There is a saying in sports that you never want to be the guy who follows the guy. I’ve always thought that’s garbage. Although it might not be ideal to take the place of a legend on the way out, I don’t want to be the guy that’s never given a big opportunity. That would be much worse.
A host that has the opposite of a defeatist attitude while taking over for legendary broadcaster Brent Musburger, is VSiN’s Stormy Buonantony. She has embraced the challenge with a positive attitude as if to say, “No one said anything about the girl taking over for the guy.”
The Vegas Stats & Information Network covers sports betting from all angles. Stormy has taken the torch on My Guys In The Desert while showcasing her personality and knowledge. In addition to that role, she still continues to deliver college football and NHL sideline reports.
We chat about what the heck Metallica has to do with her two separate jobs and not being driven by goals. Stormy also talks about the growth of women in sports broadcasting and betting, and also provides a winning eight-team parlay for tonight’s action. (I might’ve embellished the last part.) Enjoy!
Brian Noe: Where are you from?
Stormy Buonantony: I am born and raised in Las Vegas.
BN: Oh wow, you’re local.
SB: Yes, I grew up here through high school and then I went to college at San Diego State. From there I kind of bopped around from different jobs. I moved to Colorado and then North Carolina and then I ended up back in Vegas. It’s really cool to be working back in the city where I’m from and be around my family and stuff. The majority of my family does live in Vegas or in San Diego. It’s really cool especially after being on the East Coast for a few years and having not seen them for a really long time to now seeing them all the time.
BN: Do you think that being a Vegas local gives you a bit of an edge when it comes to sports betting coverage?
SB: Not an edge to the coverage but I think a more natural understanding of it. I did grow up more so in the culture. My uncle, Eugene Buonantony, is an oddsmaker in town. My dad and my grandpa back in the day, just huge bettors, bet on absolutely everything. When I’m watching a football game as a five-year-old with my dad, the game is a blowout, but he’s rooting for another touchdown because he needs the points. [Laughs] It’s definitely a different growing-up experience than most.
BN: What’s it been like taking over for Brent Musburger on My Guys In The Desert?
SB: There are no words. It is surreal. And it’s so cool that he’s still so involved with the show because during football season he was on for the full hour every Wednesday with me. Any time I had a question about anything he was right there to answer it. He’s so nice. He’s so cool. He’s so wonderful at sharing stories even with the sideline work that I do, he would go out of his way to make sure he knew which game I was assigned so that he could watch a little bit of it and help give me tips in that area too. He’s such a legend obviously but so personable and down to earth. Every day that I get to do a show with Brent is the best day. It’s the best show. It’s incredible. I feel very, very honored that in any capacity my name can be referenced in the same frame as his. He’s incredible.
BN: What’s it like to try to keep the show somewhat similar to what it’s been while making it different now that you’re a part of it?
SB: We thought it was super important to make sure that we kept some of that old-school oddsmaker flavor on the show. I absolutely adore Vinny Magliulo, Jimmy Vaccaro, Chris Andrews, all those incredible legends and sports betting Hall of Famers. I’m getting their stories incorporated on a regular basis and making sure we’re always going behind the counter with some of these incredible guys, but also adding a little bit of flair and a little bit of my personality injected into it and some fun. I’m kind of a quirky human. [Laughs] We do little, fun bits. We just try to be as creative and fun-loving and entertaining as we can while also presenting important information that bettors need to know and following line movement and things like that, I guess with whatever Stormy is, thrown in the mix.
BN: With people like that who know this stuff inside and out, what’s something you’ve either learned from what they’ve told you, or by observing how they think and how they approach sports betting?
SB: So much more goes into it than I guess I initially realized. I didn’t even necessarily understand how many different options that you could have betting certain things. Talking to those guys and hearing the way they get to a number I think is really unique. Why their number might not add up to a lot of the other people that you’re talking to and their handicap and what led them to certain things I think is always intriguing to find out. Following line movement has been really, really interesting to me because just as a novice growing up I just think oh, the point spread is seven. Okay, cool. But I don’t think about it moving to 7.5 and what that means and the impact of that number as a kid. Or even somebody just when I was in college and thinking about this type of thing, I didn’t really know what steam meant.
Seeing these big players laying these huge, massive amounts of money that change the game is really incredible. How people get information and does the book know that information or not? I think it’s just more conversational and hearing their stories and hearing how they do things has been really eye-opening for me. I’m a broadcaster; I don’t think of myself as a betting expert. I bring betting experts on to the show.
I analyze a lot of numbers and I make my own bets and if you want to bet with me, let’s do it, we’re in this together. We’ll ride the highs and lows, but I like to bring people on the show who are dialed into their specific sports, who are dialed into the betting aspect behind the counter as handicappers and analysts, and making that information consumable for people that have been doing this and betting for a long time or in the industry. I’m not dumbing things down for them but also making it consumable and understandable for somebody who might be listening to us for the first time.
BN: What do you think about the growth of women in sports broadcasting and sports betting?
SB: It’s huge. I feel like so many stories that I had heard coming up in this business were just about how it’s really hard, there’s going to be a lot of preconceived notions about you being a woman in the locker room, being a woman in this space. You have to overcome a lot of hurdles. I have had some of those experiences I guess, but more often than not I’ve had so many men in my corner that were supportive and have made me feel so comfortable working in this industry.
I think and hope as more women continue to get invested in sports and in the sports betting side that they’re welcomed because I feel like every day I’m seeing somebody new getting involved or a new face on television that I hadn’t seen before that’s a woman. Not only in reporter roles but in analyst roles and in play-by-play roles.
When it comes to betting, I don’t know if it’s because of the explosion of legalization over the last handful of years, but from a content producing standpoint of women in sports betting that like to talk about it, there are so many female faces and voices, whereas it was such a long journey I feel like in the sports reporter realm to get to that point. Now with more states opening up with it, as soon as it pops up in a state, there are women that want to get involved. They want to be a part of this. I think that’s pretty telling for that section of the industry in itself.
BN: How do you have to switch your mindset when it comes to hosting a sports betting show compared to doing sideline reports?
SB: Being a reporter and host are two completely different skill sets because for being a sideline reporter, you do all of this work leading up to this one day, but you speak in 30-second increments so you have to make sure that you get your story out, it’s concise, it’s consumable, it makes sense to everybody and it’s good. On VSiN, I have this wonderful opportunity to sit there and speak my mind for an hour or longer depending on what show I’m on that day. Obviously my show is an hour, but when I fill in on other programs that are longer, you get to really dive into a lot more, which does mean more research and does mean more work, but it’s really fun to share your opinion.
Being a reporter and being a sports betting host are very different from the standpoint that I’m telling other people’s stories and trying to get in-the-now information there, and in my show, it is kind of about my opinion. For whatever reason people want my opinion and I’m not sure why. But I’m just very used to being the question asker and not being the one voicing that. At first it was a challenge for me to be able to do that because so much of being a reporter is to separate yourself from it. You’re not the story and you’re not part of it, but VSiN encourages that. They want you to dive into the numbers and share why you like something or why you don’t and what you know and what you don’t.
BN: It makes me think of the band Metallica. Back in the day they had these long, long songs. Then the black album came along and their songs were shortened quite a bit. They were asked which was harder to do. The drummer said it was harder to make the songs shorter and to be more concise. They could come up with ideas all day for longer songs, but to trim things down was difficult. Which do you think is more difficult for you; the quick sound bites, or all the prep and all the airtime you need to fill on the VSiN side?
SB: Yeah, that’s a really interesting question. I find them both equally difficult. It’s a challenge but they’re equally fun in their own ways. I’ve never really thought of it that way. It is different so one thing about the show that I’ve never had to deal with as a reporter that’s new for me, and anybody that works in radio or live TV for a long time has dealt with it plenty, but this is a very new thing for me when I had started with the show was if a guest drops out.
I don’t have a co-host or anything and on other shows I always have. That is a challenge for me. At the beginning, you plan out the show and you allow a certain amount of time for certain things. Then if you’re a minute into an interview and somebody drops out and they’re not able to reconnect again and you just have 11 more minutes to fill of just you talking, that was very hard for me at first just because I had never experienced it before.
My producer, Stephanie [Kamerschak], is incredible. That first time specifically she’s like I don’t know why you freaked out, you handled that really well, I’m really proud of you. I was like okay, thank you. Maybe we can plan extra segments each show or something so we can have something in the back pocket. That was harder for me because I had been so programmed to be a sideline reporter and to be more concise, so stretching was a challenge for me at first. But now I feel a lot more comfortable with it. I’ve done the job for a full calendar year now and I’m used to those things happening, but the first time I was like what’s happening? Why is this going on?
BN: What do you see happening in the near future for sports betting?
SB: I think growth first and foremost. It’s just going to continue to become more and more widely accepted. My Twitter feed is just constantly filled with it. When you watch NFL Network or any of these major TV programs, they have tickers on the bottom with spreads now, which is so different. I think that that’s just going to continue to elevate and elevate. Maybe it’s in broadcasting that they’re incorporating it more.
We’re seeing them already obviously, but in-game. I was watching the UFC fights and while maybe it wasn’t done great, the way that they presented some of the numbers and odds, but they’re not trained in that either. They just have a DraftKings logo and they’re like okay, we’re supposed to do this promo so we’ll do it. But I think that’s going to transform from it being a blurb and here are the odds because this is a requirement to wow, this number moved a lot. A lot of people are thinking that this underdog has a real chance here and talking about it like that and have it being a free-flowing conversation broadcast is going to happen sooner than later. Growth with more women involved, with more people of color involved as it expands. I’m really excited for the future of sports betting. I think it’s only brighter and it’s only going to get bigger.
BN: It’s funny because it makes me think of Al Michaels where he would have those read between-the-lines comments like well, that’s overwhelming. Do you see yourself on the sidelines, and it might not be your whole report, but at some point interjecting sports betting into what you’re saying?
SB: I actually have once. It was very fortunate the way that this panned out, but I was working the New Mexico Bowl this past bowl season and a couple of the players on the sideline kept on saying the number of the week. I think it was 11 maybe. But that was the point spread of the game. One of the kids even came up to me and was like did you hear that? I was like yeah, what was that about? He was like they were 11-point underdogs, that’s been their motivation. They knew they were being doubted. They were up at halftime. I just remember thinking that was so cool and I told my producer. I was like am I allowed to say this? He said go for it. It was really cool to see those worlds collide there for a moment.
BN: I wonder if that will ever become common. To me I just wonder where the line is, how far is it going to go before someone says that’s a little bit too much.
SB: Yeah, I’m not sure. Every other job that I have had prior to where I am at now, I’ve not been allowed to bet based on my contract. When I worked for the Mountain West Conference, you can’t even bet on any professional sport if it has an NCAA championship. You can’t bet on any college sports and you can’t bet on any professional sport that is associated with an NCAA program.
I worked for the Carolina Panthers in the NFL; you can’t bet on any NFL or football. I worked for the NHL; you can’t bet on anything hockey-related. It took a little while for my brain to flip that switch that no, you’re allowed to talk about this, it’s okay. Don’t freak out. [Laughs] It’s awesome now because I’ll go on a football game and our statistician will be over there like okay, Stormy, what’s the big game that we’re looking at this week? People are into it and it’s awesome and it’s cool and it’s normal. I’m sure it’ll take some adjusting for some of those big-wigs to welcome this transition. I don’t know where the line is. Fortunately, that’s above my pay grade and so I don’t have to worry about that right now. [Laughs]
BN: How often has it happened where you’re under contract, you can’t bet, and you’re like I would totally bet this line right now?
SB: All the time. It happened all the time. What was the worst was when I worked in collegiate athletics and working for a college conference you can’t even make an NCAA tournament bracket. Even if it’s not for money, you just can’t do it. So bizarre. When I worked in the NFL, my dad’s calling me every week, so what’s going on, Storm? I’m like, dad, I can’t tell you, but I do like that number. [Laughs] Stuff like that, it’s just so goofy. It’s really interesting. It’s a different world.
BN: What experiences would you like to have going forward in your career?
SB: I am the worst person to answer this question because I am just so on the fly and living life day by day. Whenever anybody asks me, where do you see yourself in five years, I’m like I have no idea because every time I think I know, I never end up there. And it’s been for the best. There have been so many jobs that I thought I really, really wanted and I didn’t get and I was so sad about it, but if I would’ve taken that job then I never would have gotten this other opportunity, which ended up being so much better for me. I’m very much just taking opportunities and taking life as it happens.
The fact that I’m with VSiN even feels super serendipitous. I was just back in town and someone basically saw me on a Golden Knights broadcast when I was working for the team in town and realized hey, that last name sounds really familiar and connected the dots with my uncle and was like wait, does she know sports betting? They just got to know me and asked if I liked or cared about sports betting and developed that relationship. I never ever, ever, ever would’ve thought that I would be working in this industry and now I can’t imagine not working in it. Yeah, just kind of seeing what happens.
BN: Do you ever think that goals could get in your way, meaning if you’re in the moment and you’re day by day, if you’re thinking I want to get to this job, could that almost throw you off in a way?
SB: I think sometimes because it doesn’t let you embrace what you’re doing currently enough. If you’re always seeking that next thing and that next opportunity, you’re probably not giving your all to your current job. That’s always been really important to me. People are paying me to do this job for a reason. I want to make sure they’re getting what they’re paying for. I want to make sure they’re getting all of my personality, all of my energy and that I’m not just always looking for what’s next. I think that’s really important and maybe that does get lost for some people.
I also think a lot of times at least for me early on in my career where I was thinking dang, why am I not quite here yet. I was looking at so many other people that were my age or younger doing certain things. Comparison is the thief of joy; I don’t know where that quote comes from but I very, very firmly believe in it. I’m more so focused on supporting and lifting other people up and celebrating everybody’s wins; it’s so much more important to me now than trying to get what’s next. I just think that’s really important.
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 email@example.com.
Jason Barrett Podcast – Dave LaGreca
How did Dave LaGreca convince the bosses at SiriusXM to let him talk about wrestling as a full-time job? He didn’t. He tells Jason why wrestling fans are the kind of loyal audience every show and network want.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.