. Yet the change in time also required a change in approach regarding topic selection; after all, since the show would be starting later in the day, it was more important to preview the forthcoming action than recap that of the previous day.
“Even though you’re doing the same thing because you’re the same person, you’ve got to realize the audience is thinking about things a little bit differently; they’re not always analyzing what happened last night,” said Roberts. “I always find that interesting [trying to] balance the two [and] it’s almost like a game.”
When Benigno retired from the station in November 2020, Craig Carton made his return to the New York City airwaves pairing with Roberts to form the new afternoon duo Carton & Roberts. Carton had previously been with the station hosting mornings with Boomer Esiason on Boomer and Carton from 2007 until his arrest in 2017. He served time in prison for fraud-related charges, and ultimately sought and received help for addiction related to gambling.
Since his return to WFAN, Carton has been vocal about his struggle to overcome addiction and the lessons learned from his time serving in prison, hosting a special weekend program titled Hello, My Name Is Craig to discuss these issues in-depth. On Carton and Roberts, the duo has experienced immense success, recently topping ESPN New York 98.7 FM’s The Michael Kay Show in the spring ratings book. From the onset of Carton and Roberts working together though, there was some trepidation as to whether their personalities would blend well together on sports talk radio.
“I remember the first time I was told ‘Hey, there’s a possibility of you and Craig together.’ I was like ‘What?,’” Roberts said. “My first reaction was ‘Really?’”
Now nearly two years in, Roberts enjoys working alongside Carton and learning more about his perspectives and thoughts on the radio industry. Following advice he was given from both Russo and Esiason on working with Carton, Roberts has let him take the lead and discover how the show can effectively inform and entertain its vast listening audience.
“Let’s take a step back; don’t have an ego,” Roberts recalls thinking when he started the new show. “Watch this magician figure out how this show is going to work and then lean into it. I think that’s what I did and it has worked, and I feel very comfortable, I know he feels very comfortable and we’ve got a successful thing going on now.”
Roberts views Carton as an informed talent in the radio industry, aware of the changing nature of the medium and the potential it has to serve its audience. Roberts indeed experienced success in his previous roles, most notably when working in middays with Benigno; however, he is always willing to try new things and form new approaches towards jaded industry practices and show formats.
“I know that I have a guy who I’m working with who knows the medium as well as anybody,” said Roberts. “If he has a vision on how this could work with his personality and my personality, I’m going to listen; I’m going to follow along.”
WFAN and SportsNet New York (SNY), the flagship network for the New York Mets and New York Jets, agreed last year to simulcast Carton and Roberts from 4 to 6 p.m. on weekdays. While the move, which has been made with various other WFAN programs over the years including Mike and the Mad Dog and Boomer and Gio puts the radio program on a visual medium, Roberts’ approach to the show did not change.
The thought always was that he would be doing a radio show with the curtain pulled back, giving longtime listeners the chance to see the two co-hosts during their discussions and on-air interactions.
“They’re listening to the radio, and it’s cool sometimes when you get to peek in and say, ‘Oh, look at Craig’s expressions. Look at Evan’s expressions. Look at the way they’re looking at each other. Boy, they hate each other right now,’” Roberts said. “I think it’s people looking in on a radio show, and that’s what I always try to remind myself. It’s on TV – that’s great – but we’re a radio show first, and I think a lot of people kind of like to eavesdrop on that.”
One of the challenges of doing a radio show whether or not it is simulcast is in taking calls, and various hosts and producers have differing opinions when it comes to their value on the air. Still, while the hosts, producers, and caller themselves may enjoy their interactions, it is fundamental awareness is placed on the audience that does not call in and their enjoyment of listening to a caller.
“I think when you’re talking [to] somebody, you’re not just thinking about the conversation you’re having with them,” said Roberts. “You’re thinking about the 98% of the audience that doesn’t call in and if this is entertaining or not; if this is informative or not; what are they getting out of this?…. I love callers – it’s a big part of WFAN – but as I interact with them… I think the thought that I always try to have is ‘How is everyone else listening feeling about this discussion?’”
While Carton and Roberts continues to do well in afternoon drive among the demographic of men 25-54 years old, the way the ratings are interpreted by each person and entity in radio differs. Something the Nielsen ratings do not take into account is the number of people listening to the show on-demand as a podcast or watching its simulcast on SNY. During his time with Benigno, Roberts scrutinized the numbers, looking at copious and exiguous details, similar to how he consumes professional sports.
The difference is that while it may be good to have a complete understanding of show performance, getting caught in the minutiae of ratings and trying to improve in weaker areas can sometimes be, according to Roberts, a means without an end.
“I think I realized as time went on that’s going to give you a headache and it’s not going to really help anything,” said Roberts. “I think I learned a little more that you still look at numbers but maybe with a broader view of things; not as specific. I look at [them] a lot, but sometimes it’s tough. I don’t think you want to alter a show too much based on what you think is a pattern but may not necessarily be a pattern.”
This fall, both Carton and Roberts will be starting new roles in media while continuing to host their afternoon show. Carton is going to begin hosting a new national morning show on Fox Sports 1 with a co-host yet to be determined, a move that will place him primarily on television in mornings against WFAN and CBS Sports Radio’s simulcast of Boomer & Gio. Roberts will continue to stay on WFAN, adding a new Saturday program with his former co-host Joe Benigno beginning on September 10.
“It’s like getting back on a bicycle,” Roberts said of working with Benigno. “It’s always comfortable…. It’s going to be [like] our old show – just once a week on a Saturday.”
WFAN was the sound of Evan Roberts’ childhood, and a large reason he became as invested in professional sports as he considers himself to be today. Throughout his time at the station, he has worked with various hosts and recently welcomed new program director Spike Eskin to the station. He says the contrast between Eskin and previous program director Mark Chernoff is stark – yet they are similar in where it matters most: being able to effectively lead WFAN.
“I think they both very much understand radio, and that’s the most important thing,” said Roberts. “You’re the program director of WFAN; I think you have an idea of what good radio is… [They are] both very, very intelligent radio guys that I trust, but everything else about them is probably polar opposite.”
For aspiring professionals looking to pursue a career in sports media, Roberts advises them to take advantage of the innovations in media and communications especially when it comes to podcasts. With widespread evolution and progression in technology coupled with altering consumption habits and means thereof, putting in the time allows novices to hone their skills and position themselves well in sports media. That and always being willing to learn and study to be the most prepared and informed host as possible – especially when talking to listeners, many of whom have seen teams in their ebbs and flows.
“My wife knows that I’m going to watch every pitch of the Yankees and Mets game,” said Roberts. “I may do it on DVR, and I may do it at 2 in the morning because we need to have a life; I don’t want to get divorced, and I want my kids to love me, but she also knows that I want to be as informed as anybody on the radio and that’s not going to stop.”
Derek Futterman is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. In addition, Derek serves as a production manager, broadcaster, voiceover artist, technical director, audiovisual editor, and media engineer for Hofstra University’s WRHU. He has also worked on New York Islanders radio broadcasts. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @DerekFutterman.
Jake Paul, Betr Pair Micro-Betting With Media
There are plenty of hurdles, though, that still need to be overcome before this takes over the betting landscape.
I’ll be completely honest: I can’t get into TikTok. I’m closing in on 40 years spent on this planet, and it’s simply not my thing. It’s not meant to be, though. The current generation is one with shorter attention spans, the kind that wants a quick highlight of a sporting event so they can shift their focus to something else. When I tell folks a decade younger than me stories about how I–and others of my age group–would sit around and watch an entire SportsCenter, they look at me like I’m crazy. Not sure how they’d look at me if I told them we used to often watch the rerun an hour later, but that’s another discussion.
It’s a big reason why micro-betting is considered the “next big thing” in sports betting. Similar to in-game betting, micro betting goes a step further and focuses on individual events within a sporting event, such as the outcome of a drive, whether a baseball player will get a hit in his upcoming at-bat, or even something such as a coin toss at the Super Bowl. A perfect example of micro-betting is the rise in popularity of betting on whether or not a run will be scored in the first inning of a baseball game. For a generation that wants a quick resolution to their bets, it makes total sense. You place a bet, you find out how it did, and then you move on–whether that’s to another bit of action or something else entirely.
Something else I can’t get into is the whole hoopla surrounding the Paul brothers. Logan and Jake Paul have built an empire for themselves on the back of YouTube, with Jake Paul having more than 70 million followers on social media. For various reasons, I’m not a fan of either individual. Again, though, they aren’t coming after my demographic. Like them or hate them, you have to respect their grind –and you have to admire their business acumen — as they parlay their notoriety and success into sports entertainment by way of boxing and the WWE, as well as a new sports drink company that has already partnered with Premier League side Arsenal.
Monday’s announcement by Jake Paul of a new micro-betting site simply furthers the narrative and does so in a manner that can’t be ignored by those in the sports betting space. Betr, a joint venture between Paul, sports betting entrepreneur Joey Levy, and the sports betting company Simplebet, was announced yesterday morning. Backed by a $50 million investment from multiple venture capital firms, the new company is backed by ownership groups of franchises such as the Boston Celtics and San Francisco 49ers, and also has financial backing from current and former NFL players including Dez Bryant, Ezekiel Elliott, and Richard Sherman. Musician Travis Scott has also put his financial backing behind the product.
The other very interesting tidbit from the press release was the announcement of a media company that would feature, among other shows, “BS w/ Jake Paul”. Their new YouTube channel, which already has over two million subscribers despite not a single video being posted as of Monday afternoon, will feature sports-betting content from Paul and other content creators and will focus on micro betting. In an interview with Axios, Levy said that consumers can “expect 10+ videos a day from emerging content creators we’ve brought into the company,” but that things would begin with a focus on “premium content natives, starting with Jake’s show.”
Sports radio and television have long been focused on making their products more appealing to younger generations. Just take a look at ESPN, where they’ve long been doing “SportsCenter” episodes on Snapchat. This could be a game-changer, provided they can help drive micro-betting into a wider market.
There is plenty of potential in the space, a big reason Paul was able to acquire such high amounts of funding. Just last year, JP Morgan estimated that more than $7 billion per year would be wagered on micro bets by the year 2025. And earlier this year, the CEO of Oddisum stated in an interview that micro-betting would account for the majority of wagers placed on sporting events within the next three years. Even DraftKings CEO Jason Robins has talked about plans on how his company expects to embrace the trend.
There are plenty of hurdles, though, that still need to be overcome before this takes over the betting landscape. The biggest one is the delivery of data. As we move more towards a society that streams sporting events and other digital content, the delay between real life and what shows up on your mobile phone can be the difference between placing a wager or not. For some services (I’m looking at you, Peacock) there’s often a delay of more than 90 seconds, which means the play I want to bet on is still two or three plays away from being seen with my own eyes. That makes it difficult to place a bet with any sort of confidence.
The other major obstacle will be getting their gambling service legalized. In their press release, Betr stated they will start as a “free-to-play” app in all 50 states, and eventually they will add real money gambling services as they become licensed to operate within individual states. That’s not going to be so simple, though, as gambling addiction concerns continue to rise and multiple state legislatures are already having discussions regarding the matter.
As addictive as betting on sporting events can be, micro-betting is often exponentially more. A study last year from CQ University in Sydney, Australia indicated that micro bettors are more likely to be younger players and that they usually “have high trait impulsivity”. An author of the report also stated, “there’s a very strong link between micro betting and gambling problems”, and pointed out that the short amount of time between placing a bet and having it resolved leaves little time to evaluate performance or track one’s bankroll.
Whether or not those things are overcome in every state possible is a discussion for another day. The fact is, micro-betting is more likely than not to become a huge growth market for sports betting companies over the next two to three years, and Paul and Levy have become the first big players to jump into the media space. It’s not a question of if, but when, others will follow them into the realm of micro betting sports content, but their announcement on Monday raises the stakes. It also reminds those of us in business, especially sports media, that while we may not fully understand the allure of what the younger generation enjoys, we ignore it at our peril.
Jason Ence resides in Louisville, KY and is fully invested in the sports betting space. Additionally, he covers Premier League and Serie A soccer, college football, and college basketball for ESPN Louisville 680 including serving as the station’s University of Kentucky correspondent, and co-host of the UK football and basketball post-game shows. He can be found on Twitter @JasonUK17 and reached by email at email@example.com.