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Meet The Market Managers: Allison Warren, Cumulus Media Nashville

“We really felt like we wanted to build a radio station and find a PD for what was around the bend. We think we accomplished that.”

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Nashville is a loud place. Most people either love it or hate it. Allison Warren loves it.

To her, loud doesn’t just mean there are bachelorette parties and pedal pubs clogging Broadway. It means that the place is dynamic. It means Nashville is always changing and never sitting still.

Allison Warren had her eyes on a market manager role for a long time. It’s why she made the move from programming and promotions to marketing and then to sales. When the opportunity in Nashville presented itself, the only question she needed to answer is “is this the right place?” It was, and since 2014, she has been the leader of Cumulus’s cluster in Music City.

In our conversation, presented by Point-to-Point Marketing, Allison discusses the challenges of making major personnel changes during the pandemic, Nashville’s unique competitive landscape and how it forced her brands to evolve, and why 104.5 The Zone is as welcoming to transplants as it is to lifelong Tennesseans.

Enjoy!

Demetri Ravanos: When I was growing up in Alabama, I used to joke that you graduate from an SEC school and the first thing you do is decide if you are going to Nashville, Atlanta or Birmingham. Nashville’s transplant base has grown way beyond that though. I wonder how that has changed things in terms of the city’s sports culture and the standing of 104.5 The Zone with citizens that come here from all over and may not care about the Titans or the Vols.

Allison Warren: I can tell you, I have learned sports fans are sports fans. They like listening to and talking about sports no matter what. What the Zone has been able to do is create a sports ecosystem. That’s kind of been our goal from day one.          

We’re proud to be the rights holder for the Tennessee Titans and the UT Vols, but we talk about all sports, from top to bottom and side to side. We have a heavy influence for the SEC and certainly the Tennessee Titans. Really though, we look at ourselves as being able to provide a real pulse for what’s happening in sports in general. So regardless of where you come from, you’ll find something that’ll appeal to you on The Zone.         

DR: In addition to The Zone, you have Super Talk 99.7. That gives you the market leaders for both sports and news talk. I wonder in your position, do you see a different ceiling for each format here in Nashville or different paths for each to get to a similar ceiling in terms of what is possible for ratings and revenue? 

AW: We’re a five-station cluster, and so in general, I think we mirror the market beautifully. We’ve got a great news talk station, which you mentioned. We’ve got 104.5 The Zone. We’ve got two country stations and an urban station. So we think we represent the population of Tennessee exceedingly well.             

We’re looking at an entire ecosystem, when we talk about what makes any of our stations strong. We don’t just look at a Nielsen performance to decide if the station has reached its highest level of performance. We look at total audience engagement. That means we’re looking at all of our socials, our Zone TV channel, and all the aggregate views that it garners. YouTube, obviously, and Twitch being our largest volume producers of engagement.

We look at all of those metrics and decide, “is the station healthy and reaching the audience that we want it to reach?” I don’t think either of the stations you mentioned has reached its full potential. We’ve got some pretty strong, healthy great ratings and levels of engagement, but I think both Dan Mandis and Paul Mason would say that there’s still work to be done and still ground to make up. That’s what makes it exciting. 

DR: Let’s talk about total audience engagement. Nashville has become a hub for new media brands in both the news and sports spaces. That forces everyone in town to pay attention to what they are doing as you compete for both the audience and talent. I don’t want to assume it is a if-a-than-b situation with the launch of The Zone TV, but clearly this market forces you to think in a different way about being available wherever the audience is.

AW: You said it right there at the end. The Zone went through some significant changes as we watched where and how the audience consumed sports. We brought Paul Mason onto the team during the pandemic, which you know, is always interesting to onboard an employee during a time when nobody’s in the office. It’s like “Best of luck meeting your team! Everybody’s at home.”

He did a phenomenal job of creating a solid culture of what’s next, engagement, and where are we going. He really challenged the thinking. I’m kind of an entrepreneurial spirit, so when Paul knocks on the door and says, “Hey, I think we could try this,” of course my answer is “alright, let’s look at it.” To his credit and the credit of our engineering and IT teams, they figured it out and it’s been really successful. I think that mindset from 18 months ago or so, when he started, has been for us to dominate the sports universe and to put blinders on. That way we can just do what we felt was right to serve the sports audience and not think about it as what the traditional line for what radio might do or who it may serve is. We really tried to break the model and Paul’s leadership in that space has been second to none.

We looked everywhere when it was time to hire new talent. We looked at the entire sports universe and we landed on a great podcaster with Buck Reising. He’s been fantastic and adds a kind of great, new energy to the station. We’ve had a lot of other great new hires as well. Paul’s really pushed the station forward in that way. I don’t think we’re done either.

DR: You mentioned hiring Paul during the pandemic. Talk to me a little bit about finalizing a PD search in that time. It had been a long time since there was a leadership change at The Zone, and then all of a sudden, in the middle of this search, here comes this once-in-a-lifetime event where we don’t know what we can do when. What sort of conversations were you having with those involved in this process? Was there ever a moment where you were wondering or considering just shutting things down?

AW: Our interview process had happened before we really knew what was what was coming. It’s always hard when there’s a leadership change, but we had some pretty amazing candidates to choose from. There are some really phenomenal sports programmers in the country. I was blown away in the conversations that we had with some of the individuals that applied for this position. It really encouraged me for what’s to come in sports media. There’s some really, really great talent out there, some phenomenal thought leaders.

Paul just had just the right marriage of temperament and ideas for us. It was a good fit. So we had firmed our deal up. We had a little bit of a wait for him, but he was worth it. He was wrapping up a job in another market. We always believe all tides rise and we wanted to honor that time that he needed to give his previous employer. So we had some runway between when we inked a deal and when he was able to start with us.

So for him, when we went into the shutdown, it was like, “am I still moving there?”. I said “yes, please get the moving truck. Get Sarah. Get in the car and drive”. It was pretty stressful, I think for him. We had dinner together, and then I didn’t meet him again in person for three months while we were all dealing with the lockdown.

I think the first opportunity for us to get our broadcasters back into the building, he and his team were first in. A lot of our broadcasters were remote. For a while it was really 104.5 The Zone and a handful of other people on each station that were in the building. I joked that when I went in, it was like a locker room. I swear it smelled like a locker room up there. There’s like pizza boxes, socks doors were just propped open, people were milling. I was like, “This is the place to be. I want to move my office upstairs! Y’all are having fun.!”

Bear in mind, everybody’s masked. Everybody’s got seven inches of like hand sanitizer on them, so things weren’t exactly “normal,” but yeah, they were having fun and connecting. We felt that, so we worked really hard with Cumulus and our safety protocols to bring more and more of our shows back earlier than most because we just noticed the connection was there and that it was working. We were hiring a lot of new people and we just felt like that was really important.

So I don’t know if that answers your question, but I do know that it was hard for Paul to connect with people, because you’re trying to do it from far away and follow safety protocols. Paul’s a true professional. As soon as we started bringing people back, he was in the building. He was there with his people. I think his commitment to that made a huge difference with his team as he really led from the front.

DR: Brad Willis was obviously really popular with his crew and had great relationships across the building. I wonder when he tells you that he is going to take this job at the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, as a market manager, what exactly are you bracing yourself for? Do you start to think about every problem you might need to address or are you already formulating your answers to those problems?

AW: You know, I think it’s a little bit of both. I think whenever a key member of your leadership team decides to go in a different direction, you have mixed feelings. First, for Brad, as a person, I always support somebody’s desire to grow and explore something new. He was very transparent with us. We had a lot of very honest dialogue, so I can’t say that I was surprised.

Brad’s a class act. Even in his desire to go in a different direction, he handled things with absolute total grace and gave us a very long window of time to be on call and available. He knows where the proverbial bodies are buried, and so he was a terrific resource for us. Heck, he started with Titans radio. I mean, he’s a staple and extremely well respected. That’s a hard thing and guy to lose.

Now for us, we had Bruce Gilbert. He is just a phenomenal resource and leader. We couldn’t have been luckier to have somebody like him in that critical moment. It was really getting on a call with him and agreeing that these opportunities are rare. While we don’t like to lose someone as great as Brad, let’s wave a magic wand and try and figure out first what exactly is the station that we’re building for the future and then two, who do we think can take us there? Let’s go see if we can find that person. To Cumulus and Bruce’s credit, we were able to take our time with the process. We felt like we wanted to build a radio station and find a PD for what was around the bend. We think we accomplished that. 

DR: I want to talk about some of those lineup changes. Some of the folks that exited obviously had been well-entrenched at the station for a long time. So what role were you taking in terms of talking to clients? How were you acknowledging their concerns while also assuring them that the next chapter of the station is going to be exciting and have even more value for them as your partner?

AW: Those conversations are always challenging and opportunistic at the same time. What I think makes radio so special is the connection that our talent have with our fans and our clients are often our fans. Those are very deep, emotional connections. Our broadcasters are with them, some of them endorse products. Those are always really delicate conversations.

I think you do the best you can to lean into what change feels like. Those things can be hard Those relationships are important. You’re asking clients to lean into trusting that we understand the sports universe, and that we’re going to bring things to the station that are going to help move it forward.

I’m kind of an earnest person. I asked people to give me a week. Listen for a week and tell me what you think. Send me an email. Tell me what you like. Tell me what you don’t like. And people actually take you up on that. We got a lot of emails from a lot of people giving us their thoughts, which was great. I read every one of them and we heard every client and took it all in.

We take the responsibility of building a brand really seriously. Our clients invest a lot of money with us. It’s our responsibility to our fans and our clients to put the best products forward. That’s what we tell them, and we hope we deliver on that. We get a lot of positive feedback, but those early phases of change are always hard, but our clients are our friends. They’re are advertisers, and they gave us a tremendous amount of grace to do what was right for the station. We’ll always be thankful for that. 

DR: You mentioned Buck Reising earlier. Not only did you bring him in, but you also brought in Ramon Foster to be part of a new morning show. Then you added Ron Slay to 3HL. When hiring new people to a brand like The Zone, how long do you give them on the air to figure out what it is their show is going to be before you start talking to clients about, “hey, would you like to do business with these guys? Would you like for these guys to be the voices telling the listeners to come do business with you?”?

AW Well, it depends on who you’re talking to you. For Dave Elliott, our general sales manager, this conversation started on day one. He’s hustling, and he’s got his team out hustling.

To the credit of everyone that joined us, they made themselves extremely available to clients, whether it was on the phone, in person, or through virtual meetings. It was fantastic. They kind of understood what was ahead, and they wanted to meet our clients and customers because they knew that those are their fans as well.           

The ask is somewhat immediate. It doesn’t always happen immediately, but our desire for our clients and fans to know anyone new to the staff is fairly quickly. Letting those hosts and their shows grow is a different answer, but I think that’s also a different question. 

DR: That’s totally fair. So we talked about the fact that The Zone is not just a radio station anymore. What did that partnership with A to Z Sports do for the brand? How did that push The Zone TV forward in terms of getting that message out, not just to listeners, but to those advertisers as well, that this is more than just a radio station now? 

AW: I’m glad you mentioned that. That was a really progressive strategic partnership at the time that intrigued us. We’d been following A to Z fondly from their launch. People tell me all the time “Oh, you’ve got to look at this” or “you’ve got to watch that”. Buck was on A to Z. Before we had decided we wanted to add Buck, we’d had some soft conversations just in general with Austin and Zach, who run that brand. Through our discussions about wanting to bring Buck on, it deepened our discussions about how similar yet different our business models were. Paul and I thought we could lean into this and work together.               

Those early days of a partnership that is not normal are always interesting, because you’re just trying to figure it out. What’s right for them? What’s right for us? They brought some real value to what we were doing. They’re very pro radio in general. They both were on the other FM station, so they get what we do and there is some fondness for that. We just kind of carved out a lane and that really works well for us.          

We think that the partnership’s been really good for us. We like to believe that we are everywhere where sports is happening. If there’s a major sporting event happening, we’ve got at least one of our shows or a correspondent there to bring that firsthand experience back to our fans, and they actually help us in that space because they are also everywhere where sports happens. So it really deepens our bench for what we’re bringing to our fans.              

It’s been a good partnership. I think Zach and and Austin would say the same. It’s fun to watch them grow. They’re great. They’re a great duo. 

DR: You have been with the cluster now long enough to see the Titans rise to this point. They are a very good team, but not a championship team, yet they’re at that bump in the road. Looking at it from a radio station perspective, what would it mean for the Titans radio network, for Cumulus, for The Zone, for them to get over that hump? I mean, forget winning the Super Bowl just to make it. What sort of different stratosphere would that put your relationship with them and your clients’ relationships with them in? 

AW: For the town, for the station, for the team it’d be electric. I was in Denver when the Av’s won the Stanley Cup the first time. I was 20 years old, driving a promo van down a street while the van was rocking back and forth. I thought, I’m never going to get this honey back to the station. We just had to lean into it. We popped the Marti and just went live from the middle of the street. That was hockey! So, football in the South? Come on!                

Listen, the Titans radio broadcast crew is second to none. The voice of the Titans is Mike Keith. He’s a staple for Tennesseans. He’s absolutely fantastic. That entire broadcast team works really hard to deliver a quality broadcast to their fans.

The team itself works exceedingly hard to create a fan experience that is second to none. What they’ve done over the last couple of years has just really improved the overall experience. I think it’s deepened their fandom. I mean, obviously from a revenue perspective, that’s always a win. But from a content perspective, you know, listen, I had my tickets to LA bought. We know we’ve got a great team, and great leadership. We know they care. We’ve got great ownership. They’re invested in the team and they’re going to do the things they need to do to get us where, where we need to be.

It’s our job to cover the team, and we say what we see, but as residents of Tennessee, we are 100 percent behind the team hopefully making it to that that Super Bowl. Listen, you saw what we did with the draft and that was the draft, right? Can you imagine a Nashville party when we win the Super Bowl? Broadway is going to shut down from Murfreesboro to Cookesville.

We’re very proud to be the the the rights holder for the Tennessee Titans, and that makes it sweeter for us, but I don’t think that there’s a person in the city that didn’t catch the fever when we were making that run last year. 

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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?”

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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.

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BSM Writers

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.”

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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. 

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BSM Writers

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.”

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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.

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